How to Conduct a Personal Goal Review
All the gurus say you MUST have them if you’re going to be successful – but is that true?
It was fifteen years ago that I was introduced to goal setting. I was given a set of classic Zig Ziglar cassette tapes on the power of goals. These cassette tapes led me down the path of self-improvement and the study of goals.
You’ve read articles and heard stories of how people set goals and then magically over time their lives and everything around them magically changed as they reached their goals.
Sounds great in theory, right?!?
Unfortunately, after fifteen years of setting goals, I’ve never had the luxury of experiencing the magical power of goal setting. Typically, this is what happens to me; I set goals in December for all the things I want to accomplish in the upcoming year.
Then occasionally, throughout the year I review my goals…and proceed to get depressed by my lack of progress. When December rolls around, and I end up having to keep most of the same goals for the next year since I didn’t accomplish much over the last 12 months.
Can you relate?
Out of frustration, I’d go back and revisit the best practices for setting goals and attempt to apply them, as I would set my goals for the upcoming year. The advice typically centered on setting SMART goals.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Timely
After about ten years, (geez. I’m a slow learner) I decided it was time to try something new. After spending WAY too much time searching for a better way to set goals, I decided to take the approach of an annual review.
An annual review is similar to a strategic board meeting for a public company, where they carefully analyze where they are and where they’d like to be in the future.
For the first few years, my annual reviews would center on questions like:
What went right over the past 12 months?
What didn’t go so well?
What would I like to achieve over the next 12 months?
As you can see, it wasn’t anything profound. But it was different so it was worth a try.
It was around this same time that I began creating and using a personal vision for my life as well. I based this visioning process on the approach taught by Zingerman’s Co-founder, Ari Weinzweig.
With this hybrid, annual review and visioning process, in place I just knew that goal attainment would be easier than ever.
Twelve months would pass, December would roll around again and excitedly I’d begin my annual review and visioning process again. With hopes high, I’d begin working through my annual review questions – and slowly disappointment would start to creep in.
How was it possible, I was now using two complementary approaches and neither seemed to be delivering the results I was after.
Sure, when I’d conduct a personal goal review, I would discover that I had often made some progress toward the achievement of my goals and my vision, but certainly not enough to be inspiring.
But year after year, December would roll around and again I would spend time conducting my own personal review and crafting a new vision.
This past year, the personal theme for my life was transformation. I wanted to personally transform who I was into more of the person I could become. As a result, I made a commitment to invest both time and resources into learning how successful people transform their lives.
Much of my reading involved books like, Transformed – The Science of Spectacular Living; The Power of Full Engagement; and Managing Ourselves. As I read these books, I could see the pieces of the puzzle slowly coming together.
As December rolled around again, I again began the process of a personal goal review and creating a personal vision for the next 12 months. This time, however, I made two very slight adjustments.
First, I prescheduled four quarterly reviews for the next year. Second, I created a spreadsheet that would allow me to track my progress. These have proven to be very effective so far. Let’s take a look at what is needed to conduct an effective quarterly review:
Step 1 – Schedule It
If it’s important to you, then it needs to be on your calendar. Go ahead and put your quarterly reviews on your calendar for the next 12 months. I’ve found that scheduling toward the end of each quarter seems to work best.
Conducting your quarterly review prior to the next quarter starting gives you the opportunity to plan out the next quarter before it begins.
Step 2 – Get Away
You need to get away to conduct your quarterly review. Getting out of your normal environment provides you with a different physical perspective. It also creates a physical separation from your daily habits and routines.
I typically drive to a coffee shop that is about 75 miles away. On the way there I listen to something that will help me focus on the upcoming quarter and how I’ll approach my goals.
Step 3 – Take It Serious
I’ll be the first to admit conducting a quarterly review is difficult for me. As an extremely visual person, the discipline of turning off distractions and focusing on the minute details of the next three months puts my will power to the test. By the end of the day I’m mentally exhausted, but feel great!
Regardless of whether you love or hate the process, it’s vital that you take it seriously.
Now that you have the general guidelines for conducting a successful quarterly review, let’s dive in to the specific steps questions you should ask during your quarterly review.
Q1 – Are my goals still relevant?
As we go through life and as we embark on our journey of becoming the best possible versions of ourselves, what we value tends to change. By spending time each quarter exploring whether or not our goals are still relevant prevents us from wasting time in the pursuit of things that no longer matter.
This question also provides us with the opportunity to question the goals we’re in pursuit of. What I mean is that a goal you set one year ago may have been a great goal at the time you set it, but today that goal no longer stretches you to become more.
Another variation of the question that may be useful is, *Based on where I am in my life and who I’ve become, does this goal still make sense for me?*
Q2 – What have I accomplished?
This is an extremely powerful question. As an overly self-critical person, I’m constantly looking at all additional things I should have already accomplished. From my default perspective, things could have always been a little better.
Fortunately, this question forces you to look at your life over the past three months from a completely different perspective. It forces you to look for and identify all the small areas of improvement that you’ve made.
We don’t tend to notice the changes taking place in our lives, because they happen on such a slow, microscopic level. It’s only when we take the time to reflect that we’re able to see how far we’ve come and how much we’ve changed.
Know what I mean? Well, this question helps you identify and celebrate those accomplishments.
Q3 – What challenges have I faced?
It may be good to split this question into two:
1) What challenges have I faced that I overcame?
2) What challenges have I faced that I did not overcome?
You see, these questions give you the opportunity to explore what road-blocks you experienced over the past quarter. Your answers will give you a unique perspective as to the road-blocks that may still be hindering you from reaching your goals.
It’s only once we are clear about the obstacles in our path that we can then decipher the best plan of action for getting past the obstacles.
Q4 – What have I learned?
Over the past quarter, what have you learned? What have you learned about yourself? What have you learned as a result of overcoming the challenges and obstacles you’ve faced? What have you learned as a result of your pursuit of your goals?
Your answers to these questions put your mind to work looking for solutions and ideas to help you accomplish your goals over the next quarter.
Q5 – What can I do differently?
This question is extremely powerful. Most people wait until December rolls around each year to ask themselves this question. On the surface everyone knows if they keep doing the same things, they’ll keep getting the same results. When a new year begins to approach, people begin exploring all the things they’ll do differently in the New Year and then after a few short weeks, these new items fall by the wayside.
By asking yourself this question on a quarterly basis, you’re forcing yourself to examine what changes you need to make in order to get back on track towards your goals.
Q6 – What values will be my focus in the upcoming quarter?
Each day we make decisions based on our values. Our values are what drive us. This morning, for example, I did not want to get out of bed when my alarm sounded at 5:00 AM. I was very tired and my body was sore. It’s now 5:25 AM and I’m still tired and my body is still sore, but here I sit typing these words.
Why? Why am I choosing to ignore the way I feel? Because I’m committed to helping others reach their goals – and writing is one of the ways I accomplish this. That’s a core value of mine.
I now tell myself that I’m the type of person who can’t stand to miss a day of writing. I know that missing a single day of writing puts me further behind on my goals.
Your values are like the North Star. They show you which direction to head when everything else is confusing and chaotic.
Q7 – What does my Master List look like today?
Oh yeah! I need to remember to email John.
Oh yeah! I need to remember to call Susie.
Oh yeah! I need to remember to send them that book.
Most people go through life with this continuous loop of things they need to do running through their heads. It’s constant.
A Master List is simply a single sheet of paper with everything you need to get done listed on it. I’ve found creating a Master List extremely helpful for freeing mental energy to focus on the things that matter.
By keeping your Master List with you at all times, you’re able to jot down to-dos and ideas and get them out of your head.
During your quarterly review pull out your Master List and review everything that is on it. Add new items to your list as they come to mind. Scratch off anything that you’ve completed or that no longer matters.
Q8 – How does my Master List compare/align with my goals and values?
Carefully scan your Master List and determine how the items listed align with your goals and values. You simply are looking to get a feel for how well all these little tasks align with where you’re heading.
Are there any items you can delegate to others? What percentage of the items on your master list aligns with your values and goals?
Answering these questions will give you a better understanding of what is currently pulling and vying for your time and attention. The goal is that as the year progresses your Master List will become more and more aligned with your values and goals.
Q9 – What are the things that need to be accomplished in the next quarter to keep (or get me on) track for reaching my annual goals?
Now spend some time reflecting on your annual goals in relation to where you are today. What actions do you need to take over the next three months to get you back inline and on track to hit your annual goals?
Don’t try to censor your thoughts. Simply write down everything that comes to mind. This isn’t the time to determine what is realistic and what isn’t. This question is simply designed show you the reality of where you are in relation to where you’re heading – and then provide you with the steps required to get there.
Q10 – What daily rituals need to be started? What daily rituals need to be ended?
If one of your annual goals is to write a book, then what daily rituals should you likely have in place? Writing. Right? Of course. Do you currently have the daily ritual of writing each day? If not, when will you complete that ritual each day?
Once you have your list of daily rituals that need to be started, it’s now time to determine what you’re going to give up or stop doing in order to make time for your new daily rituals.
For example, if developing the daily ritual of writing is important to you, then you’ll need to determine what other daily ritual you’ll have to stop in order to make time for your new daily ritual.
Maybe you’ll need to end the ritual of spending each evening browsing the internet or maybe you’ll need to end the ritual of watching television.
I don’t know what daily rituals, if any, you’ll need to end. But it’s important to remember there will always be trade-offs made on your journey toward success. The question is, what are you willing to give up in order to reach your goals?
Q11 – What are the specific goals that will be completed prior to the end of the upcoming quarter?
The first ten questions are all specifically designed to lead into this question. After all, it’s the answer to this question that will reveal exactly what you’re aiming for over the next quarter of your life.
Q12 – Based on my specific goals for the next quarter, what needs to be completed by the end of each of the three upcoming months?
Now we’re simply breaking your quarterly goals into monthly goals. Answering this question gives you an immediate point of focus. It provides you with exactly what has to be done within the next month – which is extremely powerful.
You see, when you look at your annual goals or even your quarterly goals, they can be a bit overwhelming. They look so big and seem so far away. But when you break your quarterly goals down into what needs to be done each month, it makes them much more manageable.
Legendary motivational speaker Jim Rohn used to say that everyone should have a goal to become a millionaire. Not for the sake of the money, but because of who you will have to become in the process.
Learning to break your annual goals into quarterly goals (and then into monthly and weekly goals) will be an extremely rewarding experience. It will help you see exactly what is going to be required to achieve your goals.
The more you engage in this process, the more you’ll understand the tremendous power it has in the accomplishment of your goals. The amount of time you spend in this process will produce a significant return on your investment. Conducting your own quarterly review will give you more clarity, confidence and commitment toward the accomplishment of your goals.
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