How to Conduct a Year-End Evaluation on Yourself

Originally posted on Popforms on January 7th, 2014

The New Year is often when people set goals for the following year. I am a frequent goal-setter myself. I’ll read a powerful article, be inspired by a book or motivated by a peer or leader I admire and set many goals. I achieve many of them, but often it feels haphazard as to which I achieve and which I don’t.  The question that hit me hard at my company Mixpo’s recent thought-leader speaker series was, how often do we evaluate what we’re doing and have the courage to change course if we don’t like what we see?

One of my biggest takeaways from hearing CodeFellow’s Founder Brent Turner speak at The Mix was the importance of introspection. He asked, “Are you on the right path in your life and your career? Are you prepared to take drastic action if you’re not?”

Brent said that every year around his birthday, he spends a day truly evaluating his life. How is he spending his time? What is going well and what is not? If he doesn’t like what he sees, he’ll literally quit that activity (or job) the next day. That sounds dramatic, but why continue on a path that is not headed in the direction you want to go?

I was very curious as to his exact approach. So I asked him, and this is the approach he recommends for evaluating your life.

Tackle the following areas of your life (feel free to modify to fit your life, but note that it is harder to do this exercise the more areas you include):

  • Professional
  • Financial
  • Social
  • Spiritual
  • Philanthropic
  • Physical
  • Marital
  • Parental

Ask yourself the following for each area:

  1. What are the top three things that are going well, such that is would make sense to just spend some time being thankful and remembering the positive?
  2. What are the top three things that you really need change?

Once everything is written down (24 total responses!), look at the list to see if you can identify some key themes or overarching insights about your place in life.

Then, it’s decision time. Out of the 24, come up with a Top 5 list. Yes, only 5! Ask yourself, what are the top things that you want to move very forward in the coming year? Time to prioritize.

I like Brent’s approach for a few reasons. He evaluates both the good and the bad of a few key areas of his life. Rather than simply focusing on what he wants to fix, he also focuses on what he’s grateful for (gratitude has been shown to have the ability to heal, energize and change lives). Then, instead of trying to change all 24 areas that he has identified as wanting to change, he instead focuses on just five. For me this key! I can easily come up with 24 things I want to change, even 50, but then it is easy to get stuck because changing 50 things is a daunting task. Instead, five is achievable. This doesn’t mean he only accomplishes 5 things in a year, I see it as him shaking up 5 areas in his life in a dramatic way. In Brent’s words, these are the 5 things he wants to “move very forward”.  To me this means, what do I want to remember about the upcoming year? What will the year be known for? What will make the Christmas card next year? (Kidding).

When I did this exercise it was painfully obvious how I spend my time.  For example I could list a dozen things going well in the Professional area, and easily fill out the Financial, Social and Philanthropic areas. Filling out these areas was fun and rewarding. The Spiritual and Physical areas were a different story, in fact I had to leave the Spiritual area blank. Since those two areas are important to me, they both made my Top 5 list. For example, first I plan to change the way I eat – to eat food that nourishes my body and makes me feel good afterward. More specifically, I’ll start making meals on the weekends, avoiding the company snack bar and creating and sticking to a do not eat list. Second, I plan to re-implement daily quiet times. I used to wake up every morning and read, pray and do daily affirmations, this year I’ll bring back that daily practice. You get the idea.

This exercise has changed the way I think about goal-setting. At one point I believed it was important to have a completely balanced life. I no longer think it is critical to have a “balanced” life all the time – it’s not realistic, and at times it is important to invest more time and energy into certain areas of life. However, what is important is to consciously decide where and on what I’m spending my time on, and make dramatic changes when necessary.

In addition to this yearly exercise, I still believe it is important to create a Dream Board with outlandish goals to achieve throughout my life – I have a personal one and one I’ve created with my husband. I also believe that affirmations are extremely important for changing my mentality and daily habits – the daily practice contributes to the bigger changes, the yearly Top 5.

Thanks to Brent I’ll be implementing this End-of-Year Evaluation on a yearly basis. The literal end of year was a good time for me since I had time to clear my head and be thoughtful and intentional.

Does this approach make sense for you? What did you notice when you had to pick your Top 5 list?

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