This weekend I completed my first personal year-end review. Since I don’t have an employer, it’s up to me to evaluate my own performance and look for ways to improve. Celestine Chua’s year-end review questions resonated with me, so I used those as a template:
- What were your biggest accomplishments this year? (results you are proud of)
- What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned this year?
- On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with how you spent the year? Why?
Chua’s review also included questions for the year ahead:
- What do you want to accomplish next year, such that it’s your best year ever?
- What new habits can you cultivate that will help you to achieve your goals?
- What are your immediate next steps to achieve these goals?
Completing the first part of the exercise provided me with an opportunity to review the year’s major events. I was surprised by how much happened and how much I did in 2015. It was good to both appreciate successes and to reflect on failures. Projects that didn’t go as well as I hoped they would — in hindsight the reasons why were clear. But if I hadn’t taken the time to look back and consider what happened, those lessons would have been lost on me. I would have been left with the vague feeling of “Well, I guess that didn’t work out.”
In terms of my successes, it was good to take time to appreciate those. I feel confident going into 2016 after considering the positive results of 2015. It’s easy to underplay your successes in life and to only give attention to problems and failures. But it’s helpful to take some pride in your accomplishments. Sometimes nobody else gives you credit, and you’re the only one who knows how hard you had to work to get the job done. This is especially true for less glamorous tasks like helping family members, staying in shape, and repairing the roof.
A couple months ago I wrote about how I was going to “join the maximizers” in certain aspects of my life, meaning I would attempt to raise my standards, push harder towards my goals, and trade some of my leisure time for productivity and “push” time.
As part of my year-end review I considered some recent changes I’d made along these lines, and evaluated if I wanted to carry them forward.
Looking back, I realized I’d been on the maximizer path ever since becoming a dad in 2008. After a tough year of sleep deprivation, I found myself ready to enter a new phase of life defined by deeper commitments and more goal-oriented behavior. In 2009 I started this blog, started writing fiction, cut out a few things that weren’t bringing much value to my life (DJing, videogames), and committed to higher standards and better decisions for myself.
Starting in 2013 I took a harder look at my activities and commitments, using the “Hell yeah or no” criteria from Derek Sivers. I also asked and answered questions about each activity area (consulting work, writing fiction, running a music label, producing music, blogging, etc.), including:
- Why do it?
- How does it relate to my life purpose?
- What’s the main objective?
- What are the “traps” to avoid?
In 2015 I raised my game even more, committing to more writing time and more music studio time (some of the results I will be publishing in 2016).
So yes — it feels good to push, to become more of a maximizer, to raise my work output and raise my standards and contribute and create as much as possible while I’m alive on this planet (which will hopefully be a very long time). Not that you should mistake me for a workaholic or overachiever — all my commitments and activities in total still leave me about half my waking hours remaining for unstructured free time (hanging out with family and friends, reading, gaming, playing sports, and the like). I have my freelance career and hard-earned investment wisdom to thank for that, as well as good luck in the life cards I drew at birth (U.S. citizen, middle-class, white male, able-bodied, no mental illness, etc.). I realize not everybody is playing this immersive game on easy mode. All the more reason that I should push myself and try to contribute more.
The Year Ahead
I’ll save my thoughts on 2016 for a new post early in the new year. I’ll probably combine that with a Metablog post to let you know what I’ll be writing about in 2016 (including an extreme lifestyle experiment).
I hope you have the opportunity to spend New Year’s Eve with friends and/or family. Stay alive, don’t lose your pants, and have a great time!
Thanks for reading this blog in 2015 and I wish you all the best in the year ahead.