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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

The Annual Review You Haven't Been Doing (But Desperately Need)

We’ve all suffered through annual reviews.

Filling out endless amounts of paperwork. Checking the box on goals. Pretending that you have a plan for the next year.

And then—hoping for a good raise or promotion.

Company reviews can be helpful (at least you get time to talk to your manager about your career, right?), but often times we rush through them so we can check the “annual review complete” box and move on.

But there’s one review that really matters to your career. It’s your own personal end-of-year review of…


Hear me out: When was the last time you sat down and looked at how you did last year in terms of your career goals? I’m not talking about what you told your supervisor—that honestly may not be true—but instead what you really dreamed of for you.

When was the last time you wrote down your big career dreams and developed a plan to go after them?

When was the last time you thought about how you spent your time and how you could improve?

If you had an answer to these questions, excellent! You’re ahead of the game.

If you didn’t?

Well, welcome to the club. The vast majority of us are waving hello.

Over at The Revolutionary Club this month, we’re talking about how to get started on your review. The good news: It doesn’t matter if you know exactly what you want to do in the next year (or five), or if you are completely stuck and have no idea. Either way, a personal annual review can really help you make progress and get a much needed boost. Seriously.

To get started, schedule some time on your calendar. This is important stuff, and it deserves at least 45 minutes of focused time in a place that you feel comfortable. Then, grab a pen and paper or your computer and a blank Word document, and get ready to do some thinking and writing.

Oh, and a glass of wine can also significantly help this process.

Look Backward

Begin by asking yourself—and jotting down the answers to—a few questions about the past year:

  • What did you do this year—in both life and work—that you are really proud of?

  • Where did you spend the majority of your time at work? On tasks or projects, in meetings or brainstorming sessions? At your desk combing through Excel spreadsheets?

  • Were you happy with what you were doing?

  • What was the best investment of your time that you made?

  • What was the worst investment of your time?

  • What do you want to do less of at work?

  • What are the top two things you learned that you don’t want to forget?

  • If you could change one thing about what you did last year work-wise, what would it be?

Look Forward

The next step is to look ahead and map out where you are going to go next. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure—this exercise is meant to guide you.

Think through, then jot down your answers to, the following:

  • What do you want to learn in the coming year?

  • Based on what you learned by looking backward, what tasks, projects, or other work do you want to spend more time on in the coming year?

  • Based on what you learned by looking backward, how will you let go of the tasks that you want to do less of?

  • Where is it time for you to grow? What skills do you need to sharpen to do that?

  • How will you grow those skills?

  • What kind of help do you need to move forward in your career?

  • Where will you get that help?

  • What is your mantra moving forward for when you get stuck?

  • What is one work (or personal) goal you will absolutely accomplish this year?

  • What’s your first step?

What’s Next?

There’s a reason why businesses spend a lot of time doing quarterly and year-end reviews. They can be illuminating, and they give you insight and context as to what would be helpful to do next. They are also comforting—it’s good to remember what you did and take an objective look at how it turned out, including the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Taking the time to do this exercise will give you both focus and momentum: Focus because you know what works and what doesn’t, and momentum because you have a direction and clear actions to take to move forward.

Photo of writing hand courtesy of Shutterstock.