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It’s worth conducting a productivity review at the end of the year—whether you’re a fan of New Year’s resolutions or not.1
A yearly productivity review should include three elements:
- A list of the things you accomplished over the past year;
- A look at your “hotspots” to determine where you invested your time, attention, and energy;
- Three intentions for the year ahead—for your work and personal life.
Let’s start with the list of accomplishments. Make note of 20 things you accomplished this year. I’m a big fan of maintaining an accomplishments list, and personally have a weekly and longer-term version. There’s a reason the list is powerful: it’s easy to forget the things you accomplish, and the milestones you’ve reached. Thanks to the Zeigarnik effect, we tend to remember incomplete tasks and projects a lot more than ones we’ve completed. Our brain dedicates significantly more resources towards the problems we’re facing, as opposed to ones we’ve already resolved.
Your calendar, the contact list on your phone, and social media feeds are all places that might jog your memory when it comes to these accomplishments. Twenty may seem like a large number, but you’ll find your list fills surprisingly quickly. My list includes big talks I’ve given, book milestones (e.g. certain sales milestones, and writing milestones with my next book), and anniversaries.
Next, reflect on where you invested your time, attention, and energy in the past year. My favorite way to do this is by thinking about our seven hotspots—the seven areas of our lives where we spend time every day. These hotspots are our mind, body, emotions, career, finances, relationships, and having fun.
Often, we tilt, investing more time into certain hotspots at the expense of others—like when we over-invest in our career at the expense of having fun. Sometimes we neglect one or two hotspots inadvertently, like when we neglect our body hotspot by falling into a habit of not working out or eating well. Other times, we’re more balanced.
There is no right or wrong way to invest in your hotspots. In fact, spending equal amounts of time, attention, and energy in each hotspot will often lead you to achieve less—like when you intently focus on your body hotspot so you can rock a six-pack by summertime. During this year-end hotspot reflection, ask: did you spend your time, attention, and energy in ways that made you happy? Or should you find a different balance next year?
Third, and finally, choose three big things you want to accomplish by the end of next year. This is the Rule of 3 on steroids. These are goals, not resolutions. Make them specific and attainable, and be sure you actually care about achieving them.
As you set your daily and weekly intentions, you can ensure they filter into accomplishing these three big goals. I personally set three work-related, and three personal goals. For example, one of my personal goals for next year is to achieve a 12% body fat percentage through intermittent fasting, and one of my work goals is to have a successful book launch. It’s worth reviewing your hotspots as you do this, considering which areas are over and under-invested in.
All in all, this little ritual takes about an hour. It’s time well spent, and the exercise lets you do three things: reflect on the wonderful accomplishments that came through investing in your productivity; pinpoint what you want to do differently by seeing your life from a higher vantage point; and set goals for the year ahead that will guide your daily and weekly intentions.