Happy New Year!

If you’re anything like me, you love this time of year because it’s full of opportunity. It’s a clean slate to start anew and accomplish what you didn’t manage to before. It’s a chance to create newer and bigger goals to ensure you’re continually growing and improving.

Let me ask: What do YOU want to do in 2015? Maybe you want to…

  • Reduce your dependence on caffeine or sugar?
  • Start volunteering in your neighborhood?
  • Nail a handstand in yoga?
  • Or FINALLY take that trip to Machu Picchu?

Whatever it is, now is the perfect time to figure it out. (Well, maybe late December would’ve been better… but what can I say? I’m a procrastinator.)

How (And Why) You Should Do an Annual Review

To do that each year, I conduct an Annual Review. It’s a process I first learned about in Chris Guillebeau’s life-changing book “The Art of Non-Conformity.” Rather than make resolutions, Chris looks at two questions:

  • What went well this year?
  • What did not go well this year?

After reviewing these questions, he knows what he needs to work on for the next year — and he creates goals and action steps around these items. (Because, like Alexis Grant says, goals are more effective than resolutions.)

Now is the time to plan for the year ahead — so you can make the little changes that will eventually lead to something BIG: a happier, healthier, and better you. 

I don’t get as detailed as Chris does, but I do have a spreadsheet in which I record my goals each year. I used to write down my thoughts in a notebook and then immediately lose and/or forget about it. (Sound familiar?) By using a spreadsheet in Google Drive, I can find it no matter where I am in the world.

Make next year better

Here’s what I include in my annual review:

  • Six categories with three goals in each; my categories are business, health, money, personal, fun, and learning
  • Action steps for each of these goals
  • My word of the year (more on this below… or just check out this free course on finding your word from Susannah Conway)
  • Books read during the year
  • And then, at the end of the year, I write in the answers to Chris’ two questions (what went well and what didn’t)

Sounds easy and awesome, right?

If you want to conduct your own, here’s my little new year’s present for you: an annual review template.

Of course, this is just an outline. The point is to record what YOU would like to accomplish or measure in the next year — be it volunteer hours or days on the mountain. It’ll make your chances of success much greater, as well as give you a sense of accomplishment a year from now.

If traveling is on your agenda (as it should be!), I’d highly encourage you to include a “Travel” category in there. (I don’t, because I know I will travel anyways.) To help you get started, check out this 7-step travel action plan, or just sign up for your free travel cheat sheet.

There you go; you’re all set to conduct your own annual review.

If you’d like to see what’s up for me this year, keep reading — if not, get to work on yours!

My Annual Review for 2014

What went well

Health: I ran my first marathon (!!!) in Napa Valley in March. I started practicing yoga several times a week. With the help of the Lucent app, I began meditating for five minutes in the morning; though I wasn’t consistent, I’m glad I took the first step. I cleaned up my diet and significantly reduced my intake of sugar, dairy, and wheat.

Business: In my first full year of working for myself, I nearly tripled my monthly income. I also saw my writing featured in several large publications and was featured on Chris Guillebeau’s website and in a video by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Learning: I attended an inspiring World Domination Summit and read more books than I have in several years. I accomplished my goal of WWOOFing and learned how to care for goats (which I will own someday!). I refreshed my Spanish skills by taking private lessons once a week (they’re $8/hour via Skype; let me know if you want my teacher’s info).

What didn’t go well

Hobbies: I managed to make more time for work and family in 2014, but I did not make enough time for hobbies. I wanted to start knitting again, but failed miserably. I need more healthy activities to engage in when I am not working. (As opposed to eating out or going to the bar.)

Travel: I didn’t do ANY international traveling in 2014, and I don’t know the last time that’s happened. I spent New Year’s skiing in Japan, but after my return, was stateside for the rest of the year. The biggie: Due to personal reasons, I had to postpone my trip to New Zealand and Bali.

Ebook: Oh my god. The ebook. Will this thing ever get done?! I joined #NaNoBloMo and even took an ecourse on writing your manifesto. I almost have a first draft done, but things just always seem to get in the way. Not sure why I just can’t hit send on this thing. Would you be excited to read “The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your First Seasonal Job”? Maybe some positive reinforcement will be the motivation I need!

My word: Balance

A few years ago, I started setting a word to reflect what I would focus on in the next year. I can’t remember where I first heard of this — maybe from Jenny Blake? (Here’s her post on seeking Alignment in 2013.)

In 2014, my word was Balance. That’s because I was horrible at it in 2013; like many newly self-employed people, I spent hours and hours working, while never seeming to get anything done. I missed out on time with friends, family, and nature.

I must say that finding Balance in 2014 was a smashing success. I’m most productive in the morning, so I start working around 6:15 am every day, and I work until 2:30 pm, when I go to yoga or for a run. Then, I have the rest of my evening to spend with books (see below!), food, and the people I love. I am not exaggerating when I say it has been revolutionary.

Books read

I read 19 books in 2014. It may not sound like a lot, but in years past, I was only making time for five or six books a year. And I love reading, so I’m really happy to get back into this habit. For fiction, my favorites were The Goldfinch, Matterhorn, and Gone Girl; for non-fiction, Born to Run, Vegan Before 6, Springboard, You Deserve to Love Your Job, and Food Rules. This year, I plan to read 25 books. (You can’t become a better writer without reading good writing!)

Looking Ahead to 2015

My goals

Though I have several goals under each of these categories, I’ll just share one with you so you don’t fall asleep.

Business: Earn 50% of my income through freelance writing

As I revealed in this post about how I make money online, I earn the majority of my money through content marketing. Though it pays the bills, it isn’t my passion — writing is. Not to mention that writing is easier to do ahead of time; with content marketing, it’s more difficult to unplug. So this year, I plan to focus my energy on gaining writing jobs.

Health: Perfect my crow, headstand, and tripod headstand

Yoga was a big thing for me in 2014. I’d practiced here and there before, but 2014 was the year it became my favorite way to exercise both my mind and body. In 2015, I would like to perfect improve some moves I’ve been struggling with: crow, headstand, and tripod headstand. That way, I’ll finally have something to do when my teacher says “Now take your inversion of choice”!

Money: Contribute $2,500 to my Roth IRA

As a self-employed freelancer, I do not have a 401K. Which means it is up to ME to fund my retirement. And with the power of compound interest, I need to do it NOW. Last year, I created an automatic transfer from my checking account to my retirement account of $25/week. I didn’t notice it at all, and this year, I saved more than I have in other years — but it still wasn’t enough. This year, I am going to increase the amount to $50/week.

Learning: Learn to play tennis

I love being outside, and I need a new outdoorsy game. Living in San Diego this winter, tennis seemed like a great choice. (Plus, it’s a sport you can play even when you’re old!)

Personal: Volunteer twice a month

Once I moved to San Diego, I started volunteering at Olivewoods Gardens & Learning Center. It’s a wonderful place that teaches kids about sustainability, gardening, and healthy eating. I would like to continue volunteering there (or wherever I move) twice each month.

Fun: Travel to New Zealand

Tickets are booked for the end of March!

My word: Accept

A lot of things happened this year that I didn’t necessarily plan for. My personal life experienced a lot of ups and downs; some preventable, some not. Though I’ve spent a lot of time wishing I could change things, it’s only made me feel stressed anxious. I didn’t have to search hard for 2015’s word; it appeared to me very clearly.

In 2015, I am going to ACCEPT that many things are out of my control, ACCEPT that life will never be perfect, and ACCEPT that I am exactly where I should be.

It may be hard, but with this as my mantra for the entire year (and for my morning meditations!), I have a feeling I will succeed.

Do you do an annual review, or would you like to start? (Here’s that spreadsheet one more time, in case you’d like to share it with someone.) What are YOUR goals for 2015? Do you have a word picked out?