Annual Review


This year, today, I tried doing an annual review.

I shamelessly stole my friend Stevie’s method


, which is based on “Roses, Thorns, Buds” (which was a new idea to me). The Review has three phases.

Rose: Highlights

Here, I went over my calendar from 2019 and wrote down all the highlights.

For example, here are the first three:

Tobago! warm water, snorkeling, night boating, nylon pool, rum punch, wine place, bird island

Helping host WAIM workshop at iConference

SF with Rupal! Work, encouragement, reading old emails, pisco sours.

This stage gave me a long list of things to be grateful for, and illustrated that, to me, social connection and travel are meaningful experiences that consistently make my highlights list.

Thorns: Challenges

Here, I listed things that were difficult throughout the year or for a time. For example,

Difficulty focusing on work, self-soothing online
[a project] feeling stuck

This exercise helped me see that:

1) my year had a lot more positives than negatives!
2) 80% of the difficulties I listed are to do largely or entirely with how I spend my attention

Buds: 2020 plans

This section had a few parts: themes, dreams, and routines. (<– that was a happy accident that I just discovered as I wrote them down :)

Themes

Taking advice from another friend, Jake, and a podcast episode he recommended, I chose two 2020 themes, instead of resolutions. They are like guiding stars– they help you make decisions and stay going in the right direction, but they aren’t goals you can succeed or fail at. This is important to help me manage my failure schema: I will struggle to stick with something once I feel I’ve failed at it.

My 2020 themes are:
The Year of the Rat Park (referring to this great TED talk)
and The Year of Attention

I will spend energy building a life that has lots of space, time, and infrastructure for social connection and I will spend my attention intentionally.

Concretely, this means setting aside time each week to work on our backyard (so we can host people!) and trying to be aware of how I am spending my attention: thinking of it as a limited and important resource. The first will be accomplished through scheduling time each weekend for working on the backyard, and the second will be addressed through journalling, and perhaps some other mindfulness practices.

Dreams

This part was very hard for me. The idea here is to dream big. What do I want to accomplish this year? What would an ideal outcome look like?

I struggled with this because it does define success and failure, but I took the instruction to visualize what’s possible. I imagine I can:

complete 3 current projects,

include pomodoros in every working day,

and go to the gym at least 4 days of every week I’m in town.

Routines

To support my annual themes and goals, I will implement some daily structure that I hope will take some of the need for willpower out of some basic parts of my day (like breakfast) so I can direct it where I need it: building the ability to focus on difficult projects for an extended period.

These routines can be changed as I learn more about how I work best, but they must be changed intentionally and for at least a week.

On a working day, I’ll have 30 minutes to get with it and make coffee before heading out to the gym. Upon return, I’ll take a shower, and do 3 pomorodos before lunch. After lunch, I must do at least 2 pomodoros. I may do more, or I may fill up the rest of my work time with administrative or tedious work, depending on how my mind is doing that day.

I can stop working at 5 if I like, guilt-free if I’ve stuck with my goals and spent my attention well. If I’m on a deadline or I don’t feel good about my work day, I can work until 7. But no matter what the day was like, 7pm is a hard stop.

After that, I can work on an art project, read, play a game with B– whatever it is, it needs to be an actually refreshing activity, not self-soothing scrolling on twitter or reddit.

At 11:30, I go to bed.

We’ll see how this works! I hope it will help me manage distraction and feel good about work. I revisited my dissertation timeline and put it in my calendar, and hopefully routinizing my work week a little and making time for relaxation will help me reach those goals without burning out.

Time will tell!

Do you do an annual review? What are your hopes and goals for 2020? I’d love to hear your thoughts :)

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