As 2014 draws to a close I thought it would be good to take stock of the year and start figuring out what next year will bring. I’ve actually been doing lots of 2015 planning since Thanksgiving, but the last week of the year is when things usually quiet down long enough that I can really focus on the big picture. In this post I’ll take you through my annual review process in hopes that it will give you some useful food for thought.
Looking Back At The Big Picture
Take some time to look over your accomplishments in 2014. If you can, disconnect from your computer and/or smartphone and head over to a peaceful spot with a pen and paper. You want to be able to relax and enjoy some quiet reflection on all that you’ve done.
When I do my annual review, I make a list of seven categories, or “buckets”, each in the following areas:
Within each category, I write a paragraph or two, or list a few bullet points summarizing how things went and my honest feelings about my personal performance in each bucket. And, since I’m a geeky UX Designer, I’ll whiteboard out a quick sketch of what it looks like visually.
When done sincerely, this exercise always helps me get centered and honest with myself. More often than not, one or more categories didn’t get as much as attention as I would have liked during the past year, and that’s ok. After all, we’re human, not machines. But it’s good to become fully aware of the areas that need more focus in the future.
For example, this year a personal project I wanted to launch didn’t get done. As you may have noticed in my blog’s tagline, I’m also a musician. While I wrote a lot of new music earlier this year, none of it is ready for prime time yet. My big EP will just have to wait.
On the flip side, my “day job” of freelance UX Design is going great. I’ve been blessed with a steady stream of great clients and interesting projects. The up and down income roller coaster, which is often a way of life for freelancers, was a lot more even-keeled this year. I’d definitely like to extend that trend!
As you look back on your big picture, what stands out most for you? For example, within the career bucket, did you hit your sales goals? In the relationship bucket, did you spend more time with family? In the health bucket, did you exercise more? You get the idea.
Celebrate Where You Are Now
This exercise can open up all sorts of possiblitiies for you and your future. Besides identifying any areas you may want to improve upon, you’ll also notice where your strengths are. And you might see some trends that may inspire you to try new things.
For instance, after becoming a UX Mentor at CareerFoundry, an online learning platform, I started looking at other online teaching opportunities, which led me to Udemy. I’m currently working on a finance course designed especially to help freelancers make and keep more money. It’s coming along well and should be available in early 2015. I’m also experimenting with one-on-one UX Coaching services. None of this would have happened without first looking outside of my typical UX assignments.
So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t already, pick up your favorite notebook and pen, turn off the interwebs, grab a tasty beverage, and head out to a quiet spot where you can reflect on the past year. Figure out what worked, what didn’t, and how you can crush it going forward. Like this post or have other ideas on how to rock the new year? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
In the meantime, best wishes to you and yours for a safe and happy holiday season. Thanks for reading and I hope you have an amazing 2015!