Well it’s finally here. December 31st, 2020. Needless to say, it’s been a year.
By this time, there’s probably a lot of expectations for you to be considering how this year has gone by, and what you’ve accomplished. Now, reviewing is always a fantastic use of time, but how can you effectively go about reviewing an entire year?
While its one thing to reflect on the major accomplishments (and major lessons), I want to share a far more comprehensive review that also doesn’t break the only bank that really matters: time. Especially now, with the focus on holidays, family, and the upcoming 2021 year.
So here’s my approach for reviewing all of your time throughout this past year in a very succinct, concrete amount of time. Feel free to follow along with this article – should you do that, prepare to invest around 30 minutes from this point on.
#1 How’s Your Nutrition?
For the next 3 minutes, I want to try to honestly, and effectively, answer the following 3 questions:
Q1. How have you been eating – has it been healthy, nutritious, enjoyable, or was it unhealthy, poor quality, mindless?
The main idea behind question 1 is to think back on your choice and availability of food, the time to eat, and how good that was. If things were great, think about the conditions that allowed for it. If not, think about the conditions that made eating well particularly difficult. Take 1 minute.
Q2. What can you improve about your nutrition that would make it better – could you make eating healthier somehow faster, easier, cheaper?
Here we’re now taking the first minute of reflection on nutrition and are now reviewing ideas that we could implement – this is where you can point out flaws in the design of your approach toward eating healthier that can be fixed! Again, take only 1 minute, and think low-hanging fruit opportunities (no pun intended). Now:
Q3. How big of a priority is eating healthier for me?
You may initially glare at your current weight and use that as a major priority factor – so be it, that’s motivating! I could also recommend considering how much your eating lifestyle impacts your brain health, your mood, and your performance in all walks of life. Healthy eating is a foundation – I shouldn’t have to say that. What I should have to say is that eating healthier is only in your control when you make it a job to do so.
As we dive into other major life items to review, you’ll be seeing question 3 come up again and again around the conversation of priority. I’ll say this once here and now, but it applies for every other life item when you get to this question: Rank your priorities. By the end of this review, you should have a list from 1-10. My advice is that you focus all you available time tackling the top 1 when you start the year. Then, go down the list.
#2 How’s Your Exercise?
Again, for the next 3 minutes or so, I want to try to honestly, and effectively, answer the following 3 questions:
Q1. How have you been exercising – has it been consistent, impactful, enjoyable, or was it disregarded, poorly performed, misguided?
When it comes to reviewing exercise and how well it’s being performed, I tend to see so many people set their expectations too high and with little regard to the real value of good exercise, which is to have it be easy, constantly rewarding, and compounding over time. If you look back on your fitness expectations and see that you’ve been wanting more and more, but struggled to make your gains because your ambition overtook your realistic growth over time, then the next question will really help guide you to a better year of physical health.
Q2. What can you improve about your exercise that would make it better – could you make working out smarter somehow?
Here we’re now taking the first minute of reflection on exercise and are now reviewing ideas that we could implement – I personally strive for exercise regimens that require the least amount of time to get ready for, have some kind of accountability connection to (i.e. a YouTube workout video follow-along, or just working out with a friend/partner/colleague – which doesn’t have to be in person nowadays!). To the end of smarter, I love any kind of training that adopts less-is-more as a strategy. Do less reps correctly with best form, and so spend less time doing more reps in an a poor straining manner which then leads to less desire to return to future workouts. Working out at its best feels like a win with every movement.
Q3. How big of a priority is exercising better for me?
Much like with nutrition, you may initially glare at your current weight and use that as a major priority factor – I would change that script and think more about energy than weight! Weight gain and loss is about eating healthy. Fitness on the other hand, is about training your body to be more effective with its energy consumption. So as strange as this sounds, given both healthy eating and exercise go hand in hand, if you want to prioritize smarter exercise over healthier eating, do so because you feel you are already eating well, and now you need to really make the most of that energy which you consume through food.
The next review life item can be bracketed under the more general bracket of physical health – sleep.
#3 How’s Your Sleep?
Again, for the next 3 minutes… answer the following 3 questions:
Q1. How have you been sleeping – has it been consistent (in terms of time to bed and time to rise), restful, reinvigorating, or…?
Ok look, I get that sleep is one of those troubling life items that whenever we try to work on, it seems to only get worse if anything. If you don’t already know, sleep is this amazingly weird thing we do where our own brain tells our conscious and alert self to move out of the way so that it can try and Marie Kondo itself from the unavoidable mess of what is just another day… When it comes to reviewing your sleep, I strongly invite thinking less about what’s keeping you up at night and more what’s keeping you up during the day itself, because that is where the root cause of a lot of our worries and woes around sleep time come from. Taking that concept in mind toward the next question:
Q2. What can you improve about your life that would make sleep better – could you make your life better for sleep somehow?
Please pay careful attention to the shift I’m creating here. I’m not trying to make the focus about better sleep (which of course has its room for opportunity with light, sound, temperature, etc.). I’m focusing on the daily things in your life that could make good sleep happen more easily. Of course, eating right and exercising are great for this. As a subgenre of exercise, there is of course meditation, breathing, and the like. Within the subgenre of sleep itself – naps! But more than that, think generally about how to create more order, less chaos, just simplicity in general…
Q3. How big of a priority is sleeping better for me?
In my professional opinion, if sleep is not going well, its a #1 priority, but as I’ve pointed out above, once you make arrangements for the perfect sleep environment, sleep is generally better addressed by tackling life’s daily concerns more peacefully – that way sleep can really flourish, because by the end of the night, all of life’s myriad problems appear, for the most part, accounted for.
To that end, if sleep is already good, be it because healthy eating and exercising are supporting it as they do, then perhaps the next major life items will be more important for you right this moment. The following 3 are all about wealth creation.
#4 How’s Your Network?
If I may, I’d like to stretch your review of networking to encompass meeting new people, reconnecting with existing contacts, but also any and all time invested in communicating with others. I like this encompassment because it provides a lot of room for thinking about improvement, so:
Q1. How have you been networking – how effective are you in staying engaged in your circles, expanding, but also enriching everyone you know?
If you can look back on your networking as a whole, there may be a lot you could dive into surrounding effectiveness, consistency, impact… while thinking broadly, you can also think about particular relationships, or a particular circle, and how you went about communicating on a practical level, inasmuch as you could look at what your communication with the people you know (and ideally care about) has resulted in this time so far.
Q2. What can you improve about your approach to networking that would make your network better – what could be done better and how?
Again, just like with the shift in sleep, ask not what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network. But also, what can your network do for you that it may not be doing right now, and why might that be? Networking is a choice of connections – its okay to prune trees (please use the right tools for that – a blowtorch is for burning bridges and is really a bit overly aggressive as a strategy). Hey, think efficiency as well – are you keeping up a good system for managing your relationships with friends, family, colleagues, clients, prospects, strangers, and so on? Outside of using a CRM and tagging your friends into various buckets from which to send valuable industry emails, or quality memes…
Q3. How big of a priority is networking better for me?
With the next two life items to cover being prospecting and creating value, I will start off by suggesting that better networking is THE foundation for the other two. That said, if your networking sucks, prioritize that over anything. But sincerely, because networking is such a fundamental part of our exchanging value amongst one another in society, I couldn’t stress enough that it be valuable as studying, because what is networking but the study of how to be more helpful, and more easy to be helped, amongst those you know?
#5 How’s Your Prospecting?
Much like with networking, I’d like to stretch your review of prospecting-as-an-action to encompass more than just how well you sell yourself towards wealth opportunities. In my professional definition, prospecting is really a general design of time and attention towards identifying what an opportunity is worth, relative to any alternative. As a result, I could prospect which groceries to buy as much as I prospect a potential client, job, or network contact. So whereas networking makes you aware of what’s out there, prospecting defines what you will go for, and so:
Q1. How have you been prospecting – how effective are you in recognizing what are the best opportunities for your time and resources?
Hindsight is absolutely critical for better prospecting. It takes a trained eye to see value, because experience dictates what you can expect will or will not follow. So with that being said, how have you fared this year? When you made a choice, on a purchase, for/against a relationship, towards/away from a certain behavior of yours – how did that go? Later on we will cover the major life item of self-review, but for this particular life item, prospecting, I want to invite you to think about the choices you made in terms of the value you saw and the value you ultimately realized. Now…
Q2. What can you improve about your approach to prospecting that would make it better?
The number 1 thing you will hear in the world of entrepreneurship is to fail fast. What that really translates is this: Take calculated risks, and learn from it when it doesn’t work out as planned, quickly. So, prospect! Try, experiment, test, see how it goes for a little, then decide if you want to continue. Of course, some decisions in life are irreversible, but most aren’t, and those are the ones we get to play with the most. So in my recommendation towards better prospecting, make small bets, but do them often, and highlight time in the near future to assess those choices. Most importantly, look into what you thought you were going to expect in terms of return on value, and what actually happened instead.
Q3. How big of a priority is prospecting better for me?
Assuming you have a good enough handle on your network (and have people to prospect to), focus on prospecting if you need to build more wealth. Prospecting directly equals sales, so if you need to make more, then you need to sell better, which means you need to prospect better. At the same time, if you feel you aren’t keen on making the best decisions in hindsight, then prospecting should also be on top or near the top of your priorities.
Of course, a good salesperson is nothing without something of genuine value to give to their network. Next up is creating value.
#6 How’s Your Creating?
So let’s assume you’re a decent networker with capable prospecting skills – that means you know people and/or can get to know people, but also you can identify opportunities for those in your network in which you can profit from, and so, win-win. Great, now what exactly are we winning here? What kind of value do you create, and for whom? The following questions at heart will ask you that, and much more.
Q1. How have you been creating value – how effective are you with your time and resources in producing more time and resources?
Whether its for yourself and/or others, which really the two are but different sides of the same coin. How well have you been creating value? To that end, how well do you share about it? Marketing? How well do you transfer it? Customer service. How much value have you been producing over time? Productivity. Are you producing the same or more value in less time? Efficiency. When it comes to reviewing your creative actions, it can be really valuable to assess just how good you are at doing so in all respects possible, and that’s because the next question then asks:
Q2. What can you improve about your approach to creating that would make it better?
I love this question. It basically states, “I produce a certain amount of value X right now, to Y people, who then pay me Z… How might I go about increasing X and/or Y in order to improve my return of Z?” Whereas prospecting focuses on the selling of the right value to someone, creating focuses on the value itself being sold, how it gets there in the smartest way, and so on. When you really love your work (love being a verb that begets choice – you choose to love or not), you really get into the heart of how you work most effectively. Unfortunately, I don’t have any specific examples to by, as there’s so many ways to create value, and so many ways to increase how value is created, but I hope you get the idea.
Q3. How big of a priority is creating better for me?
Hands down, if you don’t create more than you consume, then make creating a top priority. Next to anything in the health category, which is foundational, assuming you know your network and how to prospect with them on their needs and your means to make the opportunity for you to address those needs, then the next thing hands down becomes your time and task towards creating. Create more, however you can, but when you decide to prioritize creating, focus really hard on what you can create the best, and really drive that value up in the most effective ways possible.
As I may be pointing out with focusing on your health, working on yourself is definitely a way to improve the results of anything related to building. Notably, this brings us down to our final three categories: Study, rest, and review.
#7 How’s Your Study?
Being a lifelong student is without a doubt the most valuable time investment over the long term. If you want create more, you’ll likely need to study your efforts as much as what you don’t already know in order to improve your craft. Same goes with prospecting and networking – wealth compounds on study. Health gains come from good study too – though these days its hard to sift fact from fiction, so back we go towards prospecting what we should study and what we should earmark as crap… but I digress.
Q1. How have you been studying – how much have you learned and by what processes?
Because is such a valuable time investment, it helps to know how you fare in terms of effectiveness. Where you can, I strongly encourage looking at all the bits and chunks of knowledge you’ve collected over time, and just how well that information was absorbed and applied well into the rest of your life. How you study, or the process by which you learn, is also up for review here. Ultimately, you want to ask if your efforts to study met the results you desired to obtain in new and old knowledge applied effectively, and so:
Q2. What can you improve about your approach to studying about the world that would make it better?
Here, I like to think fundamentally as much as strategically. For instance, on a fundamental level, the faster I can read without losing sight of what I’m reading about is a fundamental to study more, faster. Meanwhile on a strategic level, I could design my time so that I read, review, then apply. This way, I get three forms of study which together solidify what I’m learning more effectively. And if that all makes sense, I would like to invite then the less-is-more strategy atop the learn-then-teach method of study. See, its not about reading more books, but about reading more effectively about the knowledge that matters most to you right now, and absorbing it/applying it as quickly and effectively as you can. So now think:
Q3. How big of a priority is studying better for me?
If you’re stuck trying to think what your next level is in any category of life, study it. The most successful people on the planet dedicate a tremendous of time to reading, but its not about just what they read. It’s about how they read it, and use it. Study is not just theory – its practice. So incorporate the practice of what you study in your life if you don’t already – that’s one way to prioritize study if the idea of just reading more doesn’t suit you.
At this point, we’ve covered nearly every “productive” use of time. Time for a break?
#8 How’s Your Rest?
To be fair, rest is actually the most productive use of our time when you think about it. Rest is what allows productive work to even exist, so without it, productivity approaches zero quickly. Rest is multifaceted in its design, but you can try to think of it as any activity which leaves you feeling renewed and able to perform everything else in life. And while healthy activity atop even wealthy activity can fit under the concept of rest, true rest can be as productive as doing absolutely nothing, and that’s okay, so:
Q1. How have you been resting – how much have you rested and how effective was it in what you resting from, or for?
Rest is the fluid in between time and task that, if otherwise removed, would make said time and task really hard to commit to over the course of a longer period. So how well have you given yourself opportunity to rest? How did you ultimately take that rest time, and was it effective in getting you going? You can break down different types of rest activities according to how much energy they demand, and how that compares with the energy demands of the tasks you perform for work, health, or anything other than your creature comfort. To that end:
Q2. What can you improve about your approach to resting that would make it better?
I don’t think the goal with rest is to be efficient. Rather, I think smarter rest comes from recognizing how to play with the ebb and flow of energy needed to perform work. When you’re tired, stop, rest. When you’re not tired, go, but take breaks as needed to prolong the inevitable time when you become tired again. Alongside that, think of rest in terms of different timeframes. Rest time placed throughout the day, week, and month can balance out depending on the demands incoming along each timeframe. That’s something to consider when trying to rest better. Also paying mind to the time and resource cost of certain rest activities – it helps to save on rest activities (I never understood why vacations had to be so expensive…)
Q3. How big of a priority is resting better for me?
If you’re always begging for it, then you need to focus on it. Making time to rest is the ultimate way to make time to work smarter and harder. Again, rest is what grants the ability to be productive. There’s more. Rest is something that requires strategy and experimentation. If you don’t have your time for rest figured out for the work-life demands you’re living in currently, then that’s all the more reason to sit down and review how you rest as productive measure towards your current expectations for productivity. One final note on rest: You’d be amazed what working less hours will do.
And so, really all of this brings us to the most important life item: Review itself.
#9 How’s Your Review?
Allow me to keep this brief by saying that review is not a brief process. Compared to the long term view of actual time spent doing everything that you do, review is a small part of that, but in the short-term, its not something to gawk at.
Q1. How have you been reviewing – how much have you reviewed and how well do you go about reviewing?
Well-done review follows a few simple principles. For one, review comes after any distinct event of focus. We tend to think of reviewing days, weeks, months, but we can also review individual activities, experiments, and even actions. Our goal with review is to understand ourselves, especially over the long run, so another important principle is documentation. How accurate have you been with yourself about your review? How objective? How subjective? Has that been good/bad depending on the time and task and behavior being reviewed? Lot’s to dig into here – just look at how you may have answered all these questions.
Q2. What can you improve about your approach to reviewing that would make it better?
It’s important not to step into a rabbit hole with this one. You’re looking at yourself looking at yourself. Don’t overthink it. That’s one improvement already. On a more fundamental level, you can always focus your review on specific items of importance. Examples include each heading in this article being a particular breakdown which you will choose to prioritize one of above and beyond the others, least for the time being. On a more strategic level, its about the questions you learn to ask yourself, the objectives you come to better understand, and the time you dedicate to coming up with the next experiment to try, and then review later. Review is part of a cycle. It’s not the whole cycle, but also by far a very slim part.
Q3. How big of a priority is reviewing better for me?
How often do you repeat the same mistakes? How often do you forget what you’ve done, and where you’re going? Questions like these point towards an emphasis on reviewing better. Its okay to make mistakes, and its okay to get lost in the present of things, but its in your power and responsibility to remind yourself – that’s what review is for. So if you need that more, prioritize this life item. I always prioritize review above all else because it helps me see the picture of everything else that’s covered on this article – all of my life basically – but not everyone is as deeply introspective, and not everyone has the time at this given moment to focus on the big picture.
When one of the other life items above holds more value than review to be addressed first, then the bigger picture of prioritizing review can come later. In the meantime, mini-versions of review can suffice until enough progress is made to warrant looking at the next level.
This article may not be a simple read. Likely, the questions I provide can invoke a lot of time to sit and think. I like to invite 1 minute per question on the first pass, and really that should be enough to get one of these categories as your priority for the coming week or month or even quarter – it doesn’t have to be the whole year. And to that end, treat any decided upon focus as a theme rather than particular set of objectives to be met. Life is complex, and you can’t control everything. It’s like navigating a ship – the winds will blow in many different directions as you sail – you only have so much time and energy to adjust your sails, so do so as needed, and focus on remaining steered in the right direction.
Happy New Year – may your time reflecting upon what’s coming forward bode well.