TWIR: The Yearly Review

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At the end of the year people are known to look back and say, 'hey...I could have done [x|y|z] different...I'll resolve to do that next year!' And basically that is as far as it goes. The past is really like a massive jungle. If you figure out ways to work with it the experience can be enriching. otherwise, you will simply get lost.

Analyzing the past is not at all like seeing. Seeing is a combination of your optical mechanisms and a cultured interpretation of that sensory input. Reviewing past events is different. Here you are primarily burdened by the fact that you are no longer receiving new input but are instead fetching up old input from your memory banks. Those memories are polluted, or tinged, by your original perceptions at the time.

When we say that hindsight is 20/20 what we are most likely talking about is our mind's innate ability to rehash and resort sensory input. Brain researchers can demonstrate that this is apparently happening while we are sleeping. It also happens while we daydream.

When we review the past what are we looking for? We might be looking for things we can improve upon. We might also be seeking out new opportunities and the past is a great place to start as we may have missed something critical.

But this past is not the past at all. It is a bunch of electrochemical stuff firing off in your brain. In order to make new associations with it you actually need new input.

This is why reading books or attending conferences or meeting with people is important. New input goes in; there is a general stirring of your mental juices; and viola: new associations are born. Today we are going to talk about doing yearly reviews if you are without a partner to help you. This is often the case with independent or small business professionals that lack a peer framework to help them do this.

The Great Divide

We start by dividing what we did versus what we wanted to do this year. Write them down on two columns side by side. Resist the temptation to fudge here and provide excuses. Either you did something or you didn't. Nevermind why the outcome came out as it did. Number these things on your list uniquely.

Now, of the things that you accomplished explain what goal you were trying to achieve and answer the question, 'Did I achieve the goal?'

Don't be surprised if you find a pattern here. People tend to stick to things that have a very high probability of success. They keep the same job, live in the same neighborhood, and retain the same client base all because the probability of success is much higher than alternatives.

Now let's work on the column that contains things that you wanted to do. Don't provide reasons here, just answer the following question: 'Was it under my control?'

Guess what? You are likely going to find yet another pattern here. Of the things that you wanted to do but did not actually accomplish you may find a greater number of elements that were really not in your purview. In other words, how much of that task had significant elements that were outside of your immediate control? If you are like a lot of us you will find a higher percentage of things in the 'wanted to do' column that contained one or more element that was beyond your control. You had to rely upon other people -- likely people outside of your existing circle of friends and associates -- to assist you with those 'wild' areas.


In order to master the past (or really the pea soup of electrochemical responses that we call the past) you need to develop tools to create new experiences with it -- effectively forging new input that ties back to it. One way to accomplish this is to objectify the past and make it tactile.

In the next post we'll make a simple quarterly timeline made up of past experience globules that we can move around, extend, and generally interact with in the present (we can use paper sticky notes and a whiteboard). I had originally intended to cram all of this into one post but realized that would provide you with a convenient excuse not to complete 'The Great Divide' exercise. Do not procrastinate -- immediately put 'finish this exercise' in the 'Wanted to Do' column until you have completed this step.

Note: Avoid the temptation to theorize about the next steps. Just complete the exercise as it is. A common mistake is to imagine that the goal is to start moving things from the 'wanted to do' column to the 'done' column but this will more than likely result in frustration. The goal here is not to offer you a framework for getting things done. You have plenty of tools for that from business planning tools to calendars, etc. What we are doing here is learning to look at the past as a tool to help you navigate the future and make better decisions. Now get to work.

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Citation: TWIR: The Yearly Review. (2014). Retrieved Thu Apr 19 15:11:20 2018, from;iid=readMore;go=1418402628