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Ooh Baby, I Love Your Ways
It’s a new year, a time when I always feel like a big baby starting out fresh and new. Plus, by the time the holidays have ended, just like a big baby, I’m eating everything in front of me, demanding more than I’m getting, taking more than I’m giving. This year, one of my New Year’s resolutions is not to be such a big baby. Except that I’m not one for resolutions. I like to say things like “self-improvement is a continual, year-round process, not a singular, once-a-year occurrence.” I probably stole that line one year to avoid making a resolution.

But I thought I’d try out a resolution or two this year and see how it went. I went big. I went life-changing. I resolved to “take everything to the next level.” I resolved to “be on top of my game.” Maybe you’ve already spotted the holes in this one, the biggest being that I have no idea what either of those mean. And I’m not sure how to quantify “being on top of my game.” It’s like saying, “I’ll eat healthy, lose weight, get buff,  and stay in shape.” There’s nothing to measure. Besides, I tend to blow out those resolutions before I get started. Case in point: At the the beginning of the new year, an angel dropped a professional opportunity in my lap (specifics at a later date). I began preparing, and as soon as my plans devolved into backpacking through Mexico on my way to Texas with 50 pounds of oil paintings strapped to my back, I realized how on top of my game I wasn’t. And just like that, resolution-wise, 2013 was a bust.

Drive It Like You Stole It
So, I gave up my resolutions before the ball dropped and went back to a practice that works better for me. It’s a system I’ve been using for some years which I find more effective than resolutions. It’s an Annual Review, which I think is brilliant, but the three people I’ve mentioned it to over the years have smiled, patted me on the head and said “you’re so cute.” But, for me, it’s a way to contemplate the past year and deliberately lay out my intentions for the upcoming one. Like I said, brilliant! But like anything brilliant that I come up with, I stole it from someone else. I won’t lie, I stole it all, too from the title, The Annual Review, to the way I get started.

Nerd Is My Middle Name
Some years ago, I realized that I wanted to change the arc of my life. Okay, so mostly I wanted to quit my lame job and travel somewhere. I avoid expectations and I’m a huge fan of being lucky, but I still figured it would take a little planning, something beyond my typical resolutions. I had my own goal planning process until I came across this blog post by Chris Guillebeau. If you like the idea of being intentional and setting goals, check out some of Chris’ work where he breaks down his own review process in detail over multiple years. I stole the ideas from his approach that suited my own needs, most important being his idea to start the process with two questions: “What went well this year? What did not go well this year?” This has become the springboard for my own yearly planning sessions. I use it to review the previous year and consider what it is I want to achieve in the upcoming year. I develop around ten categories (Travel to CreativeFinancial to Fitness) in which I want to accomplish something significant for myself and then I set a series of measurable goals to fulfill in each category. Then, I break out the spreadsheet. Yep, the spreadsheet. I know it’s über-dorky, but the goals are measurable and spreadsheets are a way to check my progress throughout the year. I get to ask, “Did I accomplish this?” and there’s room for one answer, yes or no. When the new year rolls around, I have something to compare myself against when I begin asking those initial questions and try to imagine what the upcoming year will be like. This is just a sketch of the process; I could bore you all day with the details, but you’d probably smile, pat me on the head, and say, “you’re so cute.”

Thanks again to Amy for participating in The Hunert Faces Project and providing such a regal model for the painting above. If you’re into the artsy, behind-the-work kind of stuff, here are the initial studies for it. I’m always interested in how much the prelims do or don’t resemble the final product. It’s a way to critique what’s come before, where I am now, and where I want to be going.

And you? What are you planning for 2013?

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