How To: End of Year Reviews and Planning for Self-Employed People

I honestly can’t believe that 2011 is about to end in two weeks. I know, you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Lara, let me get through the holidays before you start talking about the New Year!”

No. Sorry, but nope. When you’re in business for yourself, you’ve got to be thinking ahead. Much farther ahead than two weeks, and if you haven’t started your end of year review process and your planning process for 2012 yet, you’re late. Good news is that I am too, and I’m only getting started on this now. But you’re gonna come with me, if I have to drag you kicking and screaming, so na na na boo boo.

Yep, this is gonna be a long post but I promise if you go through this with me, you’ll be well on your way to having a plan.

“Good fortune is what happens when
opportunity meets with planning.” – Thomas Edison

“He who fails to plan, plans to fail” – Proverb

“A good plan violently executed now is better than
a perfect plan next week.” – General George S. Patton

Get it now?

So I’m not going to post my review and plan in this post, rather I’m going to walk you through my process so that you can do yours. Download the annual review and planning 2012-15 spreadsheet. Feel free to modify it, change colors, whatever. Just get it, open it up, and follow along. Then promise me you’re going to use it in some form or another, okay?

The End of Year Review

So I’m going to assume that you didn’t do a plan for 2011, so you have nothing “real” to look at for review. This time next year you’re going to have not only a living, breathing document to use for your annual review, but one that you can look at any time, and should, to make sure you’re on track.

The Good and Bad

For now, let’s just make a list of accomplishments and failures. Here are some examples from my own:

Accomplishments

  • Worked with Fortune 500 company Kraft Foods, Inc. on three projects.
  • Spoke at both Blog World Expo and Social Share Summit – two very different audiences (both in size and business styles).
  • Started my jewelry and art business, and sold several dozen pieces.

Failures

  • Ended two client projects before I expected to.
  • Slacked heavily in my own blogging projects and self-promotion marketing.
  • Spent ALL of my personal savings on bills and credit cards.

I promise, my lists are FAR longer than this – especially on the “failures” because I tend to be my harshest critic. I have friends and colleagues who are awesome and support the crap outta me, and never fail to mention my accomplishments. If you don’t, make sure you put this in your planning for next year, mkay? Great. Let’s move on.

Analyze

When you’ve got your list, I want you to then go back and really analyze each line item. Now, just because you know this, don’t go making your lists super short to avoid the work. I don’t care if you put, “Went to the gym twice a week for three months,” in your accomplishments or failures list, just make sure you put it there. Everything. Every. Little. Thing you did this year related to you and your life.

That’s right, this isn’t just about business. It’s about you and your happiness. You need to take care of all aspects of your life in order to be successful in business. Get naked with your soul here, people.

So, in analyzing each line item, you need to write out what it was that lead you to have that outcome. Sure, the circumstances may have been completely out of your control, and you could’ve unfairly been let go from a job, or found yourself with a $3,000 repair bill, or whatever. But be objective here… if you did something wrong to make the failure happen, admit it. Come clean. Lay it all out there though, if you weren’t the only one at fault, make sure you note that too, because you’re not going to spend your life berating yourself. I won’t let that happen. Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes we’re the only ones responsible for them, other times we’re not. Be honest AND fair.

In the same respect, when you’re not the only party in your accomplishments, make note of that too. If someone helped you, in even the smallest way like an introduction or a purchase and positive review, make sure you list that too. It’s important to know who your champions are, who it is you can not only rely upon, but who you need to reciprocate the goodwill to as well. I have friends I “owe ya one” to. I love them, and they’ll probably never call me on it, but if it kills me, I’m going to acknowledge them somehow.

Last, I want you to choose one word to describe how each of your accomplishments and failures made you feel. Get out your thesaurus here, and look for words like amazing, inspired, downtrodden, uplifted, sad, and so on.

Now that you know what you did right and what you did wrong, who helped, and how each outcome made you feel, it’s time to plan for 2012.

Setting Achievable, Realistic Goals

You’ve got to break things down here. Don’t say “I’m going to finally lose weight this year,” or “I want to save more money,” because those are too generic and don’t give you a definite, measurable plan.

Instead of “I’m going to finally lose weight this year,” you’ll set a category called “Health and Fitness”.

Under that category, you’ll list all the things that will help you achieve your weight loss goal.

  • Buy a scale.
  • Hit the gym 3x/week or more.
  • Go hiking twice a month.
  • Eat 25-30g dietary fiber/day
  • Run a marathon
  • Stop eating fast food completely.
  • etc.

Then, in the next column on your sheet, you’re going to list out the steps you’ll take to get to the point where these things are happening for you. Some will be daily or weekly, some will be one-time deals. Use “ongoing” or choose a defined date. I’ve included some sections on the sheet, but you can always add or delete them to make the most sense for you.

Each quarter, you’ll then review each task and make sure you accomplished it, or revise them, add, delete, what have you. No cheating, just because you haven’t done something, don’t delete it or change the date to something crazy far in advance. Just make sure you do it ASAP. This is the part that helps you stay on track. I use quarters, but you can easily modify the sheet to go month-to-month.

At the end of the year, you’ll have two sections to look over and plan for the next year. I do this every year, and it’s really important to your personal AND business life.

I’d love to hear about how you manage your end of year review/planning!

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