Write Your 2015 Year-end Review Today

Your end-of-the-year review is here, and you’ve just spent long, hard hours listing your accomplishments and researching proof of their value–all to justify your salary and the resources you need for the coming year. But you can bypass that painful process next year by using these steps to write your ideal annual review ahead of time.

In this way, your future review becomes your current quarterly and monthly goals. How’s that for efficient?

1. List your objectives for this year.

If you don’t know what you and your team will be doing, start talking. Speak with your best customers, some favorite prospects, your team stars, your own executives, and your competition–whoever will give you inspiration and an out-of-the-box perspective.

When your brain is sufficiently overloaded with plans, make a list of the twenty-five goals you’d like to achieve this year.  After careful study, highlight the five most important goals of 2015. (Note that some ideas on your list may group into larger goals.) Write the achievable quarterly objectives that get you to your year-end success story.

Because we’re still in planning mode, now is the time to role-play your activity. (Trust us, it works.) Imagine the end of first quarter, telling your boss, sponsor, or recruiter what you’ve accomplished and then pitching for more resources, responsibility, or visibility–whatever boosts you towards your next bigger success. Write a draft email, listing what you accomplished. Do this for each quarter of 2015. This will help you prepare for the actual emails you’ll be sending quarterly.

2. Be realistic about your plan.

The hard part is not mapping out what you WANT to achieve quarter by quarter, but making it happen, with all the surprises and gotchas that crop up every day. And although your goals seem like a great idea on paper, make sure you don’t over-commit. Leave room for unexpected crises and opportunities.

Consider the unique vagaries of your firm’s business cycles: Is there a mid-year consolidation of resources from completed or cancelled projects? If so—and this may seem counterintuitive—make sure you front-load smaller projects at the start of the year. This way, you can put the bulk of your resources toward your larger projects when deadlines loom. Another reason to start small? By the middle of the year, less-critical projects can be cut. But by keeping your major projects on track, you’ll be able to take the finished project’s resources for your group.

Stay on track with a watchlist of your quarterly objectives, including difficulties you foresee that you’ll prevent or overcome. Your ability to navigate these minefields and deliver success is what truly makes you valuable. Recognizing potential problems now enables you to prepare and train your team to react with expertise instead of alarm when issues do arise.

And don’t forget to keep your stakeholders in the loop by sharing your plans. Are they with you? Do you need any course corrections? When they’re on board with what you’re planning to achieve, they’ll recognize and support your progress as it happens.

3. Take action.

List the next six months on a flipchart page or whiteboard on your wall. Write keywords next to each month, representing your objectives and watchlists. You can work on multiple objectives simultaneously, but listing them month by month provides a clean visual prioritization to help you focus and progress.

Take that first quarter draft email and turn it into a mini review of your objectives, issues managed, and accomplishments for the quarter. Save it and refer to it every morning when you check your email. As the months go by, update that draft to reflect what you did, and adjust your remaining plans as needed.

If you do this diligently, week by week, you will find yourself focusing on what’s important now, preparing for what’s coming next, and keeping detailed records of what you’ve accomplished and how you did it.

Make sure you write in a big celebration for year-end…because you will have a lot to celebrate.

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