It is now the season when countless articles on how to plan your year pop up like premature Crocus. These systems will ask you to dig deep and often provide a daunting number of exercises designed to make you think, dream, pray, meditate or vision board your new year.
Presumably, you have planned your year before, and maybe even have a preferred method. You can go through any planning gyration you feel comfortable with, but until you properly close out 2016, you are not going to make much progress in 2017. Because without active learning, you will be prone to making the same mistakes you have always been making and habitually falling into the same patterns.
Before you begin your new year, make a note of the lessons you learned in this one. Spend a few moments conducting an after action review on 2016.
Many people dread looking back, particularly if it has been a tough year, but answering a few questions will help prepare you so you can have a better year. If you are naturally introspective, review the following questions while sitting with a cup of coffee. If you are naturally social, you might want to get with good friends and interview each other. Make a fun event out of it. Have dinner or brunch at home and use the questions as topics of discussion. Make notes from your appetizers all the way through dessert. It is a productive use of time with loved ones in these waning days of the year.
2016 After Action Review
- What was your objective this year? – What did you set out to do, or want to accomplish?
- What happened? – Provide just the facts, no opinions.
- What worked? – Why? Knowing why will help you replicate it in the new year.
- What do you need to do more of? – Why? What could you put more resources toward?
- What didn’t work? – Why?
- What do you need to change about your approach or goals going forward? – Why? You may have had a good idea, but poor execution.
- Who needs to be recognized for aiding you your progress? – Someone has helped you along the way. Make a plan to thank them appropriately.
- What are you most proud of this year?
- What do you regret doing this year? It likely started with something you said.
- What do you regret not doing this? This regret often stings the most.
- As of today, how satisfied (Very Dissatisfied / Dissatisfied / Ambivalent / Satisfied / Very Satisfied) are you with the following areas of your life?
- What will you cease? – Think about one or two of the biggest things you know you have to stop doing if you want to increase your effectiveness. It is likely a bad habit or attitude which you will need to change.
- What will you commence? – Determine which new habits, attitudes, or actions you will need to adopt and demonstrate that are most likely to boost your effectiveness. You may have avoided these in the past. It is time to try them this year.
- What will you continue? – You are doing some things right. What are your “winning ways” and how will you ensure you keep doing them despite any distractions that may arise?
After you review your answers, it will be easier to create three main goals for the new year. For each goal, determine how much (a unit measure) and by when (a time measure) and then decide on the next action you need to complete to move you closer.
Investing the time in an after action review for the year, or any valuable project, helps you learn faster and improves your performance. Use it for any area of your life including your personal and professional leadership. Doing so will help you manage better and lead well.