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How to do a Yearly Review (FS083)

Here at Fizzle, we’ve spent the last couple weeks in full-on year review mode. We have some new ideas to share (and some time-proven designs as well).

We talked in an episode a long time ago about how we do these reviews and, more specifically, how we find the plan for next year in last year’s review.

In this episode we rebroadcast that conversation with a few edits, some new stories and an updated process from Chase at the end. The Fizzle team spent the last week executing this exact review process and there’s some good insights here for your own review + plan.

I, personally, am very interested in this topic. I’ve researched a bunch and I’m wondering: what do you do for a yearly review? What articles or ideas have been helpful for you? Let me know in the comments.

Enjoy the show!

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““Learn from this year so you can plan better for next.” Fizzle’s annual review process”


What Happens When

  • 3m: Is a full year even worth planning out? how often are you going to stick to it through the year?
  • Chris Johnson does a postmortem on every project to learn what he could better on the next project. This inspires me about the year, being more realistic and honest with ourselves about forecast vs actual.
  • Chases dream of december being the time to look at the past year.
  • My hunch: we’ll plan next year much better by looking back realistically on the past year. Some questions to ask yourself:
    • What did I accomplish this year?
    • What did I learn?
    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • Given the body of work I made this year, what do I wish was in there? What do I wish I made/shipped/published this year?
  • Corbett’s thoughts on being more focused on the future than the past.
  • 15m: we do a live year review of Fizzle. (Remember, this is from last year. Interesting bits here about a business with about a year’s worth of traction.)
  • 19m: We needed to be sprint oriented at the beginning, building the house while we were living in it. Now Fizzle is a real business and we have a different kind of planning to do.
  • 21m: Ideal plan vs what actually happens. When you deviate from the plan, was it because you learned something constructive or did you just not have the discipline to stay the course?
  • 27m: The company operating system. How do we decide what we work on?
  • 27m: Keeping yourself on track can be so tough. Staying the course, balancing between big picture and day to day views.
  • 33m: The post-launch hangover/depression. The antidote to that is really the long range planning.
  • There’s a constant revision happening between the plan and the actual.
  • 36m: Huge tip: don’t try to plan outcomes. Plan for the work/effort. You’re not in control of whether or not this gets a lot of shares. You are in control of writing the thing and clicking publish… and doing it again and again and again.
  • However, all of us have expectations, and all of us need results… otherwise there’s no gluten free crackers on the table during dinner time. After you launch something, the only way to know if it’s successful is by measuring something. So there’s an ongoing re-jiggering, adjusting, moving towards the results. Again, though, you can’t plan for what will work. You can only work and adjust the plan as necessary over time. Some posts for measurement help:
  • 38m: What are the right parameters for setting goals?
  • 41m: The difference between projects and ongoing work.
  • 44m: The “so what” check.
  • 47m: What are you in business for in the first place, both from your own perspective as the business builder, but also from the perspective of your customer? Why are you an entrepreneur?
  • 49m: The best kind of notebook for year reviews. (Hint: “vole grin.”)
  • 51m: Our weekly checkin and checkout process. We’ve been doing it for over a year now, really works.
  • 53m: End of year resources from other, smarter people (I’ve put them all in the links below).

The Fizzle Review Process

1. Take inventory of everything you made this year. Articles, episodes, courses, guides, books, etc. Of all of those, what performed well? I did this work for Fizzle using google analytics and stats from Soundcloud and Wistia and made this post: 2014’s Most Popular Articles, Podcasts + Courses. You could do the same. Maybe even ask yourself: what can we learn from these results?

2. Make the “did/didn’t go well” lists. Ask yourself: what went well? Write down the answers in one column. In another column answer the question: what didn’t go well? It may help to look at monthly revenue figures, remember partnerships, large and small projects alike, events, etc. I go over some of our answers at around 60m in.

3. Decide who you make things for. We’re looking for one, specific, real life person. Someone who has a real name, real dreams, real fears and hopes and things they want to do with their life. Find out more about this in this guide: Defining Your Audience.

4. Put together your vision statement for next year. Given that person you chose, all the things that went well and poorly, and all the bits you made this year, put together a vision statement for next year. This is a delicate things, I talk at length about it at 65 minutes in. It shouldn’t be weak or limp. It should be scary, something that changes what you’re currently doing in some way, something that will help you make decisions.


Yearly Planning & Review Resources

Chris Guillebeau: How to Conduct Your Own Annual Review“The idea is to create a road map for the year ahead – not a rigid daily schedule, but an overall outline of what matters to me and what I hope to achieve in the next year.”

Don Miller: Storyline Productivity Schedule“For years professionals have tried to manage their time, but what they really needed to manage was their mental energy.”

Productive Flourishing: Free Planners“After years of struggling with the planners designed for and by office workers, I figured out that it wasn’t me that was the problem: it was the design of the planners.”

Scott Dinsmore: How I Plan My Week“Below is the process I go through every Monday morning – I’ve made a couple modifications over the years.”

2014’s Most Popular Articles, Podcasts + Courses “So I went through the rubble to find our most popular posts, podcasts, courses and interviews from 2014. I listed them out below with some notes by category for you.”


The Productivity Course

Fizzle’s Essentials of Productivity course with Chase ReevesWe talked a bit about my Essentials of Productivity course within Fizzle. It goes in deep on hard-fought tips like the ViNO method, the AAAC list and the CEO vs. Worker Bee modes stuff we mention in this episode.

I encourage you to checkout the course if you haven’t yet. If you’re not a Fizzler, this is just one of the loads of courses you get access to at your own pace. (And it only costs a buck to try out).



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