Yesterday, I spent a few more hours working on my annual review. It's one of these things that rarely feel important enough to prioritize above other day-to-day things but always end up being invaluable once you finally get to them.
My annual review process is relatively simple:
- First, I compile a list of past year's highlights as I remember them.
- Then, I go through my journal (usually looking at my weekly and monthly recaps, sometimes skimming daily entries) and extract what I find memorable each month. These are various highlights, thoughts, things I had read, things I marked as important, etc.
- This gives me the essence of my year, month by month. I can now look at it and answer some typical year-in-review questions such as what happened, what went well, what didn't, what I learned, etc.
- Finally, I do a bit of freeform writing to recap what I learned from this.
The coolest part about this is realizing just how much more stuff my life consists of than I can remember. Generally, I can recall a dozen or two highlights of the year in the beginning if I think hard enough, but once I'm done I inevitably end up with hundreds of interesting bits: thoughts, events, resources, and other curiosities that my brain didn't deem worthy of remembering. Our brains are great at distilling our lives into highlights, but highly inadequate at capturing the details.
The added benefit of using your journal to capture not just the events in your life, but also your thoughts, is that you can have a chat with your past self later and perhaps get answers to some of the questions you're dealing with today.
Here are a few fun interactions I had with myself from a year ago yesterday:
On morning routines:
2023 Martin: "No phone first thing in the morning – perfect! Like it or not, gotta get up. Will keep my charger in the wardrobe instead of the nightstand from now on."
2024 Martin: "Fail. But it was great while it lasted (for a few weeks)." And by the way, I should get back to charging my phone elsewhere.
On better understanding myself:
2023 Martin: "At some point, I need to find a way to visualize these mood sliders in my head. Energy: high/low. Optimism: optimistic/pessimistic. Focus: focused/distractible."
2024 Martin: "Great job, you killed it later that year with your Mental Library, mood tracking, and the mood chart (that isn't published yet)."
On considering giving Microsoft Edge a try:
2023 Martin: "Hmm, apparently Edge is in active development, even more active than Chrome and others. Almost feel like giving it a try!"
2024 Martin: "Haha." (gave Edge a try last summer, still using it today)
On considering starting a weekly newsletter after giving Ritalin a try:
2023 Martin: "I'm thinking with this newfound concentration I just might be able to maintain a weekly newsletter with my thoughts, reads, inspirations etc. for the week."
2024 Martin: "Whoa!" (started it a few months later - still going!)
These are fun, but I also end up in more fundamental conversations with myself from the past, such as when coming across thoughts written down during more challenging periods in life, e.g. when struggling with personal issues, burnout, lack of purpose, and other fun things.
And sometimes these past thoughts provide answers to today's challenges. "Why is 2024 Martin focusing that much on X? Ah, right, because 2022 Martin had totally disregarded X and got 2023 Martin in an ugly mess. Cool, thanks for reminding!"
If you ever considered keeping a journal or doing annual reviews, absolutely give it a shot. It may not do much for you, or it may completely change your life, but in the worst-case scenario, you'll spend a bit of time for the future you to be able to look back and have a laugh at the present you's expense.
Have a reflective week,
A few thoughts
Levels of (management) work. You can do your own work, you can help others do their work, and you can share the way you think with others so they need less of your help to do their work and help others do theirs. The higher the level the higher the leverage, even if it feels the opposite (doing feels more important).
Work hard share hard. Many of the people I admire are capable of both doing great work and sharing what they do and how they think when doing it. If you're used to doing then sharing feels like a waste of time, so you have to keep reminding yourself that it's a higher-leverage activity that doesn't feel like one.
Maintaining momentum "While discussing some career ideas with a friend recently, she asked me to back up and think about what basic components make work good and productive for me. Below was my attempt at a response: A medium collaboration level. . . . Work that is intrinsically motivating. . . . Enough control. . . ."
✔️ Just Do It ✔️ "After all, the greatest trap in life is telling yourself that you will do something important later. Excuses create their own inertia and the longer you wait, the harder it becomes. Later is where dreams go to die. Someday doesn’t exist. Both are figments of the aspirational imagination. Life isn’t a game of tag; dreams and goals don’t chase you back. Choosing not to do anything is the worst choice of all because your opportunity cost becomes everything. The longer you spend undecided, the greater that cost grows."
HoMM4 is widely considered to be among the worst games in the HoMM series, but I never agreed with that sentiment. A few days ago I decided to give it a shot for the first time in years and it's exactly as great as I remembered it (if you disable monster movement). HoMM4 is like really good! A hill I'm willing to die on.