How to do an Annual Review and Set Goals for Next Year

Martine Ellis
4 min readNov 21, 2021

I do an annual review every December as a precursor to goal setting. In this article, I will explain the following:

  • my exact review process
  • how I set goals, and
  • how I keep my goals visible.

Annual Review

Before setting goals, reflecting on how this year has gone is essential — this reflection should inform your goal setting. You can do this with pen and paper or in a blank document on your computer or mobile device.

First, I recommend dividing your annual review into life categories.

For me, these are:

  • Health and fitness
  • Work and business
  • Friends and community
  • Personal life and family
  • Learning and knowledge
  • Travel and culture
  • Hobbies and creativity
  • Emotions and spirituality
  • Money and finance

You can choose the categories that work for you. I recommend you include a category for any goals you set for this year, too, so you can reflect on your progress with them.

I use the Ness Labs plus, minus, next journaling method (Cunff, 2019) to review each life category. I spend three minutes on each category — one minute identifying what went well (plus), one minute on what didn’t (minus) and one minute on what I probably want to do ‘next’.

After that, make a note of the following:

  • your proudest accomplishments of the year, and
  • your biggest challenges.

All of this information should inform your goal setting.

Goal Setting

Now, set your goals for the coming year.

I use a mix of goal-setting frameworks. I’m not a fan of SMART goals (making goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound). I usually have to Google the acronym to remember each letter's meaning! Instead, I focus on making my goals specific and realistic (but not easy — there should be some stretch).

Martine Ellis

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