Dread Yearly Planning? Three (3) Recommended Annual Reviews to Invest In Yourself

Yearly Plan. Annual Review. Dread. Female professional significant stress while planning
Stressed about Yearly Plan/Annual Review?

Are you dreading annual reviews and yearly planning? Judging by the number of jokes and memes about new year resolutions and plans – you’re not alone.

Planning does take some effort but doesn’t have to be painful. Are you dependent on your employer’s process for planning out your yearly goals? In my opinion and experience, the plans you create and execute yourself will produce greater benefits for you than those others create and ask you to participate in (or, perhaps, inflict on you). For example, you are more likely to stick with and complete plans you have actively developed (where you have a personal investment and reward).

If you’re not approaching annual planning (and an annual review) as a personal exercise and are not sure where to get started, in this article I provide recommendations for three review and planning exercises you should perform annually for yourself and your own benefit.

Magnifying glass on figure of person
Personal Review – Introspection

#1 – Personal Review

“… what really drives and motivates you beyond ‘having enough money to be able to pay the bills’…”?

How are you taking care of yourself? Are you being short-changed in the planning process? We often get so caught up in our day-to-day careers, jobs, routines that we forget that we’re (hopefully) doing these things for a purpose. Let’s start off the year revisiting why we do the things we do in a personal review. If you haven’t thought about this for some time or haven’t explored what really drives and motivates you beyond “having enough money to be able to pay the bills” – taking some time to think through your personal needs and wants can help set a foundation and crucial guardrails for the other planning types we’ll explore below.

Notice that we are starting with YOU – not your career, job, profession, side-hustle, etc. If you don’t start with a clear understanding of what is important to you, external forces will be more than happy to fill the gap with tasks and deliverables that benefit them. I recommend that you separating looking at your personal (non-financial) and financial needs into a separate exercise.

I also suggest starting by looking at personal needs first. Why? I do realize that many of your needs will require some financial support but if you limit your thoughts to your current financial situation, you may miss out on exploring opportunities for greater personal and professional fulfillment. Put another way, creating your personal plan first supports developing a financial plan that supports some or all of your dreams rather than constraining your dreams to what your wallet will support today.

If you already have a plan – fantastic! Spend some time tweaking the plan for the coming year. Make sure to assess any known or anticipated changes – don’t automatically assume that things this year must be the same as last year.

If you’re looking for some direction on where to get started, here are a few questions that might help activate your brainstorming:
+ What are things that I MUST do this year? These items are non-negotiable (water/food, shelter, etc.).
+ What things do I WANT to do this year? If these will involve others close to you, this is a great opportunity to involve them and plan together.
+ What do the things you identified above mean to you? Why are they important? How will you feel when you succeed or if you fail?

Answers to these questions can represent the things that will motivate you most and can be a helpful “litmus test” for checking new goals and tasks that come up during your planning and throughout the year. Think about it this way, are you more likely to be motivated by tasks to which you have a personal investment/connection versus something assigned to you (i.e. where you have little, if any, personal investment)?

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With a solid, personal plan in mind, you’re ready to tackle the next exercise – your finances.

Hand making notes on financial statement
Financial Check-up

#2 – Financial Review

…”Whatever resources you have, laying out your financial details and planning around them will put you miles ahead of those who are just “winging it”.”…

Now it’s time to look at your finances. I realize that money seems to be a big driver in everyone’s plan; however, I hope that there are many personal goals and aspirations on your list that are not directly tied to money. For those dreams that are financially bound, knowing where you stand with your personal finances can help boost your confidence in being able to achieve your personal goals. This information can factor into your profession/job planning as well.

A great place to start with your planning is getting a handle on your “net worth”. In case you’re not familiar with the term, “net worth” is the total amount of the things of value that you own (aka “assets”; bank accounts, house, car, boat, etc.) minus the amount of money you owe to others (aka “liabilities”; mortgage, car loan, credit card debt, student loans, etc.).

I’m sure most of us can easily rattle off the bills that we have to pay each month and the amount that we receive in our paychecks. Fewer, can produce a list of all their assets and liabilities – all components of a net worth statement. “But Ron,” you say, “I don’t have ‘enough’ to create a net worth statement!” I felt that way earlier in my life and, looking back, wish that I had taken more time to put a net worth statement together while things were relatively “simple”. Whatever stage of life you’re in and resources you have, laying out your financial details and planning around them will put you miles ahead of those who are just “winging it”.

While I had an understanding and rough-vision of my finances in my youth, it wasn’t until I started actually documenting my finances in one place (originally a spreadsheet), that I got a clear picture of what I own, debt I wanted to eliminate, and could put together a plan to work for the long-term. This was the foundation for proceeding towards financial independence (FIRE – financial independence, retire early).

There are many reasons for having a good, clear, objective view of your finances. A few of these include:

  • Confidence and Peace-of-mind. Knowing you have enough money to cover known and emergency expenses can relieve one big stressor when facing uncertain times.
  • Easier to make small adjustments. Having a good, persistent, handle on finances can help identify and make smaller adjustments to your plan (feeds into that “confidence” above).
  • Provides motivation and vision for other plans. Having a good financial plan for reference can help in boosting your drive when you know what personal goals are within reach.
  • Retirement or Financial Independence may be closer than you realize. To coin a term, your “financial independence quotient” (FI/Q) may turn out to be in reach sooner than typical retirement age (65+). Let me know in the comments if you’d like to hear more thoughts about figuring your FI/Q.
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So, how do you get started on creating a net worth statement? One of the best resources I’ve found on this and other personal finance topics is from MoneyGuy.com. Their resources page and YouTube channel have a wealth of information for personal finance education and self-management. In addition, the Net Worth spreadsheet template and companion video “How To Use Your Net Worth Statement To Power Your Wealth Goals” are good resources to start gathering details and comparing your net worth each year. As your finances grow more complex you may find additional tools can help streamline tracking and year-to-year comparisons. I recommend keeping it simple to start.

Once you have your basic, financial information captured as part of the net worth statement you will be able to proceed with planning. Here are a few ideas to help with that process:

  • Make sure that your basic needs are covered first (i.e. things that must be purchased, non-negotiable).
  • Plan to fund the priorities on your personal goal plan.
  • Don’t forget to reserve some funds for unexpected emergencies.

You may find that as your finances grow and your plan becomes more complex, you won’t be able to answer all the questions on your own, at least not with the confidence you had when things were less complex. That’s a great indicator that it’s time to connect with a financial advisor. You’ll want to choose an advisor that will work with your best interest as a driver – not as an afterthought. As a reminder, I am not a financial advisor so please don’t rely on this information as financial advice. If you’re interested in this topic and/or an introduction to the financial advisors I partner with, reach out at info@mindringconsulting.com.

Taking an objective look at your past/future work

#3 – Profession/Job Review

…”you can create a structure that works for you and that you can use to feed your employer’s process with minimal effort”…

You may be saying, “Wait! Isn’t this something that I have to do for my employer every year? I don’t want to duplicate effort!” Yes, there is some overlap and I don’t want to introduce duplicate work for you either. How much overlap you’ll find between your personal and job processes will depend on how you and your company approach the annual review and planning.

You may have significant or complete overlap if you are 1. Actively engaged with your manager on planning throughout the year, 2. Your needs are taken into account in developing the goal plan, and 3. Both you and the company are seeing benefits from the annual reviews year-over-year (reflected as expected compensation increases, clear communication, greater responsibilities, more fulfillment, or other positive metrics discussed with your management). If you are in this situations, congratulations – from available job satisfaction metrics I think you may be in the minority.

If you’re not completely fulfilled by the performance appraisal process, it’s worthwhile spending time looking at building your own profession/job plan and looking for overlap with your employer’s system.

“But Ron, I’m disillusioned by the whole process” you may be thinking. In fact, you may may even be thinking that “the process doesn’t work for me at all.” I know that you don’t have control of your employer’s performance review process – you have to work with the process that’s provided. I’m not suggesting that changing the process is something within your control or influence. Instead, I’m suggesting that you can create a structure that works for you and that you can use to feed your employer’s process with minimal effort. In the end, through this approach, you may gain some great insights into how your current or prospective (future) role meshes with your personal and financial plans and may lead you to deeper analysis and, possibly, some challenging discussions/decisions.

There are a few things I suggest to get started. Some of these may already be part of planning for your current role. In the “normal” corporate context, there is considerable emphasis on what you are going to do for the company – in this exercise I suggest making this more of a balance – what can you and the company do for each other? Here are some questions that will help you get started:

Objectively, look back at the past year:

  • What worked? In other words, what value did my work provide to the company? What value did my work provide to me?
  • What did not work? What did I learn from the failure? How can my management, peers, etc. know that I have learned from the experience?
  • Did I get the support I needed to be successful? If so, will that support be available this year? What other sources of support will benefit me?

Objectively, look forward to the coming year:

  • What is my definition of “success”? Has this definition changed since last year? {If it has, it may be worth exploring the source of the change and impacts it may have both in your professional plan and personal plan.}
  • What does success look like at the end of the year? How will you know you’re on-track throughout the year?
  • What are your company objectives this year? Perhaps more importantly, what are the objectives your manager and their manager are working towards?
  • How do your objectives align or diverge from your management/company?
  • How do the objectives mesh with your personal and financial plans?
  • Who is going to help me hold myself accountable for progress and help support me when I need it?

Note that there isn’t “a list” that will cover every scenario you’ll want to explore in coming up with an annual plan. Hopefully these questions do help you get started thinking about the process and moving you forward. The key point here is that you take control of the process and develop a process and plan that works for you.

If you still feel “stuck”, “overwhelmed”, “demotivated”, etc. I recommend discussing this with a close adviser and, if you don’t have a close adviser that can provide you honest, objective support in a safe, confidential space – it may be time to consider career coaching as an option (hint: I may be able to help here – reach out through the Coaching by Mindring Consulting contact form or email me at info@mindringconsulting.com).

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To recap – the three plans I recommend developingas part of a personal, yearly review are 1. A personal plan, 2. A financial plan, and 3. A profession/job plan. These plans can be referenced throughout the year to track progress and tweak direction. At the end of the year, they can be used to quickly and easily verify progress, identify “take-away” lessons, and develop even better plans for next year. While this may initially take some time to create, these plans can provide you the confidence and direction throughout the year – saving you time and stress providing you significant return on your investment. I hope this article inspires you and motivates you to get the year started with the best plan – a YOU plan!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my recommendations and any tips you’ve found effective (or not effective) in approaching the annual planning process. Drop me a line at info@mindringconsulting.com or comment on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram.

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