Ten Questions You Need to Ask When Planning Next Year

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It’s a good time to do a little introspective work. Here are ten questions to help you plan your next year.

  1. What did I do well this year? If you reached your goals, it’s smart to take a look at how you achieved them. If you didn’t reach your goals, what result are proud of? Maybe it was your effort. Perhaps it was a big, difficult outcome. It’s impossible to not have done anything noteworthy in a year. Your balance sheet is going to have debits and credits, and you need to look at both.
  2. In what area did I perform poorly? You missed some goal or target. You didn’t turn in your best performance—or maybe even the performance of which you are capable. Pretending that you aren’t doing a poor job doesn’t lead to future improvements; acknowledging the poor performance is the starting point for better results in the future.
  3. What was the root cause of my poor performance? You need to be honest with yourself about why you performed poorly in some area. Don’t look for external forces here. Look instead to take full responsibility for the poor performance, as the accountability empowers you (If it was your poor performance, it is also you who can improve it).
  4. How do I improve in this area? Was it a lack of skill? Or was it a lack of will? Was it the lack of knowledge, or was the cause a lack of self-discipline? If you are going to do better, you need to get real about the cause of the failure so you can address it. You need a plan and a commitment to do better here.
  5. What did I learn this year that will help me improve next year? Most of us don’t do an accounting of what we learned throughout a year, even though life seems to continuously dole out lessons. What lessons did you discover that you can apply to your future to produce better results?
  6. In what area do I need to improve my knowledge and skills to achieve the results I want? If you’re going to go from year to year producing greater and greater results, you are going to need a plan to continuously grow. You have to become the kind of person that produces the results you want for yourself—and for your people. What is your plan to improve? What new knowledge do you need? What new beliefs do you need? What new skills do you need?
  7. What do I need to differently next year? The difference between next year’s results and this year’s results is going to be made up of the changes you are willing to make. If you make positive changes (the very idea behind this exercise), you will produce better results. If you make negative changes (something we are trying to avoid here), your results will worsen. If you don’t take the time to write what you are going to different and why, you will likely repeat last year.
  8. What do I need to eliminate to produce better results? Maybe you need to eliminate a pessimistic attitude. Maybe you need to eliminate a lack of sleep. You might need to delete the destructive habit of opening your email first thing in the morning and giving up your chance to do purposeful, meaningful work (instead of looking for the make work that shows up in your inbox).
  9. What relationships do I need to build and improve? We spend a lot of time planning what to do, and when and how to do it. But “what” isn’t as important as “who?” If you look for a “why,” on the other end, you will find a “who?” Make a list of your relationships, starting with the most important and working your way down. Relationships have a price. They require time and energy. Start the year knowing where you need to make investments.
  10. What contribution do I want to make? How are you going to make a difference? What are you going to do that is going to serve others? What cause do you care about enough to give your time, your energy, and your money? If you want the best and fastest way to ensure you accomplish something worthwhile in the next year, start by doing something for someone who can never repay you—and without expectation of gaining anything other than knowing you made a difference.
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