Down with the Full Year Review

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Ahh January. This year I saw A LOT of posting about taking time at the end of the year to review how your year went (or didn’t) and stopping to think about what you’ve learned and what you want to take into 2019 and what you want to leave behind. Much like resolutions, this exercise (to me) seems to be rooted in a great place, but still has the power to leave us focusing on the past and the future - and less on the present. It also can leave many of us beating ourselves up and highlighting all the things that went wrong. In fact, this practice can have more harm than good.

Yes, I know MANY (if not all) of the people sharing this exercise urge that you focus on what went right! And that is a great way to remind yourself of all the things you have accomplished - the energy of which can fuel you into your new year/new chapter/new phase.

My concern is actually in taking the time to review A WHOLE YEAR at once. Stay with me for a second -

If we are practicing mindfulness in our business, we are taking stock on a constant basis of what works and what doesn’t. There is no need for a big end-of-year wrap up. We are celebrating the wins along the way (personally and with our tribe or followers), and we are stopping to regroup and make different choices every time we have the chance.

Additionally, part of incorporating your values into your business is making decisions by thinking about them. Once you’ve gotten clear on what values we want to portray with our businesses, we revisit them when we make decisions, we examine competing values and choose the current best path, and we forgive ourselves for the times we wish we had chosen differently.

This ongoing presence in your businesses keeps you from needing full-scale or multi-month reviews. It gives you the freedom to be constantly choosing, evaluating, rechoosing, and celebrating. A couple of the entrepreneurs I follow call this, “tweak and repeat.” I love that!

After every launch, every client interaction, every sale, every new hire, every performance review, every profit and loss statement, every…(you get the idea), it is imperative that you stop in that moment and consider the following questions:

  1. Did I make the choice/exhibit the behavior that best supports the values I want to portray to my team/client/partners/shareholders/self?

  2. Did I fall prey to competing values and/or let fear push me a direction I wish I had avoided?

  3. When faced with a similar situation, do I want to choose the same action/response, or would I like to choose something different? And if so, what will I choose next time?

When you are still feeling the emotions and adrenaline of a situation is the perfect time to celebrate your wins and analyze your struggles. I believe it keeps you from making broad sweeping generalizations (by looking at too many things at one time), and instead, helps you keep focused on living every day in your business as intentionally and values-centered as possible.

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One of the core components of running a values-based business or being a values-based leader is accepting your business and your choices exactly as they are today. Just as I discussed in my post sharing the work of Elyse Sparkes, being mindful will help you love who/where you are as well as who you are becoming/where you are going.

And once you have accepted you made the best choice that you could for this day and this situation, you are able to congratulate yourself and think about whether or not you would make the same choice the next time. No guilt. No beating yourself up. No second-guessing or Monday-morning-quarterbacking. Just you taking time to pause and feel the responses (physical and mental) that you are having to your business.

For me, personally, this practice also helps me stay out of the trap of comparison. It’s easy to create a list of “Yes’s” and “No’s” for a whole year and spend too much time comparing your list to your contemporaries, collaborators, and competitors. In contrast, if you are focusing on running your business as close to your values as you can every day, when those lists come up, you’ll be able to send congratulations and support to the people sharing them without even thinking to compare your own business - you will be constantly aware that you are doing a great job - the best job you can, in fact, because you will be reminding yourself of this on an ongoing basis.

Since I did choose a theme for this year, I’m incorporating that into my constant review of what I’m doing. When I take the time to stop and think about an interaction or action I had in relation to my business, I’m reviewing my values for my business as well as my theme and thinking about whether or not I’m content with the way things worked out.

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We run our business the same way we run our lives - out of habit. Incorporating new behaviors, actions, reactions, business plans, goals, etc. requires us to create new habits. And the best way I know to do that, is to be mindful of every strong emotion or reaction or result that we have - and take the time necessary to reprogram our autopilot.

And, less you are reading this thinking, “How can I possibly take the time to analyze every decision in my business every day? I’m already SO overwhelmed?!?!” Let me put that fear to rest. I am NOT talking about sitting down with a journal and writing this out … I am talking about making it part of your daily thought process when it comes to your business.

Here are some ideas for how this can be done simply:

  1. When you leave a client’s office and are driving to your next appointment, ask yourself the above questions and use that drive time as reflection. This will help you get in the values frame-of-mind before your next meeting.

  2. When your accountant/bookkeeper sends you your monthly reports or you are analyzing a marketing campaign, incorporate a review of your values into your analysis. The numbers aren’t the only picture. Take time to think about if you also carried out this launch or past month of business in ways that are in line with your values.

  3. Every morning take the time to acknowledge one thing you are grateful for (from yesterday’s business), one thing you are proud of yourself for, and one thing you intend to do next time.

I hope this exercise will help you keep your values at the forefront of your business decisions as well as remove the urge to do massive reviews of yourself and your team. By the way, it’s also a lot more fun!

In the words of one of the great entrepreneurs of our time:

I move onward, the only direction. Can’t be scared to fail in search of perfection. — Jay Z

PS: This is very similar to how I feel about annual performance reviews. If you are constantly sharing positive and negative feedback with your team, there is no need for a once-a-year conversation with them. A person’s entire year can never be summed up in one conversation, after all. When it’s time for their annual raise, you’ll know right away if they are coming in at the top of the % increase or not - and they will too.