How to Do a Simple Annual Review

Nov 17, 2022 | 0 comments

A year-end rhythm for cross-cultural leaders

Do you live in one of those places notorious for questionable infrastructure? 

When we were living in Central Asia, we were more than familiar with the perils of cross-country expeditions on inhospitable roads. Travel outside of the urban centers means rough terrain, potholes, wash-boarding, sometimes no road at all. Navigation at night and in winter exasperates the entire endeavor.  

There was a certain night returning home from a neighboring town (it was also winter) and we realized things were not looking familiar. We were off-road and moving in the right direction but recognized that we were on the wrong side of a small range of mountains. They were on the right side of the truck and should have been on the left side. We were just grateful that the night was clear (but freezing!) and we could backtrack to a pass, then cross the range, and start again in the right direction.  

Get and keep your bearings. 

It’s that time of year, friends!

It’s time to do a check-in to make sure you are on the right side of the mountains. Many do this kind of thinking at the turn of the calendar year, or during the holidays. Indeed, it’s a great time! 

I am a firm believer that you can do this anytime!

This is especially true for Jesus followers. Lamentations 3:22-23 is something we should embrace: 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases

his mercies never come to an end; 

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

My own, personal New Year’s Day is on not January 1st. 

It’s on the Day of the Dead. 

My birthday is November 1st. About fifteen years ago, I started using this day to mark the beginning of a season for reflection. The entire month of November is realignment time for me. 

So, whether you do this in spring or summer or the dead of winter, every cross-cultural worker should take the time for annual maintenance with reflection, remaking, and revising.  

When I coach clients, I often talk about the fact that leading an organization is a lot like riding a bicycle. There’s always a lot going on. Pedaling and steering, while balancing, avoiding potholes, and looking out for oncoming traffic.

When the tire gets flat or the chain falls off, you can’t keep riding and fix the problem at the same time. 

Here’s the first rule of bicycle maintenance: 

Get off the bike before working on the bike.

This is step one in this process — and the most important step in this entire process.  

Get off the bike. 

Schedule time for reflection, remaking, and revising. Yes, you’re busy. We’re all busy. But, if you don’t take the time to do this during the year, you may run on flat tires and a loose chain without even realizing it. 

Stop right now and schedule some undistracted time for this, even if it’s just an afternoon. 

Here is my process. Use this as a template for building your own. 

There are three areas in my life and leadership that get attention at around this time every year. 

1) Reflect on your purpose

Nothing is by accident. Our faith in Christ and the sovereignty of God tells us this. But, moving truth from platitude to practice is something to be intentional about. This is part of my annual practice. 

Knowing my purpose means understanding my contributions and the impact I might have on the world around me. Knowing my purpose is life changing. I help my coaching clients to create a written purpose statement they can keep in front of them. This is a practical, helpful, guiding document for any cross-cultural leader. 

Every year, take time to mull over your “why”.  

The important questions I ask myself annually when reflecting on purpose are: 

—What is my purpose? Do any I need to make any adjustments? 

—What has specifically happened in the past year that confirms or refines my purpose (or my “why”)? 

—Are my daily actions a reflection of my purpose?

—What should I do differently in the next year to better reflect my purpose? 

2) Remake your Budget

Money is a mirror of our values. I confess, the financial aspects of leadership do not bring me great joy and energy. But that doesn’t negate the importance of thinking about this issue. I remake my budgets annually by asking some simple questions about every line item. Remake your budgets by asking these four questions: 

—Is this expense essential? Is this something I need to accomplish my mission? 

—Is this expense overkill? Am I spending too much here? 

—Should we shop around? Can I get the same thing, but get a better deal? 

—Is it time to end this? Should I stop paying for this altogether? 

This is the best and simplest way I know to keep your budget fit and trim. And then I also don’t have to really think about it again until next year. 

3) Revise your goals

There are people who thrive with goal setting.   

There are people who despise goal setting.   

I want to leave both parties with a system that will work for them. For me, it’s helpful to keep things simple. I like to set targets in three areas: personal growthproductivity, and influence

You may create as many areas in your life that make sense for you and your context. Some people like to expand these categories, which is fine. I caution against getting too granular with this. Complicated goals are harder to reach. I encourage you to keep it simple.  Here is my process: 

—Make list of all activities that could have the most impact in each area of my life (growth, productivity, influence). 

—What is one activity in each area that could have the most impact? 

—Create a goal for each area with this formula: My goal is to move from this starting point to this end goal by this date

I have found this simple process to be revolutionary for my annual goal setting. I have three simple, trackable goals for the year. Because of my role in leadership, I personally add a question to my annual review: 

—Who are three people (outside of my family) I most want to influence or be influenced by in this next year? 

This establishes potential mentors or mentees. 

Optional Last Step

The last thing I do in my personal annual review is create a book list for the year. I have relatively ambitious reading goals. Often, I pick up books on a whim, so I like to establish essential annual reading to keep my wandering brain on track. 

Don’t get stuck on the wrong side of the mountains in 2023. Schedule some time to get your bearings. Create space to get off your bicycle, do some annual maintenance over the holiday season, and queue up 2023 to be the best yet. 

For a great annual review, do the following steps: 

1) Decide when you will “get off the bike” and schedule your review. 

2) Reflect on your purpose. 

3) Remake your budget.

4) Revise your goals. 

If you would like further help to establish an annual review of your own, consider a coach. Also know that Global Trellis’ “Reflect on 2022 and Prepare for 2023” will be available at the end of December.

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Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Bernie Anderson

Empowering next-generation leaders, business and non-profit consultant, writer, and speaker.




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