It is hard to get somewhere when we don’t know where we are going. In other words, when we know where we are going, we also know we will get there one way or another, sooner or later. This is where having the right maps can help us navigate the complexities of life and make the whole process a bit more systematic and objective. It helps us take a step back and reflect on where we are and where we are headed. More specifically, we could all benefit from having different levels of introspection and reflection throughout the year. I have already written about the value of doing a daily review and a weekly review, but in this piece, I want to delve into the importance of doing other kinds of reviews and how that can help us live and work better by providing a sense of direction that is much needed in our complex lives. It is a more proactive approach to life.
Think of a review as a kind of map for your life. How do we know where we want to go? Well, It depends on where we are. A review is an intentional time we have blocked for ourselves to think about our lives. It requires us to pause, take a step back, and reflect about our lives. One reason our lives don’t change is we don’t think about our lives enough.
Let me explain. For instance, how do we get to the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Well, it depends on where we are. First, let’s say that we know that we are in Paris already. What map do we look at now? Certainly not the world, country, or state map. In this case, we will need a street map that can guide us from our hotel to the tower.
Similarly, where we want to go in life depends on where we are right now. It requires a look at the right maps at the right time. That means we review our life during different time periods (daily, weekly, etc.). Reviewing our life through these time windows gives us differing perspectives about where we are and where we are headed. Doing these reviews also helps us evaluate our life in terms of our commitments to ourselves and to others. It gives us a sense of orientation and direction that is otherwise missing.
How do we know what map to look at and how often to look at it? Well, it is fairly self-explanatory in that daily review should be done daily, weekly review should be done weekly, and so on.
For instance, doing a daily review requires us to review our lists and calendar, both part of our trusted system, on a daily basis. Since I covered them earlier, I won’t go into much detail here. Reviewing our lists requires us to review the discrete next steps that we have defined in order to bring our projects to completion.
Weekly Review requires us to review our projects on a weekly basis. It helps us look at the forest every week instead of hugging the trees. It provides a broader view of our personal and work life from a slightly elevated perspective.
Doing a Monthly Review requires us to review our areas of focus, both personal and work-related, every month. These are not physical actions/tasks to be completed. Instead, they are roles/responsibilities in our lives that never end. We review this every month to make sure that we are giving enough time and attention to all the areas.
Doing this review answers the question: what do I need to maintain in my life? It helps us look at our personal and work commitments from a slightly higher level.
Personal areas could include health, relationships, finances, recreation, etc. Work areas could include different work roles such as clients, marketing, writing, research, business development, etc. If you run a business, it could include reviewing the different areas of business such as value creation (IP), marketing, sales, finance, and value delivery. It might also include milestones reached this month and/or quarterly goals to be reviewed every month to keep track of progress.
I suggest using a mind map application to keep track of (and to review) your areas every month. You may also house your projects in your areas if the software you’re using has that feature. Then, you can quickly view all the projects and actions under a given area.
Quarterly Review involves reviewing our personal and work goals every 90 days. I suggest having one personal and one work goal every quarter. Of course, the goals have to be challenging enough that you can’t accomplish them in a shorter time period (week/month) while also not so challenging that you can’t do it in a span of 3 months. I wrote about setting goals and systems in a previous piece.
Every six months, we review our life in terms of the vision we have for our life and whether or not we are able to bring it to reality. We review the two quarters that preceded, and we review the first six months of the year and figure out the changes we want to make to improve in the second half. As part of this, we review our personal mission statement that we have defined for our life in terms of the person we want to be (character) and the contribution we want to make to the world. I wrote about this in Relationships and Results.
During an annual review, we reflect on how the entire year went for us. What were the things we accomplished this year? What did we learn this year? What do we want to work on next?
During this review, we review our Purpose. Why do we exist? We need to remind ourselves at least once a year why we do what we do, and if our Why is missing, then we need to figure it out. One way to do that is to start with the end in mind.
I suggest going to some kind of retreat or an off-site location for a week to do this review. Spend some time in solitude.
While the shorter-term reviews (daily, weekly, monthly) are ideal for getting control of things, the longer-term reviews (quarterly, semi-annually, annually) provide a sense of perspective in terms of where we are in life and where we are headed. The lower we go in our reviews, the more control we have. The higher we go on our reviews, the more perspective we gain. We need both control and perspective, but more on this in a future piece.
When we spend time doing these reviews on a regular basis, it helps us reflect on what we have accomplished and how far we have come. It helps us track and celebrate our wins and progress, and it reminds us that the journey is as rewarding as the destination (if not more so).
We need different types of reviews for different time periods. They all provide a window into our lives from a different perspective. Think of them in terms of maps for your life. Without knowing where we are, we can’t figure out where we want to be. Doing these reviews helps us navigate the complexities of life and evaluate if we are living the life that we have envisioned for ourselves.