The secret to staying on top of your personal and professional life is to schedule regular times for review and reflection. You need to assess where you’ve come from and where you are going.
I wrote about the importance of the Weekly Review a few days ago. Today, I want to address the importance of a Quarterly Review.
The Quarterly Review is more extended version of the Weekly Review. In the Weekly Review, you climb to the top of the trees and peer at the forest. In the Quarterly review you take a hot air balloon up to a thousand feet or so and see how the forest fits into the overall landscape.
I try to get away from the office for my Quarterly Review. I want to get away from the phones, the drop-in visitors, and the hustle and bustle of office life. I generally check into an inexpensive hotel immediately after lunch and arrange to stay for twenty-four hours. In the past, when I couldn’t afford even a cheap hotel, I would do this in a library, a friend’s cabin, or even on a camp out. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just relatively private and quiet.
I follow a simple agenda:
- Spend time praying. Yes, I do this on a daily basis, but this is different. I want to take time to give thanks for all the things that have happened over the last 90 days. I want to pray about the big issues that I am facing. And, perhaps, most importantly, I want to reconnect with God and make sure that I am still on His agenda. It’s easy to get off course along the journey. This is a way for me to “check in,” make sure I am still on course, and give God an opportunity to speak to me.
- Review my Life Plan. This is a written document that I have maintained for years. Daniel Harkavy at Building Champions was the first one to guide me through the process. Dan Meub has also reviewed it with me. I have added a tweak here and there, but the big idea is that you view your life as a collection of “accounts.” These are similar to bank accounts. They have a certain value. A few have a giant balance, a few others might have respectable balances, and a few might be overdrawn. I maintain eight accounts: God, Self, Gail, Children, Finances, Career, Friends, Ministry. (Yours will be slightly different.) For each of these accounts I have an envisioned future, a statement of purpose, my current reality, and my specific commitments. I plan to write about this in more detail in the near future.
- Review my Business Vision. I also wrote about this recently. Again, it’s easy to get lost in strategies and operational detail. However, my Quarterly Review is an opportunity to reconnect with my Business Vision. What am I building toward? What does the business look like in five years? Note that I don’t create my vision during this time; I have already done that previously. During this time I simply want to review the written document, try to visualize it, and make sure I am crystal clear—to the extent possible—on where I am going.
- Write goals for the upcoming quarter. Now I start writing. I have also written about this elsewhere. I want to take the review of my Life Plan and my Business Vision and translate it into specific, 90-day objectives. I don’t want a long list of to-do items. That’s too tactical for this exercise. Instead, I want a short list of the five to seven most important things I can do in the next quarter to move toward my personal and professional vision. I maintain two lists: one for my personal life and one for my professional life. I put one set on the front of a 3“ x 5” card and the other set on the back.
- Work on high impact projects. I can usually go through the above exercise in about four hours. Assuming eight hours of sleep, that leaves me with another eight hours to work on really important, high impact projects. These are the ones that are difficult to get to and do well in the midst of everything else. I usually come into the Quarterly Review with a specific prioritized list of these. It’s amazing how much progress you can make when you’re alone without the usual distractions.
If you want to start doing a Quarterly Review, I strongly suggest that you schedule these far, far in advance. Mine are scheduled two years out. If you wait until you have a break in your schedule, you’ll never get to it. You have to make appointments with yourself and schedule other things around it. This is the key to proactive, self-management.