The Importance of the Quarterly Review

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.

The View from Above the Clouds -  Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/efrem, Image #2325037

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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  • Anonymous

    In a future post, could you please mentor us in how to write a Life Plan. I wrote down my thoughts on “life at 80″ inspired by Todd Duncan’s Time Traps. However, this project lacks some of the components (I’m guessing) a Life Plan contains. Please consider.

  • http://www.michaelsampson.net/2007/03/daily_report_ma_4.html Michael’s Thoughts

    Daily Report, Mar 8

    Cisco and IBM … Cisco and IBM announced a partnership for the integration of their respective wares to deliver a unified communications and collaboration solution to joint customers. “At the core of the unified communications and collaboration (UC2) …

  • http://www.dkeener.com/keenstuff/blog/?p=25 Keener Living

    The Most Important Life Management Activities

    For years I have considered that there two vital life management activities: (1) the Weekly Review and Planning Session and (2) Goal Setting. The role of time management techniques, be they based on David Allen’s approaches or Steven Covey’s, are ways …

  • http://web.mac.com/sjweiss/Sufficient_Grace/Home.html Shelly Weiss

    My pastor introduced me to your website and I am getting a lot out of the archives. As a licensed therapist/writer working toward full-time freelancing, your suggestions have not only inspired me to devote time and energy to writing to glorify God, they have given me a concrete starting point. Thank you for the valuable information.

    Shelly Weiss

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  • @dfberry

    Where do you keep the 3×5 card with the two lists and how often do you look at it btwn reviews?

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  • http://www.rachelhauck.com Rachel Hauck

    I've learned a lot from Mike Bickle's teaching The Power of a Focused Life. It's made me aware of my time and how I spend it.

    But I'm a horrible list maker. I don't do well at writing a goal or idea down and having it 1. mean something, 2. be found and mean something two months later.

    But I do constantly keep my heart and mind before the Lord. Most of my destiny has been unlocked my telling Him, "Hey, I've done all I can and nothing's working. You do it." Sure enough… He does. But that's my testimony.

    But I have this fun story. In January 2005 my husband and I attended church with his parents. Being the New Year, the pastor spoke on setting goals and having a plan. While he spoke, I wrote down one goal: contract from Thomas Nelson.

    I'd been working on an idea for my agent to present to TN, but being new to the biz, I didn't have high hope. But hope.

    Eight months later, I was offered a Thomas Nelson contract. I'd forgotten all about the written "goal" but was pleasantly surprised when I found it about a year later. The achieved goal boosted my faith is setting our sights high. Too often, our goals are set to be prepared for disappointment, not success.

    I have this saying on my desk: Aim small, hit small. Aim big, hit big. Some times we limit God by our own limits and weaknesses.

    Rachel

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That’s a great story, Rachel. I have similar ones. Before my first book came out, I wrote “become a New York Times bestselling author.” I must have scrated it out and re-wrote it a dozen times. It just look audacious. I finally left it, and reviewed it every day. Less than a year later, against impossible odds, it happened!

  • http://ronlane.wordpress.com Ron

    Thanks for writing this Michael. This is a great time of year to get started doing this and help to get 2010 kicked off with a great start.

    I will have to schedule time to do this for myself in the next few weeks. I am really starting to see the benefits from implimenting the GTD System.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/johnsharris John Harris

    Once again, another awesome post! Just finished a quarterly review with my manager and this is very helpful. Please write on the Life Plan – would love to read that. Thanks,

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I can’t believe I didn't have the link in the post. You can read about how to create a life plan here.

  • http://www.roccocapra.com/blog Rocco Capra

    Thanks for re-tweeting this. As I am in my final semester of school to finish my BS, this is timely as I look out to the months/years ahead and set new goals for myself and my family.

    Rocco

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  • Amanda Dewoody

    Michael,

    I am reviewing your Life Plan e-book and am, as always, amazed by your commitment to excellence & a life well lived. Thank you so much for sharin and all the wonderful work you do. My life is better for it:)