Alan Donegan: PopUp Business School Co-Founder, Entrepreneur, Financially Independent Pizza Lover, Marvel Movie fan and soon to be Script Writer
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10 or 12 years ago I started to do annual goal setting and reflection and have slowly developed my list of questions and process over the last decade. I have run it with everyone on the PopUp team and shared with friends to great impact but not published it yet! This is what I want to give to you for this year!
Building the future.....
.......... starts with reviewing the past. Last year my wife (Katie) and I travelled to Talinn, Estonia for our annual review retreat. We love to take a week out to reflect, eat amazing food and feel Christmassy. We have long chats over hot drinks and amazing food about what we have loved about the year, what we have hated and what is to come in the next year.
Now you don't have to go as extreme as we do but there is HUGE value in taking time to reflect on the year passed and setting up the next year.
At the heart of Katie and my process is a set of questions that we ask each other, answer and discuss. This helps us to formulate our plans and work to make our lives better every single year. The questions are the main part of the process but I will write a second post about the other elements that we do each year.
Questions are the answer
The quality of the questions you ask determines the quality of answers you get. The right question can unlock your thinking, free you from past thinking and help you make incredible progress. Simon my business partner at PopUp and I have become collectors of powerful questions over the years and ask them regularly at PopUp events.
I have taken the best of these questions including ones I found online through countless hours of research and compiled them into a set of annual review questions that Katie and I ask each other.
I create a blank set of questions each year for us both and we type out our own answers. We add graphs, pictures and more to the different sections and have a lot of fun reviewing the year! Have we made progress? What happened and where did we go? What are we going to do differently?
Some of the questions are tough and make you think about what didn't go well in the last year and this is really important as it allows you to think about what you want to change in the up coming year.
The process of answering the questions takes us several sittings and I get lost for hours in warm coffee shops in a wonderful haze of self reflection and learning. We type and tap out our thoughts, feelings and reflections.
We do the same thing at PopUp Business School. We create a page of questions for every team member who then goes through and fills them out! This forms the basis of a lot of powerful conversations that we have at our annual PopUp team retreats!
I wanted to make this available for you too! You can download the questions and use them with your family, your loved one, your friends or your company as the basis of an annual review!
The questions for you to download
Sharing and commenting
There is incredible power in self-reflection but where I really think our process comes to life is when we share our answers. If you are a couple you can do this together, if you don't have a partner right now find a friend you want to do it with, or the team you work with.
Katie and I write our answers to the questions in Microsoft OneNote which is a free tool from Microsoft that gives you a virtual notebook. It is one of my favourite tools in the world and I use it to run most areas of our lives! I am able to see Katie's answers, comment, add thoughts and more for our discussion.
Writing it down and sharing comments before you discuss in person can take some of the heat out of it and help you to have better conversations when you talk face to face!
I remember one particular monthly reflection where I wrote "I am not sure I have had any fun this month!" I had a negative view of the month. Katie then read what I had written and put a note next to it saying "I disagree" and then she listed all the fun things we had done together that month.
I was blown away by the fact that my mind had conveniently removed all those great things from my memories to back up my belief that I hadn't had that much fun! Katie helped me to see a completely different world to the one that I was seeing at the time and helped me to reframe my thoughts.
This process of writing out your thoughts and getting perspective from outside is so powerful.
Freezing your thinking
Writing your thoughts out has increible power. It allows you to take what is so fluid and shifting in your mind and freeze it on paper or the screen for evaluation. Your mind chews over thoughts in your head and rolls it around. If it is something difficult we can get stuck on it for days thinking of different angels and going over the same thoughts again and again.
But if you get it out on paper, if you freeze your thoughts you can float above them and evaluate them. It gives you the ability to start to look at your own thoughts objectively.
If you do this over time your effort compounds as you start to better understand yourself and your focus. It is such a powerful tool.
You could use the questions I am sharing with you to inspire a conversation and just sit round a table and ask each other but I think the real power is in taking the time to write out your comments first and to freeze your thinking!
Set aside a few hours, download the questions and head to your favourite coffee shop and get the thoughts out of your head.
It is all about the dicussion afterwards! This is some of the pay off! Last year for the PopUp annual company retreat we all went to G'Dansk in Poland and stayed there for a week planning and thinking! Why G'Dansk? You can find out here about geo-arbitrage meetings!
In the evenings after working through our business ideas and plans we would go out for dinner as a team and work through a few of the questions from The Annual Review. James would choose a question and we would go around the team each individually sharing our answers.
At times it was painful, at times it was inspiring and emotional but it always helped us to work through what had happened over the last year and get us focused on the next.
After you have done the above process choose your favourite cafe, restaurant or space and head their with your partner/friend to share and discuss your answers.
Keys to making the discussion work
There is so much power in the open discussion of these questions afterwards!
The questions are the main element of Katie and my Annual Reflection and this is what this article has been about. I will write another article soon about the rest of the preocess. To make it easier for you here is our annual review question process:
Thinking: the thing people avoid
Thinking is one of the most powerful things you can do. You can build businesses, create worlds and improve your situation through the power of thinking. Obviously you have to act afterwards but it all starts with thought.
Most people avoid thinking. They watch television, listen to music, go out drinking. Anything to avoid doing the work of thinking. Most people don't like to think and avoid it at all costs.
I don't care whether you do it in pen and paper, in OneNote, EverNote or a word document (how 90S!) what I really care about is that you take the time to think deeply and freeze your thoughts so that they can be examined.
If you are thinking "this is sounding like too much work I just want to watch Love Island instead" then this is EXACTLY what you need to do!
Taking the time to think beyond the normal automatic responses and standard three things you tell every body. Taking the time to go deep into your mind and really explore and learn about yourself. This; I promise; will help you to start to make progress and if you keep it up year on year will create magic results.
Review your year and set up 2020!
All that remains now is for you to take the set of questions I have created and to use them!
I would love to hear how it worked for you. What problems you had, if it worked or didn't! I am always looking to improve my processes and this is one that I have found very powerful for us so I would LOVE to hear your experiences!
My reason for sharing this with you is that I believe it will help you to set up 2020 to be the best year ever for you.
I want nothing but success and happiness for you in 2020!