2016 Annual Review: A Christmas Card to Yourself

2016 Annual Review: A Christmas Card to Yourself

Getting mail around the holidays is so much fun.

In contrast to the frequent bills and junk mail received throughout the year, every holiday season a stream of smiling faces arrives via mail. These Christmas cards not only capture a moment from the year, they often include highlights from the past 12 months.

Christmas cards provide an opportunity to stay in touch, at least once a year, with the people we care about most.

This year, consider writing yourself a “Christmas card” in the form of an annual review.

Reflect and Refocus with an Annual Review

An annual review is your chance to reflect on the year that was. It is through reflection that you can leverage your own “Archimedes lever.”

Archimedes of Syracuse was a famous scientist in ancient Greece who said, “Give me a place to stand, and with a lever I will move the whole world.” He proved the power of using a small amount of force (and a lever) to lift heavy objects.

In our own lives and businesses, we often work harder to get more done. Taking a step back to reflect helps us find small changes that will have an exponential impact on our goals.

Put another way: Spend a little time sharpening your ax instead of chopping harder.

This is what an annual review is for me. It’s my chance to ensure I refocus and reassess what I am working on, what matters most, and what I want to do.

I’ve created annual reviews for the past four years, and it has become an important ritual for me. This year is no exception.

I hope that you will join me. Here’s how to conduct your own annual review for 2016.


Image credit: Fulcrum Adventures

How to Conduct an Annual Review

The Reader’s Digest version of planning an annual review? Reflect, plan, brand.

First, reflect by asking yourself two questions:

  1. What went well for me this year?
  2. What didn’t go well for me this year?

Second, plan for the year to come based on what you would like to improve and what you would like to continue doing.

Finally, brand your year to come by choosing one word you want to focus on. If you can encapsulate your goals for the new year in one word, you will remember what your goals are and be more likely to complete them.

As in past years, I’m excited to share my review with you, both to hold myself accountable and hopefully to inspire you to conduct your own review. I’ll share my reflection of the highs and lows today, and I’ll follow up with my plan and brand right after the new year.


What Went Well in 2016

2016 started with a bang, as our family moved from Sioux Falls, SD, to St. Paul, MN.

After a series of changes, it settled into an increasingly successful year. While things were stormy in the world at large, 2016 was a good year for my immediate family and business.

My family grew and connected. We welcomed a new addition in the middle of 2015, and it took us until 2016 to really learn how to balance more action in our lives. After a move in the beginning of the year, our immediate family had to rely on each other more. This brought us together, despite stressful schedules.

The business took a leap. I dubbed 2016 the year of professionalism in last year’s review, and 9 Clouds really took that to heart. We grew, established ourselves as leaders in the automotive marketing space, and enjoyed some fun perks thanks to our hard work (such as visits to Facebook, a company retreat, and exciting speaking opportunities).

Community-building continued from a distance. Even though I moved from my hometown of Brookings, SD, I was able to stay involved from afar, hosting a successful TEDxBrookings event and helping to implement innovative tools to make it easier to launch a business in Brookings.

Curiosity continued personally. I was able to find time to read, often while rocking a baby or folding laundry. I felt more stimulated mentally this year by reading big, challenging ideas on race, evolution, and death. I was also able to organize over a decade of personal blog posts into one personal website.

What Didn’t Go Well in 2016

Saying goodbye is never easy. I was incredibly involved in my hometown. I had to resign from city council, close an unsuccessful co-working space at a loss, and move farther away from my 9 Clouds team. I tried to get involved in my new home with a nonprofit I believe in, but after half a year, I realized that I couldn’t be fully committed and resigned. Saying no is something I need to work on, but being forced to say no isn’t the best way to learn.

Self-care was forgotten. Physical fitness, time away from screens, and even time for cooking were all hard to come by. It felt like success to keep my family and business going strong, but in the next year, I want to be mindful of the “body” part of body/mind/spirit.

Social outreach was tabled. It’s never been hard for me to meet people. For the first time in my life, however, it was difficult to find the time and energy to try. I feed off opportunities to meet new, interesting people, so I know that in 2017 I need to do a better job of creating moments of serendipity to connect with those people. This will help keep my mind open and my ideas fresh.

A Look Ahead to 2017

Many people are happy to turn the page on 2016. I’m always ready for a new year because of the freshness and chance for refocusing.

Overall, 2016 was a good year for me. Most importantly, it has set the foundation for an even greater year to come.

2017 is the year to find the Archimedes levers in my life. In the coming week, I will be spending time taking the reflections from today’s post to create a plan for doing just that.

I’ll share those goals with you soon. In the meantime, I hope you get a chance to be with loved ones, eat good food, think deeply about important things, and recharge for a big year to come.

From the whole crew at 9 Clouds, we thank you for joining us throughout the year. Happy holidays.

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