ASE Podcast

#24 My Annual Review Process & 2020

How was your 2020? I share my annual review process and lessons from this year, despite not hitting my goals.

Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, YouTube, Email

2020 was The Year of Covid-19.

For me, it was also The Year of Catan.

During the pandemic, I started playing the popular board game online 20 hours a week. I followed top Catan players on YouTube. I played for hours without moving. I had heard stories of Korean gamers playing for days and then just collapsing. I kind of understood those now.

Each game takes about 45 minutes, and when you lose, you slam the table and curse your opponents, who are probably 15-year olds. Maybe you made a dumb trade, pressed the wrong button, or never got your number rolled. Whatever the reason, I just wanted to hurry up and play another game.

After losing so many times, I made myself pause for 3-minutes between games. Why did I lose? What could I have done better?

Dice rolls play a huge role in Catan. I was trying to figure out whether I made good decisions given my luck. Taking 3 minutes to review the previous game was the highest leveraged way to improve.

I learned that winning didn’t necessarily indicate skill; a better way to evaluate my progress was reviewing (and improving with each iteration) my thinking each round. Was I always a threat to win? That was the real sign of growth.

Because of this, I rose to #228 on Catan Universe.

Why not take a similar pause to review the past year?

Sometimes achieving (or failing to achieve) a goal hides the real lesson we need to learn. An annual review unearths those lessons.

Below I share my annual review process and questions.

I used to set 7-10 goals per year and break them into weekly targets. Tracking so many goals was a chore. And I didn’t get anywhere because I was trying to do 10 things at once.

So for me, the simpler the process and the fewer the goals, the better.

  1. Map out what happened the past year
    1. Go through your calendar, photos, notes, books, and journals. Highlight the activities, events, people and ideas that make you pause.
  2. Make sense of the data. What were the peaks and valleys? What did you not realize?
    1. What few things had an outsized positive impact on your year?
    2. What few things had an outsized negative impact on your year?
    3. Do your assumptions about your year match reality?
  3. What’s the path forward?
    1. What is your theme for next year?
    2. What are your top 3 goals? Why? Who do you have to be to achieve them?
      1. For each goal, what 1 thing would make everything else easier or unnecessary?
      2. For each goal, what must you let go of and give up?
      3. For each goal, what has to happen for you to feel good?
  4. Look out the window. How can you prepare for the future that has already happened?
    1. What major events (business, technology, economic, social political) have already happened that will have predictable effects on your industry for the next decade?
    2. How can you capitalize on them?

What questions do you use to review your year? How do you set goals for the new year? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


  • Mapping the Past Year (5:15)
  • Peaks, Valleys & Incongruities (7:50)
  • Setting Goals & the Path Forward (13:15)
  • Looking Out the Window (18:15)

Show Notes


Subscribe via Email

Get new content directly from Darren on managing your well-being as a solopreneur.

Leave a Reply