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The Lever #022: Crush your quarterly review this weekend

The fastest way to improve is to regularly review your progress.

Here is how to perform an effective quarterly review.


But first:

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Peter Drucker, management consultant and author, is credited with introducing the idea of regular check-ins and self-reflection in his book "The Effective Executive" which was published in 1967.

Drucker wrote, "Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations. I have been doing this for 15 to 20 years now, and every time I do it, I am surprised."

Drucker emphasized the importance of regular self-reflection and evaluation in order to improve effectiveness and make progress towards personal and professional goals. His insights inspired many individuals to adopt the practice of performing quarterly reviews, using it as a tool for growth and development.

The Review Process

Reviews should take take place at regular intervals:

• Daily

• Weekly

• Monthly

• Quarterly

• Annually

As the time horizon increases, so does the depth of the review.

The big idea is to look at yesterday, plan for today, and consider tomorrow.

Looking backwards and forwards makes sure you arrive at every due date prepared, calm, and ready to go.

The goal of each review is the same, regardless of length:

1/ Review the previous time period and assess your results.

2/ Plan for the current time period and list the actions and micro-projects which will advance your goals.

3/ Look ahead that same amount of time to make sure you are planning today for things that will arrive tomorrow.

The longer reviews will each have some specific tasks and goals as well.

Data Collection

In order to perform an effective review, you have to have something TO review.

I'm an advocate for detailed data capture. The more the better. You have access to an incredible amount of personal data at all times, and using it for yourself is the fastest path to improvement. You can read more about that here:

If you aren't at that level don't fear; make use of whatever reminders you have from the past 90 days.

• A journal

• Your calendar

• Your previous goals

You wrote down your goals, right?

The Performance Cycle

Ninety days is a standard performance cycle in business. Long enough to accomplish a big project. Short enough to stay motivated.

And it captures lots of data.

My philosophy on goal setting is to choose one big goal for the year (for each of the Big-5 categories), then select a 90-day milestone or project that works you towards that main goal.

These act as stepping-stones to the end result you are trying to achieve.

If you are writing a book, it may be to get the rough draft complete. If you are training for a marathon, it might be a certain number of miles, or a shorter race.

These short projects break down your larger goal into achievable milestones, driven by simple tasks, completed daily.

The Quarterly Review

The quarterly review looks back and forward for ninety days. This is a great sample size of data upon which to make bigger decisions.

I call this the "pivotal" review, because it is when you take a hard look at your progress towards your big goals, and decide whether to continue or to pivot.

The goal you think you should be chasing isn't always the right one. You should feel free to tweak, change, or totally drop goals that no longer serve you. But you should only do it after you've given it a good enough effort over a long enough time.

90 days is short enough that you aren't wasting effort, and long enough to collect enough data to make an informed decision.

Here is what to focus on:

Step 1

Start by asking yourself, for the past 90 days:

• What did I want to happen?

• What actually happened?

• Why was there a difference?

These answers will influence your next decisions.

Step 2

Assess your quarterly projects:

• Did I get it done?

• Why, or why not?

Understanding project size and scope is really important.

Are your projects too ambitious? Too easy? Did you bite off more than you can chew?

Use this to influence the next project you choose.

Step 3

Decision time. For your existing goals, ask:

• Am I making progress?

• If yes - continue what you are doing.

• If no - consider if this is the right goal for you.

You can make a small tweak or change it entirely. New information may now be available that influences the decision. Use it.

Step 4

With your main goals tweaked or updated, choose a new 90 day project that will move you towards them.

Pick something:

• That aligns with the main goal.

• Can be achieved in 90 days.

• Is difficult enough to stretch your capability.

Then break this down into a daily action or block of time during which you'll work on the project.

Task Focus

That last line, "break this down into a daily action or time", is crucial.

Everything you do is a task, or in the case of a project, a linked series of tasks.

And every task takes time.

Therefore, in order to get things done you need to:

A. Have time available to work on the task

B. Actually work on the task

If you are looking back and wondering how the first 90 days of 2023 went by so fast, I have news for you:

The second 90 days is going to go by just as fast.

If you are going to get the things done you want to get done, you need to start taking action - today.

And all actions actions take time to complete, a great first step is to plan the time you will dedicate every day to the completion of your goals.

Remember, in the words of the great fitness coach and philosopher Dan John (quoting Dick Notmyer):

If it's important, do it everyday.


When you are ready, here are a few ways I can help:

1. Subscribe to The Lever (if you haven't already)

This covers a science-based productivity concept each week, in about five minutes. Try a free chapter of my new book when you subscribe. And if you like it...

Peaceful Productivity outlines the time-management system I've created over the years as a ship's Captain and business executive. It will help you plan, prioritize, and get more of the right things done. Also available on Amazon  

This short course will teach you the fundamentals of a powerful timeblocking system to make sure you never miss an obligation and always show up prepared. Give yourself the space you need to create the life you deserve.

Smart systems to make you productive, prolific, and profitable | Find me on Twitter @SeanPHogue | Sign up here for the weekly newsletter, The Lever, and create some leverage in your life.


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