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Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful. – Margaret J. Wheatley

How-I-Conduct-A-Monthy-ReviewThere are a few habits that as valuable to me as regular reflection, and one of the most important of which are my goal reviews.

For several years now I’ve carefully tracked my goal progress by using a monthly review and I’m going to share it with you in it’s current format today. The main focus of these reviews are on what I’ve achieved and what failed, but most importantly what I’ve learned from my habit experiments.

There are several reasons for why I’m sharing this:
  1. To show you what’s possible. I’m just a normal guy who regularly takes small steps towards my goals – this is something anyone can do if they set their mind to it. Whilst some will find this level of commitment intimidating, others will find it unimpressive because they set even more goals. None of this matters though – all that matters is that you are a better person this month than you were before.
  2. To show you that you don’t always have to be perfect. I fail constantly at things, but it’s okay because I know that with every failure comes lesson to be learnt, which then propels you towards success. I hope that by sharing my failures you can save time by avoiding them and also that you internalise the fact that there is no true ‘failure’ if you’ve learnt something from your mistakes.
  3. To show you I practice what I preach. After all, if I’m going to talk about changing habits then it’s only right that I show you how exactly how I do it too.
So, let’s get started…

The structure of my review changes regularly, but I currently organise my review in the following manner:

     1) What went well
     2) What didn’t go well + how to improve
     1) Computer Usage
     2) Focused Work Time
     1) Dailies
     2) Don’t Break the Chain
     1) Nutrition
     2) Appearance
     3) Strength


Note: This accounts for about 30% of what currently  goes into my personal monthly review. Many goals, habits and achievements have been removed for the sake of brevity, relevancy to the average reader and because some things I plan to reveal later.

I’ve colour-coded sections of this review to make it easier to see how well I did with achieving my goals.
Achievement Rating
Also in purple I will describe the actions I will take in order to ensure I improve and achieve this goal or similar goals in the future. 

A) Goals

In this section I review progress made on quantifiable goals created at the start of the month. I’ll also reflect here on obstacles faced, my methods and lessons learnt. Scroll your mouse over each goal for more information.

[100% Achieved] - Went to 3 martial arts classes for Krav Maga
[100% Achieved] - Went from 73kg body weight to 71.7kg (14% body fat)
[50% Achieved] 'Body' refers to all goals related to physical body e.g. strength, health, etc
[100% Achieved] 'Relationships' refers to all goals related to social skills mastery e.g. situational confidence, persuasion, etc
[100% Achieved] 'Business' refers to all goals related to creating a business e.g. productivity, milestones, etc
[100% Achieved] - Reached 17 days of Don't Break the Chain Habit (new personal record) - see section C2 for more info
[Changed Habit] - Halfway through the month switched leg exercise from single leg press to dual leg press as I’ve been stuck on same weight for a while, but it meant I can't quantify progress for this month
[100% Achieved] - Went from 14 repetitions on 73kg calf press to 19 reps on 80kg
[50% Achieved] - Went from 15 reps on 66kg Chest Fly to 15 reps on 73kg
[50% Achieved] - Went from 7 reps chinups with no extra weights to 8 reps with 5kg extra weight
[75% Achieved] - Went from 7 reps on 27kg shoulder press to 12 reps on 27kg
[100% Achieved] Averaged 30 hours 20 mins of Focused Work Time weekly
[100% Achieved] - Did 1 role at Toastmasters public speaking club (was Harkmaster)
[100% Achieved] - Went to 2 Toastmasters meetings during the month

A1) What went well

  • Achieved majority of goals – achieved 100% of goals for Relationships and Business, as well as 50% of Body goals
  • New personal records – for Don’t Break the Chain habit and first time going 2 Toastmasters meetings in 1 month

A2) What didn’t go well + how to improve

  • Didn’t achieve several exercise goals – reviewing it now, I set the bar too high on these exercises. Although I should set challenging my strength will ensure I retain muscle whilst trying to lose fat, I need to make goals more realistic to prevent disappointment and maintain motivation
    • Set goals for up 1 weight level each month and same reps e.g. from 8 rep 5kg -> 8 reps 10kg chinups

B) Time

B1) Computer Usage

This is my monthly RescueTime summary, which is an automated browsing activity monitor that helps you to measure and improve your productivity.

October 2013 Computer Usage

  • Interesting, I always thought I was most productive in morning
    • Schedule in tasks which require high focus in the afternoon, light focus tasks in evening
  • Further analysed my productivity scores – turns out my main distractions were Facebook and Twitter
    • Install StayFocusd extension for Google Chrome – block social media websites from midnight until 6pm daily so I get all my work out of the way first whilst I have high focus, then can browse social media in the evening when I would be the least productive anyway 

B2) Focused Work Time

The RescueTime productivity score can be misleading as not all the time I’m on a computer I intend to be working anyway (e.g. most evenings). I use a timer and a flexible version of the popular Pomodoro Method for brief sessions of focused productivity (i.e. several blocks per day of 1 hour work then a 15 minute break).  If I get distracted and start procrastinating during my Pomodoro, then I won’t count it as productive time towards my goals and it will affect my ‘efficiency’ score. During this time I work on a list of ‘Next Actions’, which are my highest priority tasks at any given moment but I also spend time on some lower priority tasks (‘Other Goals’).

October 2013 Focused Work Time

  • Much better than last month (average weekly = 11hr25m Total, 93% efficiency, 50m Creation, 9hr30m Other Goals)
  • Next Actions 
    • Completed a few of these, time spent on this was not nearly as much as on Other Goals however
    • Upon further analysis many of Next Actions I struggled on weren’t well defined – so create a goal using ‘SMART‘ goal format with deadline for each Next Action, splitting task up into subtasks when necessary
  • Other Goals
    • Completed a number of tasks that I had put off for a while e.g. research into diet/vitamins/brain training, sorted future habits experiments by priority, etc.
    • Priority is my Next Actions regardless – do these in high focus period (afternoon) and work on Other Goals in low focus period (evening)
    • Only read 2 books this month (1984 by George Orwell and Killing Floor by Lee Child), schedule blocks in calendar next month to read more 

C) Habits

C1) Dailies

I don’t set too many goals a month because it is much more important to focus on your daily habits, as they are the true drivers behind goal achievement. Focusing on building up these ‘small wins’ leads to big milestones being achieved over time. I track these in the fantastic HabitRPG web app. Scroll your mouse over each daily for more information.

'Success' refers to the percentage of days in which I successfully completed the daily habit (Green 'Great' = 100-85%; Orange 'Okay' = 85-75%; Red 'Poor' = under 75%)
'Days' refers to the total number of days that the daily habit has been active for this month
*NEW - Weigh myself using scales. [Removed] - Reason: Unnecessary to weigh myself every day, the fluctuations are large and not useful data. Instead focus on meeting my macronutrient targets
*NEW - At end of every night, write down the Most Important Task for the next day. [Removed] - Reason: Now created a large list of items in priority order (Next Actions); review this list monthly to clear out junk/add new tasks rather than having to think about a new MIT every day (prevents procrastinating daily because I don’t know what I really should be doing instead)
Draw an 'O' on each calendar day that I complete my Chain habit (technique invented by Jerry Seinfeld). Current Chain habit: at least 10 minutes Next Action time OR 2 hours Focused Work Time
*NEW - Consume at least 150g protein (for muscle retention on a fat loss diet, plus it's the most hunger-satiating macronutrient)
*NEW - For creative problem-solving; see Napoleon Hill's book Think and Grow Rich for more information
*NEW - Record macronutrient intake (protein/carbohydrate/fat) for all food consumed (in grams)
*NEW - Meditate in a quiet place for at least 3 minutes
Reminder habit to turn on alarm every day (set for 07:40)
Reminder habit to take every supplement in my daily stack
Get out of bed and start day by latest 07:40
Consume max 150g carbs (least hunger-satiating macronutrient and most harmful)
  • 150g+ protein
    • Macronutrient daily goal definitely did aid fat loss, didn’t always manage goal on a daily basis but it ensured I reached targets for average weekly intake
    • It was time-consuming (and expensive) constantly cooking meat though
    • Buy protein powder bags and get them in various flavours for variety
  • <150g carbs
    • Often am eating junk food that’s around the house
    • Place healthy snacks in places I normally look as a replacement habit
    • Could also get small popcorn packets – fulfills carb cravings and is only 13g carbs (52kcal)
  • 3+ min meditation
    • Do it in the morning rather than evening – means I have to do it as soon as I get up and prevents excuse of ‘I’m too tired and going sleep’
  • Take daily supplements
    • Every day put all of the day’s supplements in a box which I can take with me and consume later if in a rush
  • 07:40 out of bed
    • Only got up by 07:40 when I remembered to set the alarm clock
    • Create a calendar reminder to set alarm clock daily
    • Move robe closer to bed so I can quickly put it on as soon as I get up (prevents mental excuse of ‘It’s too cold to get out of bed right now’)

C2) Don’t Break the Chain

October 2013 Dont Break the Chain
  • Broke my productivity chain twice so lowered my minimum goal required (the purpose of this tool is for motivation so it needs to be relatively easy to keep an unbroken chain)
    • 15th – daily Chain goal was 1 hour Next Action work time – now is only 10 min Next Action OR 2 hours total focused work time
  • After changing Chain goal reached new personal record – 17!
  • It seems to have improved my overall productivity (Total Focused Work Time first 2 weeks 1st-13th = 26hr 10m average. Last 3 weeks 14th-3rd = 33hr 20m average) but not average Next Action time
    • Monitor for effect over next few weeks


D) Body

1) Nutrition

October 2013 Nutrition

  • Using Dailies for minimum protein and maximum carbs was very useful and I stuck closely to those goals
    • In week 4 I had a few significantly lower calorie intake days when I ate poultry or potatoes – add it to diet more often
  • Noticed I eat less and forget about hunger when I’m focused on my work throughout day
    • Set more business-related goals to aid fat loss

2) Appearance

October 2013 Appearance

  • Pleased with amount of fat loss and exceeded 1kg weight loss goal (-1.4kg), but I think I can push it a bit more and still maintain muscle mass (as judging by strength, I probably even gained my muscle this month)
    • Set 3kg weight loss goal for next month
  • It doesn’t look like a big difference appearance-wise at the end of the month but to be fair I had loaded up on carbs that day
    • Standardise appearance pics by always taking them in morning whilst fasted in the future


3) Strength

3rd Oct > 31 Oct (28 days)
Machine Chest Fly = 15 reps @ 73kg > 20 @ 80kg
Machine Shoulder Press = 12 @ 27kg > 16 @ 35g
Chinups = 8 @ 5kg > 10 @ 10kg
Leg Press = 16 @ 100kg > 20 @ 108kg
Calf Press = 19 @ 79kg > 26 @ 85kg
  • Very pleased with strength gains even though I’m simultaneously losing fat, means muscle is not only being maintained but also being built
    • Continue to set high strength and fat loss goals
That’s it for this month’s review, I hope you got some value out of seeing the way I design a monthly review as well as my thought process for creating habit changes which to help me achieve my goals.
What goals did you achieve this month? If you didn’t achieve them, why not and how are you going to improve? This analysis is key to growth, and feel free to share your answers in the comments section below.