A personal annual review - using the 6 pillars for a powerful retrospective

A personal annual review - using the 6 pillars for a powerful retrospective

This is the last post for 2022. As is usual, this edition is my personal annual review.

I know many of you do something similar, some were inspired by the last two years of me doing this – and maybe this sheds some light on how to structure your own.

I’ve been doing a personal annual review for a few years now, the first few in private and then sharing them. I do them for a few reasons:

  • It helps me reflect on the year at a higher level. I often get consumed in the minutia of day to day and struggle to step back and treat my life like the system it is. It’s bigger than everyday.
  • It’s a way of being honest with myself about where I have focused my energy and attention – and whether it’s been a good use of these limited resources.
  • It’s a way of crystallising the year that has gone and looking at ways to weave this into my planning for next year. I set goals between Christmas and New Year for the following year. This reflection is essential for that – so I know where to focus that energy and attention.
  • It’s a way of looking at the pillars of life and seeing which ones are out of kilter.

With that aside, let’s jump in.

As a reminder, the pillars of life, in my life at least, are the following. There’s a video about this topic also – in fact, the very first video I ever made for my channel.

The pillars are:

  • Education and personal development
  • Health
  • Family
  • Finances and money
  • Impact on society
  • Productivity and effectiveness

Key Facts about this personal annual review (mostly for my own benefit)

  • Date of writing this : 13th December 2022
  • Music : Hybrid – Wider Angle
  • Location : Cultivated HQ (My studio)
  • Temperature : -2 outside, not much warmer inside
  • Written in : Nimbus Notes

The Personal Annual Review

Education and personal development

It’s been a good and bad year for Education and Personal Development. Last year I completed my CIPD HR level 5 qualification after 18 months of toil. This year I failed to really put this into action. I’ve taken the easy path this year and gigged my way through it, not really pushing myself.

I am capable of WAY more than I am giving at the moment. I could have done better this last year in aligning what I’m really good at with what companies are looking for. I feel like I’ve stagnated and done things that come easily to me. Not the usual uncomfortable roles that push me.

I completed several Domestika courses this year which were great. Muddled my way through them and put many of the lessons into practice. I’ve drawn and sketched more than usual, made more art than usual and have enjoyed learning about this craft. I recently completed a course of video production and plan to make a video next year utilising the theme and the content.

I have read plenty of books. Not as many as usual because I’m trying to truly digest books rather than simply read them.

I’ve also revamped my Personal Knowledge Management System. I am now using A3 paper and Nimbus Notes combined. Next year, for paid subscribers, I’ll give you access to this PKMS so you can dig around.

Not a bad year when it comes to education and personal development, but I need to push myself to take on more work that pushes my knowledge and helps me grow. No more easy path.


It’s been a bad year for health. I feel it. I’m getting tired and feeling older. I started strong this year with Red January and daily gym workouts. I even set myself a goal to slam dunk a basketball. Then I got injured. My back has been a source of woe. And the latter half of the year has been a disaster.

Not sure about you, but I seem to spend my time researching the best diet, the best nutrition and the best lifestyle. It’s confusing and a way of procrastinating. Must do better next year.

I’m not sure whether it’s midlife or something else, but my mind has been all over. It could possibly be due to not pushing myself at work and feeling like there is meaning there. I’ve contemplated giving up this newsletter, the videos, the books, the speaking….then I take a step back and gain some composure. I know everyone suffers from this feeling time to time, but it feels more constant this year. Something to work on next year.

My hair is greying and receding. Argh. Part of my brand has been my childish haircut, like Ryder’s from Paw Patrol. Oh well. Nature takes it’s course. Little I can do about that.

Plenty of work to do in the area of health. This pillar is crumbling so I need to build this one back up. Quickly. This is why I do a personal annual review – to highlight where I have to focus and this is clearly one of those areas.


It’s been a good year for family. We had a nice summer holiday and spent lots of weekends with each other. Other members of my family have health issues, so it’s been tricky from that perspective.

The boys are spending too long on electricals, and I’m working too many hours, so some work to do there to switch the balance around. I get their Xbox reports emailed to me weekly and crickey, some balance needed here.

Our house build is like a rollercoaster, plenty to keep us occupied but we’re close to starting the renovation work in the summer next year. My eldest is closing in on his GCSEs so we need to be sure the house doesn’t de-rail his studies. We’re going to have to move out for at least 3 months of the build, so this will be stressful for us all.

Mostly a good year. Some work to do.

Finances and money

Can’t complain here. IR35 is a pain in the backside for UK contractors, but it is what it is. We’ve had a good year for a balance across income, savings and investments. Given the economy, fuel crisis, heating or eating, inflation etc, we’re lucky and grateful for our situation.

The house build will strain us next year but we’re determined to get all three kids their own room. Passive income is slow but I have some good ideas to try and am trying to bring my dream of running a publishing company to life. I have so many little projects going that one of them may take off. If not, I can say I’ve tried.

The studio build was a highlight and good use of money. It’s a great space and it’s helped me create a safe haven for work and creativity. It took a while to get it insured but got there in the end.

Overall, a decent year. Got a few personal finance chores to complete but overall – decent.

Impact on society

Reasonable year here. I donate 5% of profits from my non-consulting work to charity. I give away a lot of time to anyone who wants help. I share a lot of content for free, which, in some small way, seems to be helping people. This is a good feeling.

I could do more locally with the school, my kid’s football teams and local charities.

I keep meaning to get a little more involved in the local city events to help make Winchester a better place to live but I struggle to work out how. I’ll keep exploring this idea next year and see what happens.

Hard one to measure but I think the key to this is working out whether I’m doing anything detrimental to society. I don’t think so. Not intentionally anyway.

Productivity and effectiveness

Mixed bag in this respect.

Cultivated Management

I only achieved a handful of videos to the channel this year.

I took a longer than expected break from these newsletters (tied to losing my Mojo and feeling like these aren’t valuable) and the studio build.

I didn’t post much new content to the blog.

I also didn’t get Take a Day off published……I’m working on it still.

But, I picked myself up after the studio build and got back to it. I’ve revamped the brand at least 200 times this year and finally got myself sorted.

I’ve cut back dramatically on social media, which has been great for productivity and allows more time to focus on content for you all. It’s also good for mental health.

I don’t know about you, but after spending time on LinkedIn I feel so useless compared to others. LinkedIn is naturally geared to people sharing their good side so it’s hard to use it and not compare yourself. A simple solution for me is to not use it much at all. I also had some aggressive types who I blocked. Felt good.

I have some videos with thousands of views – and some with, like, 6. Still working out what I enjoy creating and what resonates. I am absolutely committed to not playing to the YouTube algorithm though – otherwise I will dilute what I have to say in chasing likes and views. Not going to happen. I’m building a body of work to be proud of and learning how to make better videos, not trying to get views – but of course, I’d like to create videos that resonate with people.

I did manage to speak at a couple of conferences, which was amazing. Missed this so much. I have three lined up for next year already. Looking forward to sharing my experience and hope people learn from it.

Website hits are up – averaging about 60k a month, which is great. My online communication course was No.1 for months on Leanpub but I’ve since lost that spot – now No.3 – still happy with that.

Stationery Freaks

Stationery Freaks has been a real joy for me this year. I get to co-host this podcast with my friend and fellow stationery freak Helen. We’ve started having guests on the podcast too which has been fun.

We didn’t publish a single podcast for the first 6 months of the year – but have made up for that since.

We’re growing in listeners and downloads. Most importantly though, we’re having fun doing it – and I think that shows in the episodes. I hope we can get more content released early next year and not wait 6 months to sort our stuff out.

Parent Brain

I did a wonderful weekend retreat and recorded 25+ podcasts (that are usable) for Parent Brain. But again, they have not been released. I still can’t quite find what I want Parent Brain to be. It’s haunted me for nearly 15 years – it will find a home. I just need to keep experimenting. I need to ship these podcasts!


I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked to. In fact, it’s been months since I did some proper photography. I do have a new charity photo book planned, but it will have to stack behind other projects.

Summing Up the personal annual review

I seemed to spend a lot of time this year planning, musing, thinking and letting the potential of my projects get in the way of actually releasing that potential.

There is plenty of work to be done around getting stuff out into the world. Everything above plays into this. My health is a priority and with better health I will feel more confident, have more focus and be able to ship more. Shipping more stuff may lead to more impact on society, help me be more productive and maybe even generate some more income.

It’s clear my health pillar underpins everything. I need to double down on this pillar to support the others. Other pillars will falter, it’s the natural way of the world. By being conscious of which ones I’m not paying much attention to, I can try to manage the tension.

I will share some of the goals for next year when I create them.

I’m quite pleased with how this year has gone. Although I am quite critical of myself, I am aware that this year has been tough and it’s taken it’s toll on my health (physical and mental). There is plenty of room for improvement, but I have also completed a lot this year. I am proud of that.

I also have LOADS of content ready to go, I just need to re-find the courage to share. I also need to find ways to keep what is left of my hair.

I also need to stop making excuses now I have the studio. And yes, the house renovation will be taxing but I have my family. And they need me to be the best version of myself I can be. It’s why I do these annual reviews – have I been the best version of myself? No. But I know where to focus and what to do. And that is the power of these annual reviews – they shine a light on what’s gone well – and what could be better.

Hope this personal annual review has been helpful and insightful. Have a wonderful festive break and New Year. I look forward to 2023 and bringing you even more goodness.

Take care of yourselves. Do you do a personal annual review?

Rob. Winchester. Dec 2022