Purpose of the tool
Timings / participants
Skills / materials needed
This might be an a-typical tool or exercise for the toolbox as the quarterly review usually takes me 3-6 days. Quarterly reviews are a great way to review progress on your key goals, to adjust course (after 3 months, you kind of get an idea if some annual goals can or will be achieved) and to spend some deep work time on key projects.
I will focus on my experience in doing solo quarterly reviews – as in, I will travel on my own and will focus on personal projects and or projects I have key involvement in in a corporate setting. However, the concept applies to relationships, teams and even departments as well.
Combining business with pleasure, I tend to choose nice remote locations for my reviews. Dubrovnik. Dubai. Abu Dhabi. Marrakech. Bali. The Faroer Islands. Over the years, I learned that a nice temperature, but above all, remoteness, a green environment (for my runs), nice food, nice coffee and a decent hotel help make the most out of my quarterly reviews. I wrote separate posts on how I plan for this.
Five Structural Elements for the Quarterly review
Key in succesfull remote quarterly reviews is discipline. The discipline of taking time away from office and home. The discipline to free up large blocks of deep work time (and refuse and or reschedule meetings). And the discipline to stick to the plan.
How to read the instructions
To bring some structure to tools and exercises, I borrowed the “five structural elements” from Liberating Structures. It is an easy and structured way to describe the different dimensions of an exercise.
More on the elements
Hire me as facilitator
The perspective of some uninterrupted deep work time and finally getting things done is usually enough to get me in the right spirit. However, I noticed that being able to look forward to a nice location with nice weather and good food makes it even more worth while. The week of hard deep work becomes a ‘treat’ and on the other hand it opens up the possibility to frame your mind into accepting, ‘ok, I indulged myself in this nice environment, I have to earn this by working my ass off’. Finally, having a good environment with good food, a lot of work outs, etc will also help you to focus more.
How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed
- Large wall or mirror for post-its. I tend to use the large mirror in my room to (1) write down my key goals/achievements for the week and (2) how I will be distributing the activities over the days. So I will create a list of todos and a week plan.
- Post-its and pen.
2) and 3) Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation
- Even before my quarterly, I will keep a list of bigger todos and projects (in Notion). This will help me get an idea of what I want and need to do each quarterly. Often, I will allocate a ‘theme’ to the quarterly. E.g. ‘finance’ or ‘personal development’ or ‘grow my team’. This will help focus my activities and set clear goals.
- When traveling towards my remote quarterly review location and on the first night or first morning of my stay, I will do a full brain dump of all the things I will want and need to do that week. I sometimes use exercises like the ecocycle planning and hot air balloon for the first brain dumps.
- I will write down the activities on post-its and will prioritise the activities on a large mirror or wall.
- After that, I will create a simple week planning with my morning routine, what I will do in the morning (usually two activity blocks), lunch, what I will do in the afternoon, dinner and my evening routine. I will make sure to add time to eat good food and plenty of exercise. E.g. in Bali, I decided on evening runs and dinner after as part of my routine and yoga as part of my morning routine. Also, I will add new habits to my routines, e.g. write my daily appreciation journal in the evening. I have found these quarterly reviews a great moment to add new habits.
- After having the rough day plannings, I will add the concrete appointments I will have that week. From time to time, I will have some calls I will have to take, I might have a meeting on location and I might want to go explore the surroundings (e.g. in Dubrovnik, I planned a morning in the old town as a well-deserved break). I will try and make sure to have as many uninterrupted blocks of deep work time as possible.
- Finally, I will plan in all my activities for the week, making sure to prioritise the key activities first.
- And then, it is just do 🙂 Every evening, I tend to quickly review what I have done that day and the next morning at breakfast I will run through that day.
4) How Groups Are Configured
Usually working alone, so no groups 🙂
5) How Participation Is Distributed
Purpose is maximal focus time, so engaging others is limited.
When you are doing this in a group or team, use tools from the toolbox to create engagement throughout the different phases.
Additional tips and pointers
- Quarterly. The fact that the reviews are quarterly often ties in perfectly with year plans. A review every 3 months helps adjust course towards your year goals and also makes it easy to translate into month and week plans.
- Open communication towards colleagues and clients. Explaining the concept behind your quarterly reviews in all openness and transparency towards your clients and colleagues will help to reduce the interruptions during the week. Many people will recognise the need for deep work and focus time and will understand and our appreciate your reviews.