Free Agents 62: The Year End Audit

1 Like

I stopped listening some time ago…

But I like the big announcement; I might have to reconsider!

I understand your reasoning behind the shift in direction however I hope that you still do episodes with different guests! I really love hearing the variety of stories and perspectives.

1 Like

I really liked this episode and looking forward to the rebranding!

I started a year end review and have been shocked at how productive I’ve been this year. It was easy to think I didn’t really do anything major but WOW I’ve had a good year! Thanks for the great episode @MacSparky and @mikeschmitz!

I’m going to listen to this episode again and I’ll be back with some questions.

1 Like

So glad I’m not the only one! I listened to it all the way through but it got my brain churning so much I have to go back and re-listen!

Also, thanks @mikeschmitz for the discount code in the show notes! I’m signed up and have time put aside for this weekend to do the course :nerd_face:

1 Like

I’m going to have another listen too - the idea of doing it in December so I can hit the ground running in January was revolutionary for me!

1 Like

Loved the episode – and the announcement. I have adopted a year-end goal-setting strategy in which I summarize seven to 10 goals for the next year in a single word or phrase. One of mine for 2019 is “30,” which is shorthand to try to average 30 hours per week of focused work. So I’m looking forward to the rebranded Focused helping to get me there!

1 Like

Ok after the 2nd listen I’ve sat down and begun work on my year end audit/review. Here are the topics/areas I’m focusing on and I’d love to hear what you think. Any additional or renaming of these areas are open for change.

  1. What did I accomplish this year?
    I just finished this one and let me tell you it was eye opening. I got a lot more done and started more new things than I had originally thought. This question alone really encouraged me about this past year and challenged me for next year.

  2. Tweaking the System
    Basically what was talked about in the show. Where are the weak spots in my system. What in my workflow needs a boost. I’ve barely begun this one. I’ve been doing what I do for almost 2 decades. I have tweaked my workflow through the years but I have recently realized that I’ve gotten a tad lazy in finding new ways to do things. I’m looking for areas that I don’t like to do or that take up too much time and see if there’s a better solution.

  3. What needs to be finished
    This one is all the unfinished business from last year. These are the things I started last year that are of low importance but high energy. For example, I have a storage closet full of old tech, books, etc and I started going through it in my down time. That was 3 months ago but work and home got busy and it was pushed to the side. There are only two of these (The other is converting my 2011 MacMini into a server) but if I don’t write them down and make them of some priority they will linger and never get done.

  4. Goals (The Big Picture as it was put in the show)
    I’m planning on taking a day off and really vision cast this. I know @MacSparky talked about Finances, insurance and something else that right now eludes me. Luckily I’m married to a CPA who pinches pennies harder than you can imagine. She takes care of all of our taxes and financial planning along with looking for deals on insurance (manly supplemental life insurance) about every other year. What I want to do with this area is to focus on just some things I’d like to accomplish professionally and personally.

Any other things I need to have in my Year End Audit? What do you have?

Thanks David and @mikeschmitz for a great episode! I’m looking forward to next year and the rebranding!

1 Like


I had just written a post in the MPU forum about my free agent Christmas bonus to myself - buying the OmniFocus suite and finally succumbing to lure of that task manager flagship.

And then Mike goes on a rant about not falling for the shiny new toy and the illusion of getting a new app in the hope that it will solve all your problems :crazy_face:

Well, I like to think I’m slightly more conscious about the choice and the potential challenges, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit …burned.

I’m joking of course!

Another great episode with great insights, and I’m really looking forward to the new incarnation of the podcast.

(And I probably will at least go for the OmniFocus trial over Christmas…)


Good luck on the change. I understand it is probably needed. I hope you’ll keep talking about the struggles and joys of having an unpredictable income, though. When focused productivity results in more money and when it doesn’t is perennially interesting to me.

Also, David, any time you want to go on a really long discussion of your Basecamp use, I’m all ears. I curious to hear what people think of that software since, after having defined the SaaS industry, it seems more and more iconoclastic.

1 Like

The company I work for has dedicated January 2nd as a day of reflection and planning with no internal meetings scheduled. We are encouraged to do planning and organization (like making goals and perhaps tidying our inboxes!).

I haven’t listened to the new episode yet, but i will on next week’s commute. I am interested in hearing more about the direction the show will be going in.


The turn in the show focus is a real disappointment to me. No one owes me anything, and David and Mike are more than welcome to create whatever they want to create. Unfortunately, I’m not interested in “productivity”—and there are 1000 podcasts and millions (it seems) blogs devoted to it. I am interested in hearing about how other solo digital workers are making it in the world. The interviews and behind the scenes with different folks was both informative and inspiring.

I made the leap from employed to unemployable while listening to this show, and it absolutely helped. I just celebrated 1 year out on my own as a UX designer. So far so good.

I’ll keep an eye on the topics. Maybe I’ll be wrong, and this change will benefit me. But for now, I mourn for the loss of a little bit of support for solo folks that wasn’t wrapped up in “one cool trick”, “biz dude hype”, or “buy my class on being an entrepreneur”. This is the hole Free Agents’ peg filled for me. (And if any of my fellow listeners have suggestions for podcasts that could also help me, without also being those above things, lemme know.)

Good luck on your endeavors.

1 Like

As someone who was a business owner and returned to the corporate world, I am excited for the changes. It felt to me that the current format was a litttle restrictive.

I can understand how the shift in format may not work for everyone, but I suspect we may still hear a lot of that solo perspective @briandigital, because the hosts are still essentially freelancers.

Just wanted to offer that thought as a way of reframing.


This is long, I’m using it as my own note to me :slight_smile:

I have 4 things I do at quarterly reviews

For year end I also add

I started my year end tasks on the Solstice and I hope to be finished with most of the reflect, review, recharge and re-commit portions by the 1st of the year and then the archive stuff by end of January. I follow GTD levels and systems so my reviews reflect that. I actually do in-depth reviews quarterly, at the solstices and equinoxes but winter solstice is larger as it is the year end.

First off is just sitting and thinking, letting the mind wander with a pen and paper & my diary/journal nearby. This reflection and self inspection can be painful at times, I sometimes write in my journal during this time or just make notes. It’s like the big collection of open loops you do when you start GTD but more focused on the past 3 months. I am not making any judgements at this time just simply being and remembering. I’ll typically end up with an entry or 2 in my journal and 2-3 pages of notes and scribbles. I’m not a mind mapper per se so my notes tend to be words and more outline format. I use Levenger paper and they used to have a type that had one big blank part for drawings and then lines underneath it . That style has been discontinued but I still have a decent stash. I do save them for special occasions like quarterly reviews though.

Then I review my higher level statements. I have written down my Personal Statement of Purpose and now I also each year have a word that I focus on for the year. I review what few written goals I have but I’ve always fallen down a bit in the middle GTD levels of goals and objectives in part because of the length of time it takes to do farming things. During the review I ask myself whether I am happy with the direction I am heading, whether I am happy with the overall purpose and whether I think I need to make any changes. I modify my purpose if needed. Since I discovered GTD I now also review what are my areas of focus and are they still the appropriate ones for me at this time. Reviewing is where things get sticky. If I have been falling down on my commitments to myself this is when it becomes painfully obvious. Review is where I tend to add lots of new projects, do major GTD system reorganization to support a new emphasis or new AOFs. I tend to use Levenger Storyboard paper for this part and put my AOFs one per storyboard. I put the meaning and reason fo the AOF in the storyboard part and the major projects that support it in the text part. This is also where I really look at every single on-hold or pending project and hold it up against the newly clarified AOF levels and decide if I really still need to do this one. Last year I moved all my someday/maybe type things into DEVONThink and this year is the first major review where that is my place to go for all that type of stuff. I’m finding it easier and less stressful to handle them there than in Omnifocus. What I am doing is renaming my DT notes to match my new AOFs and making sure they are easy to read and review and also easy to move individual items into and out of Omnifocus. In a typical winter solstice review I will delete 50-60 on hold projects permanently and add about the same number of new ones. I typically write something about the review process and so part of this review is to look at what I wrote last year and see what I did or didn’t do that was in there. This is the part I’m at now. Given the volume of stuff that has changed or needs to change I won’t be done with this for a while yet. Being sick doesn’t help and I only have the energy to deal with the animals and required chores and can only spend a few hours on this focused intensive work before I’m fried.

This section is almost like going back to the beginning. I try to just sit and think about the new structure and focus and see if it feels right. I make sure to spend some time during this period doing something that makes me happy, read a just for fun book that has been on my list for a long time, or go visit a neighbor we’ve been meaning to talk to but haven’t, or fix a special dinner that I rarely make. I’m not there yet this year, I’m still in the review section and don’t expect to get to this for another couple of days or even a week.

This is when I get down to the nitty gritty. I go back and review all my projects again and then do a more normal what can I realistically be working on review of what to keep active or not. A lot of the active projects in Omnifocus that got created in the previous sections but that won’t get worked on in the next 3 months will migrate back to DEVONThink during this phase. I ensure that all my projects have a purpose (sometimes just to keep me happy) and support my personal statement of purpose and my AOFs and that all actions and tasks are clear and can be done with the tools I set as the context. I re-read my statement of purpose and any goals I have set. At the winter solstice review I also start thinking about my focus word for the next year. I don’t always pick it out now but I start thinking about it. I start a note in DT with my possibilities and by the end of January I try to have one picked out. Since I review my word at my quarterly reviews I can adjust and see if I am heading in the direction I set at the start of the year. I have already started my list of possible words for 2019 as part of the review portion but not settled on any one yet.

This is the section where I prepare for the next year. I clean up paper files. Generally I try to sort and deal with one paper file folder every couple of days throughout the year but if I am behind, as documented by where my placeholder is in my file cabinets, then I schedule extra time to get through all the files before year end. I scan and then shred documents that we need for reference but no longer will be accessing regularly if I don’t need the hard copy, things like insurance policies etc. I start getting the tax stuff ready by verifying that 2 yrs ago stuff is all scanned. Then I shred it and last years tax return goes back one folder and I have a folder for this year that is all the stuff I’ve accumulated that is tax related over the year. It’s a 3 folder rolling archive of physical stuff so at the end of this for this year there will be the 2017 tax return and papers, the 2018 tax return and papers that I will send to the accountant and the 2019 folder that I’ll start collecting stuff in for next year. The electronic versions of this stuff are kept indefinitely. I also try to clean up my electronic filing system. I’ve been doing a lot better at that during the year but I still like to review it. I have a backlog of stuff waiting for me to either delete or convert to newer file formats. One of the goals I have for next year is to finally handle all my electronic backlog. I spent a lot of this past year testing out systems and workflows so that the backlog doesn’t collect. Those systems are being documented as part of my solstice review this time. Now that I have a workflow and the filing all set I need to finally finish cleaning up the backlog. I did a major filing renaming and format overhaul in 2016 and 2017 and spent 2018 verifying it will all work for me. It has worked perfectly and saved me a lot of time so I can now move on to the backlog and bring critical stuff forward into the new system.

Anywy that is my long and overly verbose view of year end reviews.