How To Conduct an End Of Year Review

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“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

-Bill Gates

It’s the end of the year and time to review what you accomplished. I didn’t used to do any sort of exercise like this at the end of the year, at least, not on a personal level. Working a corporate job like I did (as a project manager), well, we had to do performance reviews twice a year.

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Those reviews were thorough, if you wanted them to be, or a joke if you didn’t take it seriously. Most people sorta hate the annual performance review process. I had periods in my corporate career where I thought it was a joke, but later in my career I figured out how to use the process to push me to accomplish more rather than feel like I didn’t have control of my destiny.

My personal end-of-year-review is a work in progress, and I’ll keep honing the process each year and each quarter. Yep, reviewing your progress each quarter or even more often is required if you want to get anything out of an exercise like goal setting.

My mastermind group is doing an end of year review and goal setting for next year, 2017, triggering this post.

It’s great to have other people (like a mastermind group) give you honest feedback since each of us is terrible at looking at ourselves objectively.

Here’s an overview of what I’m looking at this month as it applies to reviewing my year in 2016. I’ll give a couple specific examples of my goals, successes, and failures.

Set Goals the Right Way

Use the SMART goal system. If you set vague goals, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you do a lot and make progress, you may still feel like you failed because you weren’t specific enough. You may not do much to reach your goal since you haven’t laid out anything specific to get done.

Goals like, “Lose weight” or “Earn more money” are terrible.

I can talk all day about the SMART system, but I’ll keep this brief and you can go look it up. There are a few variations, but the process pretty much holds true for any variation you might see.

Here is what SMART stands for:

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Achievable

R: Realistic

T: Timeline

The point is that if you’re goals are created in the SMART way, then you’ll be forced to actually think through what you want to do. Vague goals don’t work. Goals like, “Lose weight” or “Earn more money” are terrible. If you think about each component of the SMART system, then you’ll have to refine your goals and start thinking about the steps to reach your goals.

 I’ll share some goals around my niche sites.

  • Get Site #1 to $10,000 per month by December, 2016.
  • Get Site #2 to $5,000 per month by December, 2016.

I added details around Site #1, and this was directly in my mastermind group’s Trello board. It was this:

Add a sh*tload of content to Site #1 to reach the goal. I’m adding about 10 posts per week for long tail content right now (June) and I’ll keep at it until I run out of keywords. Then, I’ll just add to the word count of the existing articles. I thought about running some calculations about how many articles to publish. But then I thought “f*ck it” – I’ll publish as much as I can manage and go from there to find the winners.

I didn’t have any specific steps noted for Site #2.

Look at What You Accomplished

Review what you did over the year. This will be your body of work, depending on what you’ve been working on. You can and should look at your personal and professional areas since they both take time and effort.

If you documented goals at the beginning or anytime during the year, then have a look at those. You’ll see what you wanted to do and pat yourself on the back for getting it done. You should take time to appreciate your accomplishments.

Figure out why you accomplished them. Most likely, it’ll be clear that you spent more time and effort to reach those goals. Sometimes luck goes your way and you accomplished something with less effort than expected. However, in those cases you probably created your own luck.

For the two niche sites, here is what happened:

  • Site #1: I took massive action and published about 200 new pieces of content, far exceeding my goal of 10 posts a week. You can read more about how I did that here. So that enabled MASSIVE growth for the site (without backlinks). I hit $10,000 around the middle of December which was surprising!

    In December, you can see the big time earnings, all due to the massive actions that I took back in June. I exceeded my initial goal and with plenty of time left in the month.

    You can track the growth for the site. I could show the traffic graph, but the real metric that matters is the revenue. It looks like the site should double the revenue from November. Remember, it was the work from June to September that made the revenue skyrocket.

  • Site #2: Hmmm. This didn’t go so well. I hardly did anything for this poor, neglected site. I sent out a few emails with affiliate offers, and made a few hundred dollars. That seems like something, but the earnings didn’t even cover the cost of having the email list. So BIG FAIL…

You too will notice that you didn’t accomplish certain things that you set out to do. So that brings us to the next step…

Look at What You Failed At

This one is even more important. You can learn more from your failures than the successes.

  • Did you run out of time?
  • Is the goal not important to you?
  • Did you continually not prioritize it?
  • Did you neglect to work on it?

This part will be harder and painful to review. That’s okay – that’s when we make progress. If you can identify why you didn’t reach your goals, then you can take steps to reach them in the future, maybe next year!

We all get 24 hours a day, and it’s up to us to be productive, or whatever you’d like to do with your time. As you can see, Site #2 was a total failure.


  1. I never developed a plan or set of subtasks to reach the goal.
  2. I never treated the site like a priority.
  3. I pretty much ran out of time with other projects taking priority.

The site is important to me and so is the goal. That means it’s a matter of priority and developing a plan to get the site on track. It’s a goal for next year too, and I’ll have more time to dedicate to it. I need to make it a priority if I want to reach $5,000 per month for this site.

Take What You Learned to Develop a Plan For the Next Year

You now have an idea about what you did well at and what didn’t go as planned. You can develop better goals for next year based on that.

For example, if you accomplished one of your goals and after reviewing how you managed to do it, you realize that you planned out your weekly actions well in advance. Maybe you treated a particular goal and set of activities as your highest priority – you guarded the time.

If you failed to complete something, explore why. You might have to think about it for a while and come back to it. After all, you may set a goal that you actually don’t care about, but for some reason it always shows up on your list. You should do yourself a favor and stop putting it on your list since it’s taking up your mental energy.

My main takeaway is to do less. It’s great to have big ideas about what you can do, but if you’re spread out thin, then you’ll drive yourself crazy. For me it applies to the annual goals and to the daily tasks that I work on.

I try to work on too much for the big, annual goals – too many separate projects. It comes down to how many large projects a person can focus on.

I feel like I can work on many things at once, but I actually can’t. I do a better job on everything if I am doing fewer things.

More importantly, I’m happier if I have fewer projects to work on.

Additionally, on a daily basis I feel better (happier) if I am able to work on a few things and finish them. I hate the feeling when I work on my To-Do list all day and don’t finish everything. The problem is that I think I can do more than I actually can in one day.

For me, the goal isn’t to work all day. It’s the opposite, and I’ll be thinking about that as I develop my goals for 2017.

Need YOUR Help

Leave a comment and tell me:

  1. How did this year go for you?
  2. Do you review your year? If so, how do you do it?

About the Author: Doug Cunnington is the founder of Niche Site Project. He shows people how to create Affiliate Sites using project management and a proven, repeatable framework. Doug loves creating systems, using templates, and brewing beer (but usually not at the same time).

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Vladimir

    Hi Doug,

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s a great idea of having yearly reviews 🙂 Here’s my review:

    Actions taken:

    -Planned niche website in July
    -Launched it in mid August
    -Added around 28,000 words of content on site
    -Optimized content for conversions by adding Amazon boxes through API
    -Published guest post on highest authority site in niche (DA 80, millions of followers). Post got 3,400 shares.
    -Editorial links: invested in 20 editorial links, 1 web 2.0 property, 3 niche paid directories, got few mediocore outreach links.
    -Invested in social promotion on (for 7 posts)
    -Built out a lead magnet ebook, set up autoresponder series with 7 emails.

    Overall, around 15,000 words of content is published on other sites for backlinks.

    Overall investment in the project is around $2,700.


    -My goal was to get to $400 / month until the end of year. The site earned only $2.5 in December and got 100 Amazon clicks.

    Organic traffic growth was slim. It only started to grow in December. (62 clicks 5.1k impressions in December so far compared to 13clicks, 637imp in November).

    I do this as a side project (I’m working full time as growth marketer right now).

    I must admit it’s frustrating to see this slow growth especially when I don’t know why. My impression is that I’ve chosen hard to rank keywords.

    Can someone with proven experience take a look at 2-3 keywords of mine and share his opinion on keyword difficulty? Maybe you Doug?


    • Hey Vladimir, thanks for the detailed reply! Sorry about the delay.

      So, it sounds like you did some “link building” but nothing very impactful. Like what are “20 editorial links?” Sounds like it may be some kind of paid link and that’s normally not valuable. With 20 real guest posts, you ought to be able to rank a pretty competitive set of keywords.

      And you asked: Can someone with proven experience take a look at 2-3 keywords of mine and share his opinion on keyword difficulty? Maybe you Doug?
      I could look for you, but it really doesn’t matter what I think. It’s more competitive than you expected and that’s what actually matters. Now you have to decide if you’ll keep pushing through the hard part or give up on that keyword…You might just need extra effort, more than you expected.

  • Doug, I think you’ve achieved great success with Site 1, especially when you were able to scale it to such a great income only by adding content to it. I’m sure that in 2017 you will be able to succeed with Site 2.

    As for me, I was not able to achieve my goals in 2016, however, I’m looking forward to 2017 and I really hope that I will be able to send you an email just to let you know that I have a successful site 😉 Keep up the good work!

    • Hey Velin, thanks for the compliment!
      I’m hopeful for Site 2, and it’ll all be dependent on whether I’m able to put the time in. Actually, whether I make it a priority or not.

  • Yvette

    Hi Doug,
    Great article. I always have some general thoughts for the new year, but I have never done a systematic review of my own achievements in the year that went by, nor made achievable, concrete goals for the next year. Would probably be a good idea to use your system.
    Good luck in achieving you goals in 2017.

    • Hey Yvette, Thanks! Give it a shot – almost any system will work if it makes you think about your goals and how you’ll achieve them.

  • Beth

    Wow, loved the post and action steps to take.

    As far as my year I’m pretty well tied to my brick and mortar business so other than reading and some very light work on on my sites not much happened on my sites.

    This is probably the biggest change I need to make next year. I haven’t done my review for this year but after reading this will do some evaluation.

    Looking forward to your training being available again. I missed it last time:(

    • Hey Beth, Thank you!

      It’ll be interesting to hear from you if you do a review to help get your goals in order for next year. Good luck! And hope to see you in the course soon!

  • Sheryl

    It was terrible, I did not have any goals, I took action though towards the end of the year and made a few coins with Blackfriday and got some of my keywords on page 1. I need to do better next year.

    • Hey Sheryl, sorry! What goals do you have for next year? Actually, what’s your main goal? And how will you do it?

  • Interesting story! My year was okay, some grow but not enough. Doug, did you do any linkbuilding to the sites? If so could specify a bit about it, maybe pa, da?

    • Hey Tess, thanks!
      I did some link building but only to a few pages, less than 5. The vast majority of the content didn’t have any link building done.
      Most of that link building was to pretty high authority sites….Like DA 25 to 45 or so.

  • What a coincidence – just this morning I did my YE review and honestly, it is not really anthing to write home about.
    I had some goals for 2016, but they were not really SMART.
    I neglected my sites over the year, I procrastinated updates and was full of excuses to not work on the sites at times when I had planned to work on them.
    Shame on me !
    Overall income is less then my expenses – so I made a loss in 2016 🙁
    What did I do wrong – apart from the above?
    – relying too much on plug-ins when creating Amazon-Sites
    – not creating enough original content
    – overanalyzing and not taking enough/the right action on analysis
    – rested on my laurels when I saw year over year income rising in the first months of 2016 – and not taking action when it tanked

    Plans for 2017:
    – convert my former bread and butter site to modern standards. It still is on plain html, not mobile friendly. In some parts it shows that the site is 15 yrs old
    – add content to the above site
    – add content to the site linked above that is not generated by some az-plugins
    – create one new site in a niche I was successful in 3 yrs ago (until getting banned by G)
    – most important – make this a REAL plan that I can follow.
    – make a profit again

    Thanks for giving me the possibility here to write down what went wrong and where I want to go in the future. My takeaway from your post is that
    – you need to have real goals
    – you need to have a plan on how to reach the goals
    – massive action helps massivly
    – review your projects – not only once per year (I will now go for quarterly reviews)

    All the best for the New Year,

    • Hey Tom, thanks for the comment! Sounds like you have plenty to do for next year, if you make it a priority!
      Good Luck

  • I really like the last sentence Doug. “For me, the goal isn’t to work all day. It’s the opposite…” I think this correlates well with an 80/20 approach to prioritizing goal setting and task management.

  • Doug,

    I just saw this post. Don’t forget all of the things that you have achieved, including the coaching success and helping others on their journey. If this affirms one thing, multiple sites is possibly not the way to go – even for a seasoned expert like yourself.