Every year, usually in January, I take an afternoon to retrospect. Snug at home or ensconced in a local coffeeshop, I sit down with my computer, a cup of tea, and maybe a wee treat to document the triumphs and trials of the previous year. It’s a little like doing a personnel review or inventory for myself. I take a look at the new year’s resolutions and any other goals that came up through the year and ask myself how I did. My husband thinks I’m nuts.
Why Do a Year-end Review?
I’m not as nuts as it may seem. The Year-end review process offers me a lot of insight and at times some deep healing I wouldn’t otherwise have found. One year, for instance, I noticed I’d had a longstanding goal to travel more which I’d yet again ignored. I changed my goal that year to seeking understanding about my travel goal–why did I keep saying I wanted to travel and doing absolutely nothing to make that happen? I realized my desire to travel was one I’d created as a way to better understand and feel close to my sister, who is an avid world traveler today. It was never my goal; it was a left-over from a time long gone that was holding energy that no longer needed to be held. The act of doing my Year-end Review helped me recognize a place where my energy was wrapped up in something that wasn’t true to my heart’s desire.
Recognize Your Progress
A Year-end Review can also help you to recognize progress even when it feels like you’ve made little if any. I like to study, but many years I’ve felt like I barely took the time to think much less investigate or learn anything new. When I sit down to do my Year-end Review and start listing the books I’ve studied, I’m usually surprised at how much I’ve managed to fit in. Often, when I think I haven’t done much I find that I did do a lot…early in the year. It’s too easy to forget to give yourself credit for what you accomplished all the way back in January or February when you’re thinking about the new year’s resolutions or goals.
The Year-end review is an opportunity to recognize every step you take toward living your values. I create a section for each of my greater values or areas of my life where I want to focus when I set my goals each year. When I do my Year-end Review, I look back at what I’ve done to live or serve each of those areas. Some years, I’ve found that I need to add new areas and take away old ones. Other years, I’ve found that my understanding or definition of one or more areas has refined or shifted. The Year-end Review process offers me a time and structure for thinking about whether or not those changes are what I want, and what to do or not do about it either way.
When I started my Year-end Reviews, I was a stay-at-home Mom with no career. I was frustrated with feeling like I was becoming stagnant because I gave so much to my family and got so little recognition beyond my family for what I was doing. It was a classic problem many stay-at-home parents face. My teacher, David Lang, suggested the Year-end Review process, and it was absolutely brilliant. Over the years, I’ve found taking the time to recognize how much I’ve done and how far I’ve come helped me better value myself and my work. Now that I’m building a career again for the first time in 15 years or more, I’m deeply thankful that David suggested this process. It’s given me a stronger, more enlightened perspective about what I’ve done with my life for the past decade and a half.
DIY Year-end Review Tips
My tips for starting your Year-end Review process are easy. It’s all about you, so adapt them to fit your lifestyle, your way of thinking, your needs, in short…You!
- Keep it Simple
- Set Clear Rules
- Formalize it
Keep it Simple
You can make the Year-end Review process as simple or as complex as you like. It’s a document you’re creating for yourself, not for anyone else, so it needs to be something that speaks to your own thought processes. For me, it’s a document with an overall assessment of the stuff I faced through the year followed by a section for specific goals and values, an area for Big Events (if there were any), and a summary. I add at least a sentence to each section. Sometimes, I make lists or use phrases. Sometimes, I write long paragraphs.
Set Clear Rules
I stick to a few simple rules as I’m accessing my progress. First, I never use disparaging or shaming language. If I find an area or goal that I haven’t addressed during the year, I take a few moments to think about why I might not have worked on that area. I write my thoughts on the matter down, even if the answer is as simple as “I don’t know why I chose to not work on this area last year.” I make a separate list of those areas as ones for further examination in the upcoming year and forgive myself for ignoring them in the year past without letting myself feel bad about doing so. The important part when it’s something I’m not feeling great about is to stay factual without using judgmental language.
Second, I always make it my own. I originally began with a set of areas defined by others, like Relationships, Household, Work, and Health, but I tailored them to reflect what I really value or want to work on. Maybe Relationships isn’t a place I want or need to focus, but Self Esteem is. I go ahead and change it. Maybe Household doesn’t apply to my life at all while I need to add a category to cover my Service value. I always look at the goals I set at the beginning of the year for my categories, then I think through the year’s events and add or alter those categories to describe what I did rather than stick to the original structure rigidly.
Third, I include as many concrete details as possible. I like to use facts to back up my assessments. For instance, in my section on Health, I include a list of programs I did (Yoga weekly, Meditation daily, Taekwondo weekly) along with changes or strategies I may have tried (a webinar from MawMawKelli, Juice Plus daily for the second half the the year, a 10-Day Shred in Fall). I include how those felt, how well they worked, and what I learned as a result as makes sense. I try to always have some kind of specific, concrete experience to backup my thoughts and feelings because that helps me stay grounded and not delude myself. It’s too easy to think back and claim you did much better or much worse than you actually did when you don’t attach those assessments to concrete facts or experiences. The point of the Year-end Review is to take a truthful, honest look at your choices as an avenue to claiming and owning your power to shape your life. Exaggerating or glossing over your progress won’t help you do so.
When I’m satisfied with my Year-end Review, I formalize it by printing a copy and putting it into a three-ring notebook. Each year, I take a few moments to glance over what’s already in there. It feels amazing to see how far I’ve come and to note how my values and choices have shifted through the years. The time I’ve devoted to doing my Year-end Reviews has offered me great opportunities to bring my life into focus, to recognize the values I’m living (and those I want to live), and to recognize how much I have accomplished even when it’s felt like I’m barely growing at all.
This year, take the time to do your own Year-end Review if you’d like to reclaim your power to shape your life. It’s an easy, enlightening process you can use to bring your life, your values, and your goals into focus…and recognize how much you’ve grown as a result of the many choices you’ve made through out your past year.