Why I Do Year End Reviews (And 6 Questions for Your Review)

January 1st, New Year

(Image: Roobcio)

Note from Celes: While this post is on doing year-end reviews, you don’t need to wait till the year end to do a personal review — you can do so at any time of the year. The questions at the end of this post will get you started.

Hi everyone! The year is coming to an end, and soon it’ll be the new year. Are you ready for the new year? Are you ready for a year of excitement and new challenges?

Before we welcome the new year, let’s do a year end review. Long-time readers would know that I do an annual year end review at PE. I first started doing annual reviews in 2007, and today I do it both for myself and with my coaching clients.

To me, doing an annual review is like getting your report card. I remember back in school, I would be excited when it was time to get our results, especially if I had prepared for the exams and gave them my all. It’s the same with my year end review… except that these results aren’t for my studies — they’re bigger. They’re for my life. Likewise, doing your annual review is about your life.

In this post, I will guide you through your year end review.

Importance of Year End Reviews

So why do a year end review? 4 simple reasons:

1. Identify your lessons for the year

What did you experience this year? What have you learned from them?

Every life experience brings along important life lessons. While we can let these incidences pass us by, it’s much more important to understand them, process them, and identify learning points. Life is like a school, and its lessons are often dressed up in our circumstances, the problems we face, and our failures and victories. Rather than live year after year without learning anything — which is no different from sleepwalking — I encourage you to actively think about what you have learned and gained for the year.

Looking back at my 2007 review, one of the biggest lessons I learned is that our reactions to life’s circumstances is a choice, and it’s up to us to make the best out of them. This realization came after a highly intense period at my previous job. While I was already a positive person then, I was in such an intensely stressful and negative situation that I became very negative, unhappy. After a period of feeling miserable, I realized that the reality was such and it was up to me to make the best out of it. I could either sit and bitch about it all day which would do nothing to change the situation, or take action and make the best out of it. I wrote about this experience here: The Night I Cried

This small shift in mindset led to a big shift in my reality — I became much more proactive and solution-oriented. I subsequently realized that many of us create so much unnecessary baggage when dealing with life’s circumstances, when it’s about taking action to create the lives that we want. Happiness is truly a choice.

Because I write down what I learn in my life handbook, I get to build on my lessons every year. Rather than loop through similar circumstances or linger on in problems, I would think about what I have learned and react differently, in a way that breaks me out of the problem. This has helped me move quickly in my growth every year.

2. Review what has happened this year

Many things can happen in a year and this is the perfect time to round them up. What happened this year? Did you face any ups and downs? Did you get a promotion? Did you recently quit your job and join a new workplace? Did you just start a business? Did you move to a new place? Did you end an unhappy relationship? Did you end a bad friendship? Did you move on from a bad partnership? Did you get some breakthroughs? Did you welcome a new birth? Any major events that happened? Or perhaps nothing significant happened?

This is the perfect time to wrap up the year. If there was any unhappiness this year, time to trash it all out. If there were any happy events, it’s good to review them and feel gratitude. This is the time to tie up loose ends, get resolution to open problems, and get ready for what’s ahead.

3. Regain focus

After working for a few years, you’ll find that the years sort of blend into each other. Soon, it’s hard to tell one year apart from the next. Subsequently, it’s easy to fall into a routine without being conscious of it. Sometimes I hear my friends commenting that they’re not sure what exactly they’ve been doing with the past few years of their lives, because everything seems like the same.

It’s just like driving. When you’re driving, it can be hard to see where you are and where you’re heading to, since you’re stuck in the driver seat, only seeing what’s right before and after you. You start to get a myopic view after a while, and small problems can get magnified when they may be, well, just small problems.

On the other hand, pausing for a short moment to look at your map can be amazingly helpful. Where are you right now? How far have you traveled? Where do you want to go next? Doing so helps you regain focus. (On Day 4 of Live a Better Life in 30 Days, you get to create your life map, a map of your 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year goals.)

Like I mentioned above, doing my annual review is like getting my report card for my life. How do I grade my performance this year? Do I give myself an A+? A? B? C? D? Or even an F? The objective isn’t to berate ourselves or beat ourselves up. It’s to let us know if we have lived this year the best we can, and if not, what we can do to make next year better.

4. Start the new year on a high note

Last but not least, your annual review helps you start the new year on a high note as you’ll be setting your new year goals.

For the year 2010, my one single biggest goal was to build my site traffic for PE. While I had many other goals, they were secondary to building my blog. Because I had that goal, I was a person on a mission while others were still figuring out what they wanted to do and filling their time with empty activities like checking Facebook and binge-watching videos, because they had not set their focus. By mid-2010 I had already exceeded some of my goals, and by year end I had accomplished what I had set out to do, and more.

Having such focus helps you make the best out of your days, weeks, and months. We may have one of the longest life spans among mammals, but when it gets down to it, 60-70 years on earth isn’t really long. Today’s modern world is structured such that we spend most of our lives working to fulfill others’ goals and earning money so that we can use whatever little time we have to achieve our goals. If you don’t take charge of your agenda, it’s easy for years to pass by without accomplishing anything on your list. What’s more, none of us can guarantee that we can live to our natural life span. There are always accidents, diseases, and illnesses. One moment we can be here, the next we can be gone.

We can’t directly control our time on earth, but we sure can make the best out of our life here. Hence, I encourage you to take stock, to think about what you want, and to work towards them. Even if it’s just baby steps, you’ll still be moving forward all the same. And that’s the most important thing: to keep moving forward in life, no matter what you’re facing. :) ♥

Exercise: Write Your Year End Review

Let’s get started on your year end review!

Take out your life handbook, or if you don’t have one, get any notebook or blank piece of paper. If you have a blog, you can copy the questions and answer them in a blog entry.

Set aside some quiet time with yourself, about 30-45 minutes. Write down your answers to the following questions:

  1. What are your biggest accomplishments this year? Accomplishments here refer to any results you are proud of. Having a kid, graduating from high school, changing to a new job, getting married, making new friends, and being in a new relationship are all considered accomplishments.
  2. What are your biggest lessons this year?
  3. On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with how you have spent this year? (If you prefer giving grades, what grade would you give yourself for how this year turned out, between an F and an A+?) Why?
  4. What do you want to accomplish next year such that it’s your best year ever? Alternatively:
    • If it’s now Dec 31 of next year, what do you want to have accomplished?
    • What would it take for you to feel 10/10 in happiness at the end of next year?
  5. What new habits can you cultivate to help you achieve your goals in question 4?
  6. What are your immediate next steps to achieve these goals?

Take as much time as you need. These are the very same questions I use for my annual review, so I’ve no doubt that you’ll find them useful. :) Feel free to skip or add questions as you like.

If you want, start with questions 1-3 first which are reflection questions for the year. Spend a couple of days to think about them before moving on to questions 4-6, which are about the year ahead.

Add a new appointment in your calendar that recurs every year and spans from Dec 28 to Dec 31, titled “My Year End Review.” Add this article URL (https://personalexcellence.co/blog/year-end-review/) in that appointment description. This way, you’ll automatically be reminded to do your year end reviews on December 28 every year. :)

My Past Year End Reviews

If you’re interested, here are my past year-end reviews from 2008 to 2016:

To You

How is your review for this year? What are your biggest accomplishments that you’re most proud of? What are your biggest lessons? What do you want to accomplish next year? And how can you get started right away? :)

Remember, don’t stress yourself up — if you’re not in a place where you can make big changes, baby steps will suffice. You’ll be surprised at what they can do. Read: The Power of Little Changes

For those of you looking to start your new year on a strong start, check out Live a Better Life in 30 Days (30DLBL). It’s my 30-day life transformation program where you get to answer hard questions and work on important, Quadrant 2 tasks to live a better life. It’s perfect to do at the end, start, or middle of the year, though you can really do it at any time. Read more: Live a Better Life in 30 Days