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Reflect & Refresh: A Guide to End-of-Year Self-Evaluation

For the past six years I've conducted what I call a "personal annual review." The reasons I do this are numerous and the benefits are proven. If you're interested in the full gamut of reasons I reflect at the end of each year you can read about them in articles I've written called, "Your Annual Review" and "Reflect to Renew."

However, with limited time and short attention spans, the one reason that I think may motivate you to conduct a year-end reflection is this: life moves so fast that if we don't stop to look back once in a while, we may forget where we have been and unintentionally go there again.

This is my seventh year of conducting annual reviews and quite frankly I became bored with my old format. It's a good template, but I needed change to maintain my engagement and ensure the process was worthwhile. I turned to social media to gather the best ideas my following had to offer.

As a Christmas gift to you, I've systemized, summarized, and standardized them for your use this year. In no particular order, here are three clear, concise, and comprehensive ways to reflect on your year.

The Clear Method

Named after James Clear, this method is the simplest of our templates and is centered around three questions. You simply ask yourself:

What went well this year? What didn't go well this year?

What am I working toward?

When utilizing this method for myself, I made it slightly more specific by asking each of those questions about specific areas of my life. Those areas for me were: physical, mental, spiritual, and relational.

3A+ Template

This method is based off of resources from the Arbinger Institute. While typically utilized for employee year-end reviews, this can be adapted for personal use as well. I recommend utilizing this .pdf template if you plan on implementing this method. This method looks simple, but requires a little more depth of thought than the Clear method.

First you'll identify roles you've played in your life this year. One example may be "Significant Other." Then you list out any efforts you've made towards improving that role and the results of those efforts. Then, you grade yourself on Capability, Impact, and Effort, all three of which are defined for you in the template.

Finally, and most importantly, you brainstorm and list steps for an action plan to either repeat success or improve upon shortcomings in that role. You'll repeat this for any and all roles you hope to improve upon for next year.

The Identity Method

Our final method of reflection is the one I personally employed this year in an effort to revitalize my year-end reflection passion.

There are four sequential questions, all building on the previous question, that drive this method.

What were the notable moments from this past year?

In this section I reviewed my calendar and photo album to create a short, written summary of the year. This included not only happy or positive moments, but challenging ones as well.

That's what happened, but who were you during those events?

This may be the most important question of the review. More than asking what you achieved, it forces you to consider who you became. This is based in the methodology of Identity-Based goal setting from James Clear's Atomic Habits. It is in this section that you should look back on your previous year's review to determine if you grew in the way that you intended to grow.

That is who you were, but who do you want to be going forward?

Most of us view New Year's as a time to set goals about what we want to accomplish. This method asks you who you want to become and I've found it to be a much more effective tool to accomplishing my goals. Here I listed the following: a servant, a learner, a man of discipline, and a motivator.

If that is who you want to be, then what do you have to do to become that person?

This section will feel most familiar to those of you who set goals with numerical metrics. Here is where I ask myself, "What type of activities do men of discipline do? What behaviors do learners exhibit? How do servants spend their time?"

By answering these questions I end my review with some concrete and numeric goals to strive towards.

There are a million different ways to conduct an annual review, but the important part is that you simply choose one and do it. We cannot hope to change our future without first considering our past.


Open up the Notes app on your phone, a Word document, or grab a pen and paper. Title your document "My Annual Review." There, you've already begun.


What is one thing you hope to change about yourself this coming year?


“Reflect upon your present blessings -- of which every man has many -- not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” - Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings

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