When December rolls around most people have two things on their mind: Christmas presents and New Years resolutions. While these things are no doubt important, I think we are skipping a vital step to ensuring a successful transition from this year to the next. Each December, I block out a portion of time to conduct an annual review, or year-end reflection, on my year.
Why Conduct a Review
This can be a time consuming process so understanding the importance behind this review will ensure you stay motivated when the time comes to start writing. I started conducting annual reviews when I was in high school, meaning at this point I have over ten years worth of life data to comb through. I have found the benefits to be multi-faceted. From simple reminders of the progress I've experienced in different areas of my life to guidance in making difficult decisions. Having specific information written down about your performance as a human being in a year can be paramount to your continued growth and development. The key here is simply writing it down. Even those with the best memories can't remember every detail of their life. To ensure we retain the value of the learning and growth experiences we have, we must write it down.
How to Conduct a Review
There are many ways to conduct your own review, but I have found the system I use to be the most complete and thorough. I used to hand write my reviews in a journal, but found it so time-consuming that I was cutting corners instead of fully and completely reflecting on the year. Now, I use a word document and simply title it "Jason Wetzler Annual Review_2021." I then evaluate four areas of my life that align with my values and priorities: Physical, Mental, Relational, and Spiritual. For each category I answer three questions.
What went well this year?
What did not go well this year?
What am I working towards?
For each category I will use subheadings to organize my thoughts. For example, under the "what went well" question in physical I may title one paragraph "nutrition" as a simple way to organize my thoughts. This also makes it easier to scan the following year when I reference the information to guide my next years review. Length is not important, but I usually end up with a little less than a page of typed text for each question and category (just under 10 total pages).
To ensure I am putting my best effort towards this reflection, I will only do one category at a time. I completed the physical category this morning and won't start another category until later this week. This helps me stay focused and ensures I am being thorough instead of simply completing the review to check a box.
Each year, when I finish my annual review, I always experience a sense of completeness. Something about processing the events of the previous year in writing allows me to move forward from any troublesome experiences I may have had. While this activity is therapeutic, I don't use it as an opportunity to move on and forget. Quite the opposite. Directly after finishing my review, I send it to those I admire most in life. I have a list of about ten people that I lean on to hold me accountable in life. I share my review with them and often this leads to incredibly valuable conversations around my growth and progress as a leader, husband, friend, and Christian.
No one can force you to reflect on your life. But I can tell you that if you feel a natural resistance to wanting to conduct an annual review, it probably means you need to.
Start by writing one sentence for each category and question. Twelve sentences, that's it.
How do you know if you're going somewhere better if you don't know where you've been?
"Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful." - Margaret J. Wheatley.