Your Best Year End Review For 2023 To Set Up Your Best 2024
Doing a year end review is a lot like brushing your teeth, or scrubbing the bathroom. Sometimes you just want to skip it and get to the shiny new stuff like buying a new planner, or making a vision board. While those are definitely fun and interesting, if you want to truly learn from your past successes and failures, and allow those lessons to propel you into even greater success, they looking back is the surest way to do so.
Think of it like giving yourself a report card. Going through this exercise will help you to recognize if you’ve been “talking too much in class” (or spending too much time on social media?) Of if you “lack follow through / doesn’t complete assignments” (how many half finished projects do you have around the house?) Of have you been “very conscientious” (taking good care of yourself and space?)
If you want to make 2024 your best year ever, (and who doesn’t), you need to start with a year end review
That means giving 2023 your best, most honest and hard-core year-end review. If you’ve been doing periodic reviews over the course of 2023, this will be quick and easy. If, not, go ahead and give it your best. Everyone has to start somewhere, and this is a great time and place to get going. If you want to have the best chance of having your plans for 2024 succeed, then do that by looking back at 2023. From this review, you will find what worked, and therefore what you should do more of, and what didn’t work for you and what you need to change to be more successful next year. Year end reviews are the foundational keystone to springing forward into your best year ever. Doing a good review will keep you from repeating mistakes and allow you to learn from all your experiences.
A successful example
For example, suppose that one of your goals was to learn French. So, you downloaded Duolingo, and practiced every day. At the end of the year, you get a report that you learned 1165 words and have a 270-day streak going.
This is an example of a time that you can see that you had a goal and took the necessary steps to move towards achieving your goal. Further suppose that you were motivated by the various badges that you could earn, and friendly competition with your friends who are also learning languages on Duolingo. There were both fact driven and emotional reasons that you stuck with your practice. By reviewing your progress, as well as looking at the things that helped you stick with it, you have learned that you are motivated by rewards (gaining badges and increasing levels) as well as working together with friends increases your interest and accountability. If you want to see similar success with other projects or goals, it may be helpful to look for ways to show that you are making progress, or to include your friends.
An Example with Many Lessons to Learn From
Now imagine that your goal is to live in a clean house. Now it is the end of the year, and you look back and evaluate that you haven’t actually cleaned your house. When you reflect on this miss, you realize that you never put time to clean on your calendar. You never acquired cleaning supplies or tools. And you hate working alone.
From this evaluation, you learn that you have to schedule time on your calendar to do tasks that you find mildly irksome. You also learn that you need to plan ahead of time to have all the tools and supplies that you will need to complete the task, or else you will put it off. With this information, as well as the above lessons you can take a different approach this year. You decide to put the cleaning supplies that you need in your basket at the store so that you will have them available to you. Next you block off two hours on Saturday to clean your house, with specific assignments for each week. Finally, you challenge your friends by posting before and after pictures on your social media to see how much they can clean their houses, creating friendly competition, and accountability.
What is the difference between these two examples?
In the first one there was a goal, as well as a plan and follow through. In the second one, there was a goal, yet, no plan, and no follow through. How do you get the results of the first one? Simple. Or at least figuring it out is simple. Take some time to review, reflect and assess. From the answers to those questions, you will find the guidance you need to learn from your prior experiences and achieve the outcome that you desire.
Let’s walk through how you can do your own review, reflection and assessment of a goal that you have from 2023.
Think of a goal or project that you worked towards in 2023. Next, write down what went well for you. What did you enjoy about the process of working towards this goal? Were there things that didn’t go well? What roadblocks did you run into? Be as specific as you can. Did you run out of time? Resources? Did you prioritize it? Or not? What else were you working on? What went well with that project? How can you take what you learned from the things that went well and apply it to the things that didn’t go well?
Here are your lessons.
Look at the things that you wrote down. Here are your answers. You have the things that worked and where you need to do things differently. Some of your answers may be greatly applicable to many projects and aspects of your life. Some answers may be specific to certain situations. No matter what, you have gained valuable information from your year end review that you can use to lead you to greater success in the next year.
Let’s be honest, how long have you been setting the same intentions, pursuing the same goals? Are you ready to finally get from goals and intentions to done? The key is to finally take a step back and do a year end review. My secret is to be a detective while doing this, and not a judge. If at any point you start to feel bad or judgmental while you’re doing this, please take a break and remind yourself that this is a detective story. Alternatively, you can think of it as being a scientist. You want to use the scientific method to determine what’s going on. Make a hypothesis about what happened and check in to see if that’s what really is happening.
A really good year end review
So, what I’m saying is that we want to gift ourselves a really good year end review so that we can learn as much as possible about what we did (and didn’t) do last year. As far as year end reviews go there are three steps: review, reflect and assess.
The review step is very fact based. These questions are all about what exactly did you do? What happened? This is 100% “just the facts ma’am”. In this section we are gaining information about what happened.
- What were your 3 biggest wins this year?
- What were your 3 highlights from this year?
- What were your top 3 experiences?
- My days were most productive when…
- My days were least productive when…
- What do you wish you had time to do?
- What were 3 failures this year?
- What were your key decisions this year?
- What progress have you made on your goals?
- Favorite movie?
- Favorite show?
- What is one thing that you learned?
- What is one thing that you had never done before?
- What was your favorite place that you visited?
The second step is to reflect. This step is still scientific, and fact based, however these questions are about your emotions and feelings. The goal here is to gain more information about motivation. We want to figure out when and where you light up, as well as when and where you feel drained. From this perspective, you can figure out where you can direct your energy with a higher likelihood of success.
- What brought you the most happiness in the last (week, month, year)?
- What has been most empowering?
- What was your most embarrassing moment?
- When did you laugh the hardest?
- I was my favorite self when…
- When did I feel my best this (week, month, year)?
- My mood was best when…
- My mood was worst when…
- What kind of person have I been becoming this last (quarter, month)?
- What, if any themes have emerged for me this (week, month, year)?
- Summarize your previous (week, month, year) in 3 words – 2 sentences.
- What in your current thinking isn’t helping you?
- What has been most challenging so far?
- What would you do differently?
- What are you procrastinating about?
- What would help you take action?
- What did I do that will matter in 5 years?
- What did you do 5 years ago that matters now?
- What are the best things that you did for someone else this year?
- What are the best things that you did for yourself this year?
- What was the best advice you received?
- What was the best compliment that you received?
- What or whom are you most thankful / appreciative for this year?
The third step is assessment. These questions have the goal of putting things together. They are a lot of toddler questions, which ask “why?” I’ll remind you that there is absolutely NO JUDGEMENT at any point here. If you are drifting into a judge attitude, take a break, get your head straight and come back to it. Judgment will only distract you at this point. We don’t want that. We still want to be a cold-hearted detective or scientist about our own life. Really put the effort in to stay calm as you ask and answer these questions, the answers will truly reveal what you need to know to be more successful and accomplish your goals.
- What was your biggest (hardest) challenge?
- Name 5 things that are on your “not to do list”?
- Are you embodying your vision and theme for the year?
- What didn’t go well?
- What happened?
- List your key learnings from this year.
- What is blocking you from taking action towards your goals?
For each of these sections (Review, Reflect and Assess), take the questions that make sense to you and answer those questions. Feel free to skip any that don’t make sense.
Once you have answered all the questions, you have hopefully uncovered or owned up to what truly works for you and what doesn’t. You hopefully have some ideas for what you can do that will increase the likelihood of success, as well as some areas that you can work on.
Looking Forward (Finally!)
The next step will start to dive into the meat of the planning process. We will start with putting together a current vision, mission and values statements. Remember that your vision and mission are flexible and should reflect where you currently are on your life path. From there we’ll set goals and projects for the next year, and then break them down from big ideas to actionable steps.
If you’ve found this post helpful, you might want to check out some of the other posts in my Life Is A Puzzle series. They all focus on helping you find ways to put the pieces of your life together.
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What are YOUR thoughts? Did you find something new to consider? Are you going to give this a shot and see if it really is the key to designing your best year ever? Let me know in the comments below.