Reviewing the Past Year (2010)

December 2010

in Self-mastery

Before planning for the upcoming year, it is still important to review the past year.

As mentioned in the last post, I start with cleaning up as many loose ends as possible (taking care not to burn myself out doing that). For example, empty out that email inbox! You don’t need to respond to everything, at least look at them all, delete/archive what you can, and get some to-do lists going for what you need to do.

Also, go through all the loose papers and odds-n-ends around the house. Process everything and file it all away. Get yourself into an organized state. (If this will take way too much time and effort, then I would consider skipping it for now to focus on the overall year review and next year planning.)

I do this with a mindmap with the following top-level categories. Every now and then, I wonder if I’ve gotten far too specific with them, but it always ends up working well for me. If you want to use fewer, more general categories, or do it differently in any way, by all means do.

  1. Worldview & Purpose — clarity of existence, purpose, and place in universe; beliefs; goals; philosophy of life; fundamentals; want out of life; values
  2. Contribution & Impact — giving value to the world; making a difference; positive impact
  3. Location & Possessions — living situation, where in the world, home, possessions, material sufficiency
  4. Money & Finance — savings, investments, assets, debt, organization, management, budgeting
  5. Career & Work — work, job, career, calling, business, networking, primary sources of income, engaged?
  6. Health & Fitness — diet, exercise habits, free of disease, overall energy level, healthy eating
  7. Knowledge & Education — knowledge, education, talents, skills, mental development, learning new things?
  8. Character & Integrity — intelligence, rationality, integrity, honesty, courage, compassion, honour, self-discipline
  9. Fun & Creativity & Adventure — experiencing what you want to experience; enjoying life; creativity; things do for fun; hobbies; recreation; adventure
  10. Productivity & Organization — memorized solutions, daily routine, schedule, effectiveness, organization, productivity
  11. Emotions — generally feeling about life; optimistic vs pessimistic, positive vs negative; emotional intelligence
  12. Social — home life, relationships, friends, social experiences, networking, clubs, organizations, community
  13. Partner — intimate relationship I have or want to have
  14. Communication — spreading ideas, discussing, influence, persuasion, arguing, philosophizing, debating, opinions, interacting, writing, speaking

And now, for each of these areas, answer the following two questions:

  1. What went well? What projects did you finish? What accomplishments did you make? How would you rate this area of your life?
  2. What didn’t go well? What could you improve? What did you fail to accomplish? What lessons can your learn?

I think it’s important to be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t write anything fluffy; write down how things actually went. But don’t beat yourself up if it didn’t go well. The important thing here is to get some clarity as to what you actually did and did not accomplish over the past year.

I also like to create a very short summary of the things that I did throughout the year, calendar style, that could be useful in the future to remember what you actually did. For example: the school semesters and classes you took and when; the major projects you worked on and when; the big trips you went on or goals you accomplished; important dates, etc.

Example: Money & Finance

This past year was an amazing year for me in this area. I managed to finally get rid of all my debt to my parents (from school), get a real income, saved up a decent emergency fund, and finally started building some investments. I also kept a budget, stuck with it (for the most part) and tracked all my expenses (for the most part) for the entire year.

What not too long ago was one of the most stressful areas of my life is now one of the least. And thanks to my past year reviews, I can easily see that this is the case.

Example: Emotions

This area wasn’t as good. I’m still finding it hard to be positive about things, and far too easy to be negative. By constantly telling myself I had so much to do, it was hard to be happy with what I did. And stressing about now accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish made me stress even more, which made it even harder to accomplish anything, etc. etc.

Overall, 2010 was a really good year. Though I find it hard to realize this as life is happening, when looking back over the past year it’s hard to not reflect about how good life really is.


Remember: the important thing isn’t to overly dwell on the past, but to use the past-year review to help plan for the next year, and make it the best year of your life!