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The end of the year is traditionally a time for setting new goals and looking ahead. And I am right there with you! But first, you need to start with an end-of-year review.
Do you remember the old adage, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it”? That applies to your personal life as well as to big historical events. Even if you’ve already started (or finished) setting your goals for next year, you can still benefit from doing an end-of-year review.
Remember also that reviews aren’t just for the end of the year. You can do monthly reviews, quarterly reviews, even weekly or daily reviews if you want. The purpose is always the same: to learn from the past so you can have a better future.
- An End-of-Year Review Starts with Questions
- Use Categories for Your End-of-Year Review
- First Steps for Your End-of-Year Review
- Your Next Step: Dream Forward
- Next Steps
An End-of-Year Review Starts with Questions
In doing research for this post, I found several lists of questions to ask yourself. These question lists contained anywhere from 10 to 100 questions. I could handle 10 – but 100? I’d quit just thinking about it.
That said, I do have several questions that I ponder in doing a yearly review. However, I don’t usually write out my answers in complete sentences. I find that a list is most effective for me.
Lists are quick to make and quick to skim. In just an hour or less, I can have a list of what I’ve done, not done, enjoyed, missed, or lost. My lists make looking forward easier.
To do your own end-of-year review, you need to think through several questions and make your own lists. Your lists will help you decide where you need to focus next year, both personally and professionally, and what you should be celebrating this year.
Use Categories for Your End-of-Year Review
In Great Steps in the Goal-Setting Process, I shared eight areas of life to focus on when making goals. You can add, subtract, or completely change these areas, but these will give you a starting point.
8 Areas for Review
- Marriage – This includes anything and everything related to making your marriage better.
- Relationships – This includes relationships with your children – whether grown or still at home (and any spouses/grandchildren), extended family members, friends, coworkers, and people whose friendship you’d like to cultivate.
- Faith & Ministry – Spiritual growth and ministry go together. If you’re growing in your faith, your ministry will also be growing. Be honest about the state of your faith and spiritual growth – and how you are or are not doing ministry – and then use that information to make intentional goals to improve and grow.
- Career – This is mostly self-explanatory, but aside from busiess/career goals, you may want to also include learning goals that will affect your career.
- Finances & Giving – This should be obvious.
- Home Projects – Anything home-related – from spring cleaning to remodeling the kitchen!
- Personal Growth & Self-Improvement – This area includes anything health-related, such as weight loss, regular medical care, or joining a gym. But personal growth goes here as well – which includes things like improving time management, learning Italian (just because you’ve always wanted to), and limiting your tech time.
- Fun & Recreation – Everyone needs this category because we are all prone to work-work-work. Having “Fun & Recreation” as a separate goal category helps you (and me!) focus on making the time for downtime!
First Steps for Your End-of-Year Review
First, write each category on a sheet of paper, leaving plenty of room for notes. Usually, a half-page for each category is enough for me, but you may want to use a full page for each. Whatever works for you.
Next, use a list of questions to think through each category and make notes. These notes can be good memories, accomplishments, failures, disappointments, challenges, or anything else important to you in that category.
Before getting to the questions, here are a few things to remember:
- First, these are suggestions only – use what works for you, add and subtract however you need.
- Second, remember that these questions can be used for shorter review periods, such as quarterly or monthly.
- Third, you might want to have your calendar or journal handy to help you review an entire year. It’s amazing what you can forget!
- And finally, these questions are not designed to dig into the why of your answers. You may find that helpful, but it is not necessary to do it. Again, this process is about you and what works for you. Your goal is to gain insight into what is working in your life and what needs improvement.
Questions to Consider When Doing an End-of-Year Review
This process of looking back and making notes may only take you 15 minutes. Or it could take an hour or two – or even longer. Take your time and think long and hard about what you spent your life on last year.
It’s tempting to rush past this but – as with most things – the more you put into it the more you’ll get out of it. As you write your list, be as thorough and specific as possible. Don’t edit your thoughts – even if you’re unhappy with what you’ve done (or haven’t done) this past year. Being honest with yourself is a critically important part of this process.
Celebrate Your Successes and Victories
Remember to write down both the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. I don’t know if women are particularly bad at this, but all the ones I’ve known are great at finding all the bad, negative things in their lives and overlooking all the great, good, and positive things. Maybe men do that also – I’m not a man so can’t say for sure. But I’m pretty sure most women have made it an art form!
When you take the time to record what you did right, what you accomplished, and what you succeeded in doing, then you become more excited about heading into the future to do more. So, yes, be honest about your failures and flubs. But also be honest about your successes. Celebrate what you have accomplished!
Prayerfully Consider Your Missteps and Failures
We all make mistakes. We all fail at times. We all sin. It’s what we do after our failures, mistakes, and sins that makes the difference. Repentance is always in order. But guilt over failures – especially ones that aren’t sins – is never necessary. Don’t be consumed by the goals you didn’t meet and the things you didn’t accomplish.
Forgive yourself. Ask God’s forgiveness if your failure was a result of sin. Get a clean slate and begin again.
After praying over the areas where you fell short, think and pray about how to change things moving into the future.
- You may decide that a goal that was important to you last year, isn’t important this year.
- You may decide that the goal was too ambitious for one year, but you’ve made some progress and will keep going.
- You may find that God is changing the focus on your life, your heart, your ministry, and old goals no longer fit.
- You may decide to take an area of failure and turn it into an area of focus and prayer.
- You may decide to enlist an accountability partner or group to succeed.
Your Next Step: Dream Forward
After all this prayerful consideration and discussion with yourself and God, think about what you might want to achieve in each area in the next year (month, quarter,…). Pray about what God might want you to focus on. As Proverbs reminds us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
As you pray and think and dream, keep in mind that God-honoring goals are not always the earth-shattering kind. Usually, the low-key, daily-faithfulness goals bring the most long-term change, current joy and peace, and the greatest glory to God.
These are what I call “lower-case g” goals. They are what people typically think of when making goals. But they are critical. Examples of lower-case g goals include:
- Weekly date nights
- Intentional time with each of your children alone
- Studying the Gospel of Matthew
- Faithfully serving once a month in the church nursery
- Setting aside savings every month to avoid debt
- Choosing to unplug one day a week for dedicated family time
Now you know where you didn’t quite meet your own expectations and where you might want to make changes. Take that insight and list at least one lowercase g goal for each category. Large-G Goals are fine also but don’t overwhelm yourself. And those bigger goals are covered in more detail here and here.
After completing this review session and listing at least one goal in each life category, you are ready to get out the calendar and start planning. Start with the basics (kind of a “Goal-Setting 101”) and move forward at your own pace.
Just remember, don’t get overwhelmed! Your lowercase g goals really might be enough for this season.
Maybe you will want to take one or two categories at a time to plan and schedule. Maybe you’ll want to have a family meeting for one or more category planning sessions. And maybe you’ll decide to focus only on two categories at a time and just ‘keep on keeping on’ with the others.
Do whatever works for you and your family in this season of life. Without letting yourself just go with the flow and not work towards improving your life in at least a few areas! You’re either growing or dying – and growth always means effort and change.
Review the year – and then charge into the future!