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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, I think it is very helpful to do a yearly review.
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 a yearly review.
And before we go any farther, let me just say this: you can also do monthly reviews, quarterly reviews, even weekly or daily reviews if you want. The purpose is the same: to learn from the past so you can have a better future.
A Yearly 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.
If you want to do a yearly review, you need to think through several questions and make your own lists. Your lists will show you where you need to focus next year, both personally and professionally, and what you should be celebrating this year.
Use Categories for Your Yearly Review
In the post on The Goal Setting Process, I shared the eight areas of life that I focus on when making goals. You can add, subtract, or completely change these areas. And if you don’t know where to start, these might give you some ideas.
8 Areas for Review
- Marriage – this includes anything and everything related to making my marriage better.
- Relationships – this includes my relationships with my grown sons and their wives, my grandchildren, extended family members, friends, and people whose friendship I’d like to cultivate.
- Faith & Ministry – I added ministry to this category because I think spiritual growth and ministry are – or at least should be – linked together. I do not limit ‘ministry’ to my church, but also include areas in the community or areas I’d like to pursue.
- Career – this one is mostly self-explanatory, but aside from business goals, I also include learning goals that will affect my career.
- Finances & Giving – no need to explain
- Home Projects – Anything home related – from spring cleaning to remodeling the kitchen!
- Personal Growth & Self-Improvement – I have anything health-related here. Items like weight loss, regular medical care, and joining a gym would all fit in this category. But so would personal growth items like improving time management and scheduling regular unplugging time.
- Fun & Recreation – I need this category because I am so prone to work-work-work. Having “Fun & Recreation” as a separate category helps me focus on making the time for downtime!
The Steps for Your Yearly 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 I get to the questions, there are a few things I want you to remember.
- First, these are suggestions only – use what works for you, add and subtract however you need.
- Second, although I am suggesting a yearly review, the questions can also be used for shorter review periods.
- 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 a Yearly Review
This looking back and making notes process may take you only 15 minutes or it could take up to an hour. When considering items to list, be as thorough and as specific as possible. And make sure you list both positive and negative events or accomplishments.
Most people, and women in particular, are very hard on themselves. When you take the time to record what you did right, what you accomplished, what you succeeded in doing, then you are more excited about heading into the future to do more. Record those victories!
Prayerfully Consider Your Missteps and Failures
We all make mistakes. We all fail at times. It’s what we do afterward that makes the difference. 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 you need to enlist an accountability partner or group to achieve success.
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,…). In my life, these do not always become “Goals” with a capital “G.” Instead, some are “goals” that may not dramatically change my life but will bring greater blessing and joy to my life and others.
This kind of lower ‘g’ focus is great! Not everything you plan for the future has to be an awesome, life-changing “Goal.” Although I do have those and think you should too!
For example, in my 2019 review, I noted that (in “Relationships”) my husband and I didn’t spend enough time with our adult children. Face it – at this stage, it’s all about the grandchildren!
But I want to be more intentional in building those parent-adult child relationships. So one of my small ‘g’ goals is to have dinner or do an activity (movie, bowling,…) once per quarter with each couple (no grandkids).
All that will take is calendar coordination and a babysitter. I’m hoping we can make it work!
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 small-g goal for each category. Large-G Goals are fine also but don’t overwhelm yourself.
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. That is an entire process in itself, and I covered it in detail in Turning Goals into Plans.
But, again, don’t get overwhelmed!
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!