Here’s how I look back on the year (and make plans for 2020)

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

December 16 · Issue #13 · View online
The newsletter about work

Hi there, 
We’ve got a little over two weeks to go before the end of the year! It’s the perfect time to look back on your year and start thinking about how you see the year ahead. I want to show you how I’ve been approaching this the last few years.
Hope it helps you take stock, too.

Why take the time to reflect?
  • First of all it’s fun to do. Looking back on your year is super-rewarding. You’ll be amazed how much you’ve forgotten. Seeing what you’ve gone through, and what all you’ve done, will give you every reason to be proud. 
  • Looking back helps you do things differently in the future. You don’t even have to make new plans yet. Simply reflecting on the past year brings you insight that will work for you – consciously and unconsciously – well into 2020. Maybe you’ll see just how much you enjoyed that long vacation. Or you’ll notice you were at your best in those weeks you made time for a good book. Writing down this kind of observation about what works means it will undoubtedly be on your mind next year when you plan your week.
  • Making plans is the first step to making memories. People often ask me, Is it really necessary to put the fun stuff on my calendar? To set goals that have to do with friends and family life? My answer: Things may very well turn out fine without all that. Put it in writing, however, and you know for sure the important stuff will happen. And that’s what matters.
Set aside a day – or at least a good chunk of a day – for your own personal YearPlanDay. Mark it on your calendar today.
Here's a basic 3-step outline you can use
Step 1: Look back
  • Start by taking a good look at your year. Make an overview of what went well, and what could have gone better. Use your calendar, photos, and social media to refresh your memory.
  • Did you set goals? Make New Year’s resolutions? How’d that go?
  • Now look back on your year using whatever categories make sense for you. Here’s the list I’m using: Work, Partner and home life, Wider family, Friends, Health, Spiritual life, Skills, Side projects, Fun, Giving, Quitting, Money – Income, and Money – Savings.
  • Take a look at each quarter and jot down a couple of sentences about what you notice.  
  • Close by penning a few sentences about 2019 as a whole. How would you sum up your year?
Step 2: Brainstorm
Now take some time to think about all those things you’d like to do, in the broadest sense. Do this for whichever categories you used in step 1. Make your aspirations as big and bold as you can at this stage! You’ll make a selection later. 
Step 3: Set goals
In this last step, you take your brainstorm ideas and turn a number of them into concrete goals to work with in the coming 3 months. My only two criteria for your goals? You have to be super excited about them, and they must be framed in ways that make it 100% clear when you’ve met them or not.
New insight and tips
Like everything else, my approach to a yearly review is a Work in Progress. Here are some things I’ve learned since I started making a YearPlan 7 years ago.
  • Work together. My best YearPlans came about when I made plans with someone to work on our stories together. We’d then agree: Okay, in an hour we’ll discuss our look back. That’s something you can easily do remotely, by the way. You don’t have to actually sit down together to get the benefits. Just convene at the agreed time for a video call to discuss, then break out to work on the next step.
  • Consider “giving” in the broadest sense. Someone emailed me that my category “Money – Giving” was too limited, and I couldn’t agree more. Choose to look at “Giving” in broader terms, and all kinds of new possibilities open up.
  • Add a category called “Quitting”. It’s often difficult to fit new things into your life without first scrapping some old things. Use the “quitting” category to help. The chopping block technique (from newsletter #1) can be a lifesaver here.
  • Try new ways of working. I’ve used MindNode the past few years, which works brilliantly. Pen and paper can work well for the brainstorm session. But I love trying out new software; it’s a great way to come up with new ideas. 
So put it on the calendar today – your 2019 YearPlanDay. Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

Have a good week,

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