The Power of the Simple End of the Year Review

The past and the future
Image by Atli Harðarson (license).

At the end of the year I sit down and I take a look at my year.

I do it because it helps me to see the good things I did and that happened during the year. I do it because it helps me to find what did not go so well, to find what is important to focus on improving next year, to see in what ways I want to grow and to locate the habits I want to replace or add to my life.

And I do it because it is usually fun, very interesting and gives me an inspiring start to the next year.

First insights

So what I do is I sit down on my chair. I open an empty Word-document on my computer.

I like to keep things simple so I write down these two questions:

What went well?
What did not go so well?

I simply ask myself these questions one at a time and see what first insights pop up in my mind.

This year some examples were:

  • It was a good year for my business. The number of readers of the newsletter and the blog went up quite a bit and so did the income from my business.
  • It was a mediocre year for my fitness. I maintained my strength and aerobic capacity through exercise. But I didn’t grow in this area and I put in little time for most of the year. I didn’t really step things up until the end of the year when I started to lift heavier free weights and got back to doing at least 3 workouts per week.

Break it down

After my first insights I apply the two questions to some important areas in my life such as:

  • Health and fitness.
  • Relationships.
  • The business.
  • My personal growth during the year (habits added or neglected, improvements made, new areas of life explored etc).

Find and use categories that make sense in your life.

You may want to break things down even further and go over smaller sections of for example your relationships for like the ones you have with a partner, with friends and with co-workers. I usually do that in some areas.

The most common mistake I made with my insights

All of this gives me key insights about my life right now. So how does one use these insights?

Well, don’t do what I used to do and many people do: try to improve everything or many things at once next year.

Instead, look at the insights you got. Ask yourself: what are the most important ones for me? What are the ones that are most important for me to work on and will give me the biggest positive effect during next year?

Then just work on one habit or small area at a time. You have 12 months next year and if you take it in small steps you are far more likely to create changes that stick than if you try to cram everything into January. That just leads to overwhelm and habits not sticking.

I will, for example, spend January with getting back to journaling for at least 5 minutes one day per week. Journaling was something I used to do but it fell by the wayside.

I want to get back into it in small steps in 2013. Journaling will help me to focus on the essential. It will help me to review more closely how each week has gone both in my business and personally and it will help me to adapt more quickly and get more of the truly most important things done during next year.

Get the ball rolling today

If you have the time, then sit down for just 5 minutes today and get started with your end of the year review.

You don’t have to get it all done today. But by taking that first step right away you make it a lot more likely that you will follow through and complete this exercise. Or you’ll at least gain a few key insights about your life and how you want to grow during next year.

Happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2013!

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • khpulwak wakman

    hey Henrik you are great. i have followed your blog for some days you are sharing really useful material and they are really motivational. thanks. just keep on. best luck.

    • Will do! Thank you for all the kind words and have a wonderful 2013!

  • Sannah

    Nicely written, what i last read was a list of stories on a forum what to take with you from 2012 (and some wrote what to leave behind) and what to initiate/bring forward in 2013 of yourself.. It was very moving to read. Is likely based on a personal review :) of the past year. Thinking what will be my story. Thanks. Best for all in 2013 too

    • Thank you, hope you’ll come up with a good story for yourself for 2013!

  • Interesting points there, Henrik. It’s a mid like the mid and end-year review process most companies follow for employee appraisals.
    Clear, objective, and get’s you going right there.
    Great post! :)

    • That’s true, it is something something similar to that. And thank you for the kind words, have a great 2013!

  • Before I even started reading this post I got my journal out, I knew I was going to be taking notes! I actually wrote down the two headings you suggested and will keep adding ideas for the next few days, so I thank you for that!

    I’m glad that your business has gone well, and I wish you the best of diligence with it in the forthcoming year, although it’s a shame about your fitness, but at least you kept something up instead of being a couch potato! I look forward to reading about your ventures and how you get on in 2013 :)

    • You’re very welcome, Nick, hope you’ll find some good insights that will help you during next year. And thank you for the continued support, see you in 2013!

  • It’s true what you say about taking small steps. Take enough of them and you’ll be surprised at how far you have travelled.

    Keep your eyes set on the path before you, not on the mountain ahead.

    When you look up high at the peak from its base, the challenge seems too great. But if you look instead to each step you take along the trail, you will eventually find you’ve reached the top . . . the whole world layed out before you.


    • Very well written, Trevor. Thank you for adding your own powerful words about the small steps in life.

  • Thank you very much! Best of luck with creating a great 2013!

  • David

    Henrik Edberg, Hi I need help in my life. I think it’s about focusing on the present? Please e-mail me back, I might not find your reply.

  • Thao

    thank you for writing such an inspiring article.
    I will put these tips to good use, starting now!
    heres a better year :)

  • Great post with great reminders. I agree that it is very important for us all to reflect on what went well and what didn’t go so well so that we decide what we will continue and what it is time to release. I also wrote a review of lessons learned from last year that some of your readers might also find interesting at: Thanks again for your post!

  • Hey Henrik, just discovered your site and great site/post! Focus is definitely key… there are a million things we could do to improve ourselves but if we concentrate our energy on a few things we feel will make a difference then we’re going to feel more purposeful and do less procrastinating!