How To Conduct A Year-End Review

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My Year-End Review Process

I have been doing year-end reviews since 2004. It is one of the most meaningful practices that I have in my life.

At the end of each year, I spend two or three days going through that year’s calendar, journal, photos, and finances in order to reflect on how I used my year. As I reflect, I fill out my year-end review Word document.

At the end of my review, I’ll have a 30-40 page summary of that year. I then use that summary to extract the top lessons that I learned that year and record that as a podcast lesson to share with everyone. Once I’m done doing that, I print the review and keep a copy in my journal for me to go back and review in the future.

My goal is not to have you copy my system but to create your own. The important thing is that you conduct an annual year-end review.

My hope is that this will become an annual tradition for you that will be a bless- ing to you, your family, and everyone that you choose to share it with.

Imagine that 50 years from now you will be able to go back to each year of your life and read a high-level summary of what happened that year. What a gift! Let’s begin!

Why do a Year-End Review?

I first learned about doing a year-end review from my mentor, Larry Bettencourt. He taught us that you don’t grow just by getting another year older; you develop through reflecting, learning, and making changes as necessary.

John Maxwell said it best when he said, “Experience isn’t the best teacher, evaluated experience is.” A year-end review is an opportunity to evaluate the year that has just passed and to learn from it.

Experience isn’t the best teacher, evaluated experience is.” -John Maxwell

It is also a way to document your life. Imagine being able to go back to any year of your life and read a summary of where you were that year, what goals you had, what you accomplished, the losses, the lessons learned, and so on.

Not only will you be able to go back through your year-end reviews, but so will your kids and your grandchildren. Creating a year-end review is another way to leave behind a legacy of a life well lived.

If you will stay consistent in conducting year-end reviews, it will become one of the most impactful things you do in your personal, professional, spiritual, and leadership journey.

Ready to get started? Let’s go!

Preparing for Your Year-End Review

Schedule It

What gets scheduled gets done. The first thing you need to do is put your year-end review on the calendar. Give yourself at least 8 hours to conduct the review. It usually takes me 2-3 days because I spend so much time extracting things out of my journal and into the document. If you are in a season where you can get away by yourself for a day or two for a personal retreat, I’d encourage you to do that. Schedule it now!

Find a Place

Next, you need to determine where you will conduct your review. You can do it in your home office, at a local coffee shop, or in a park if you live somewhere warm. Wherever you choose to do it, make sure it’s a quiet place that inspires you and enables you to focus.

What to Bring:

You’ll want to bring your computer, your journal, and your phone (strictly to use for going through your calendar and your photos for the year).

Conducting Your Year-End Review

Once you get to your location, it’s time to jump into the review. You’ll want to open the Word template. Once the document is open, you’ll want to start your review by reviewing your journal, your calendar, your photos, and your finances. As you go through each of these, you’ll extract content and start filling in the following sections:

The Year-End Review Summary

This section is to be completed at your year-end review. It’s a summary of your entire year from an 80,000-foot view.

Themes for the Year:

Were there any themes for you this year? What were they? Use your journal to reflect on commonalities throughout the year.

Tough Questions I got asked this Year:

While this one might really require you to think, it’s important that we remember the tough questions that we were asked. We tend to grow more from the questions we are asked than the advice we’re given. Once you find a life-changing question, record it so you never lose it.

We tend to grow more from the questions we are asked than the advice we’re given.

Best Lessons Learned:

In this section, list any lesson, quote, thought, etc. that had an impact on your life, leadership, or career. Lessons can be easily forgotten if they are reflected upon infrequently.

Blessings:

What blessings did you experience throughout your year?

What you’ll find is that the more you reflect on your blessings, the more thankful and content you become in the present. Sometimes as leaders, we become so ambitious and ready for the next thing that we neglect to be grateful for what we have now.

Highlights:

What sticks out as your top highlights for the year? What were the most exciting wins?

Lowlights:

What were the bummers of the year? What were the losses? List some of the overall cons for the year.

Memories:

Make a bulleted list of all of your favorite memories from the year. Use your journal and photos to help you reminisce. I tend to keep my memories on a different document as it tends to get pretty long.

Accomplishments:

What were your greatest accomplishments? List out your accomplishments professionally, spiritually, personally, athletically, academically, etc.

Goal Assessment:

When I’m doing the Goal Assessment portion of my Year-End Review, I do this by asking four questions:

  1. What were my goals?
  2. Did I accomplish them?
  3. If not, why?
  4. What should my goals be next year?

Most Influential People in my Life:

Who made a significant impact on you this year?

Things I need to do:

What things did you want to do that you didn’t get to?

What did God speak to me?

If you’re a person of faith, this will be one of the most important sections of your year-end review. As you go through your journal, make sure to record anything that you believe God spoke to your heart. It’s amazing to be able to go back through the years and see what God spoke to us.

What encouraging things did people speak into my life:

If someone encouraged you or challenged you and it made an impact on your life, write down what they said so you won’t lose it!

What Affirmations did I speak over my life:

What did you need to speak over your life this year?

Things I prayed for:

What did you pray for this year? What prayers did God answer that year? What are you still believing God for?

What Opportunities did I have:

This section is for you to list exciting opportunities that you had in the previous year.

Most Influential Speakers (authors, podcasters):

Who spoke to you through their content? Books? Podcasts?

Best Movies:

This is a fun category. What were the best movies you watched this year?

Books Read:

What books did you read this year? How did they impact you?

The Top Books I Read:

Take your book list and narrow it down to 3-5 books that made the most impact. Consider writing a letter to the author thanking them for the impact they’ve made on you.

Funniest YouTube Videos:

Here’s another fun one that I love to record. Make sure to include actual links so that you can go back and watch the videos from year to year.

Best Shows:

What were the best shows you watched this year?

Bucket List Items Completed:

Do you have a bucket list? If not, you should create one and aim to cross of 1-5 bucket list experiences a year.

Write out any bucket list experiences you crossed off this year.

Places I traveled to:

Where did you go this year? What made these places so meaningful?

Interesting People I met:

Who did you meet this year that was interesting?

Statistics & Finances

This next section in the Year-End Review is mostly just filling in numbers and stats. Although this takes a lot of time, trust me, it’s worth it. Data is so crucial to our growth as people and as leaders. How will we know if we are improving if we don’t track our progress?

Take the time to fill out the following section. ou won’t regret it!

Statistics:

Social Media:

  • Website
  • Podcast Stats
  • LinkedIn:
  • Twitter:
  • Instagram:
  • Facebook:
  • EmailSubscribers:
  • Podcast:
  • YouTube:
  • Speaking Engagements:

Finances:

Ending Balances of Accounts:

  • Income
  • Expenses
  • Giving
  • Investments

Where did I spend the most money?

  • Keep this to 3-5 categories. (i.e., Groceries, Vacations, etc.)

Financial Goal Assessment:

How did you manage your money this year? What do you need to do differently next year?

How did I spend my time?

As you go through your calendar, evaluate how you used your time. Where did you waste time? What can you do in the next year to become better at time management?

What to do with Your Year-End Review

Save it and Print it!

I save a copy on my computer, and a copy online, and I also print out a copy and put it in a folder because I don’t want to lose it.

The Three Letters

As I go through my review, I select the top three most influential people in my life that year and write handwritten letters to them letting them know the impact they’ve had on my life. It’s a way for me to express gratitude and a way to encourage those leaders to keep making a difference.

Year-End Review Dinner

My wife and I both conduct year-end reviews. Once we complete them, I schedule dinner at a nice restaurant. We go out to dinner, and we reflect and share about our year-end reviews and what we learned.

We also take time to talk through the upcoming year and what hopes and dreams we have. It’s always one of the highlights of our marriage each year.

Conclusion

That is my year-end review process. Again, the goal is not for you to copy my process. The goal is for you to create your own. I hope I gave you a good start!

As you conduct your reviews, if you add anything to the process I created, I would love to hear how you do yours. I’m always looking to improve my process! Feel free to send me an email to dougsmith@l3leadership.org. I’d love to hear from you!

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