How To Conduct An Annual Life Review

Minute Read

Who do you want to become? What do you want to achieve?

The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a time when most people are hopeful about what they can accomplish in the new year. Resolutions to be happier, make more money, and get in shape are made all over the world every year.

These New Years resolutions are made year after year because they rarely get achieved. Why? Because people don’t take the time to review the past year, reflect on what areas of their life need attention, set measurable, specific goals, and create actionable steps to achieve them.

Creating an annual life review does just that. You’ll be able to see what you’ve accomplished and what needs more of your attention and give yourself an action plan for the new year that actually means something to you.

This year may be your best year yet.

What An Annual Review Is Not

Your annual life review is not the same as setting a resolution. In fact, most resolutions are broken after January 10. Instead, you are going to be making a plan of action for yourself to follow in the new year, with steps that actually matter to you.

That being said, your annual life review is not a rigid plan with a strict daily schedule, either. It’s meant to be your life and your plan, so you can change it as needed. If you start to hate your plan, change it. It’s all for you.

There is one more thing that your annual life review is not meant to be. It is not meant to be made up of vague, immeasurable goals. Your goals need to be specific, measurable, and actionable. Otherwise, you won’t know when you have achieved them. Everyone would like to “make more money”, but if you set a goal of making a certain amount, it’s much easier to work toward and know when you’ve reached your goal.

How To Conduct Your Own Annual Life Review

Usually, by the end of the year, we have forgotten most of the things we have done during the year. Our accomplishments and setbacks get lost among everything else that we have going on. Taking the time to reflect first allows you to look at what has changed in your life.

Start by Reflecting on the Previous Year

It may be helpful to start by recalling the things you did in the past year. A good way to do this is to create a timeline of things that happened in each month.

Image suggestion: table with the first column being the months and the second column having a bulleted list of things that were done in that month

Read through this list to jog your memory of things you may have done this year. Did you:

  • Start a new habit
  • Learn a new skill
  • Complete a course
  • Earn a degree
  • Learn a language
  • Fall in love
  • Get married
  • End a relationship
  • Start a family
  • Make a friend
  • Get a promotion
  • Start a new job
  • Earn a raise
  • Start your own company
  • Get an award
  • Take a vacation
  • Visit a new place
  • Move

Have a look at your timeline and you’ll be able to see how much you were able to do in one year.

A good annual review focuses on blending positive affirmations about what went well, and constructive criticism about what you need to improve. Ask yourself two questions:

What went well this year?

What did not go well this year?

Be honest with yourself and be prepared to examine both your successes and your failures. Give between six to eight answers for each question. Focus on the events that you could control. If something didn’t go well but it was out of your control, do not put it on the list.

Now you have a list of what your successes and failures were. You have a comprehensive list of what you did all year. Reflect by asking yourself these questions, and remember to be honest with yourself:

  • What were your two biggest accomplishments this year, and what contributed to them?
  • What were your two biggest failures, and what did you learn from them?
  • What goals were you unable to accomplish this year? Why?
  • What goals do you wish you had accomplished this year? What can you do about them next year?
  • How did you grow in the past year; what have you changed, what is different?
  • What were the three best decisions you made this year? What did you learn?
  • What were the three worst decisions you made this year? What did you learn?
  • What healthy habits did you incorporate into your life? What bad habits did you adopt?
  • What new skills did you develop?
  • What were the biggest obstacles you were able to overcome this year? How?
  • What were the three highest points of the year for you? What happened and what did you learn?
  • Where did you dedicate too much of your time or resources?
  • What were the three lowest points of the year for you? What happened and what did you learn?
  • What new relationships enhanced your life - who and how?
  • What single person had the biggest positive or negative impact on your life? How?
  • What personal relationships do you value most? What professional relationships do you value most? What is it about these people that makes them important to you?
  • What 5-10 words would you use to describe this year?
  • What are you most thankful for?
  • What were the top lessons you learned this year?

Now that you’ve had a good look at the year and taken time to reflect on it, you’re ready for the next step.

Assess Your Life at this Moment

Don’t worry about how you felt at any other point in the year. Right now, while you’re doing this annual life review, is what matters. Assess your satisfaction in each of the categories, with 1 being “highly unsatisfied” and 10 being “couldn’t possibly get any better”. The goal of this assessment is to be able to see what areas of your life need the most focus in the coming year.

Image suggestion: something similar to this Wheel of Life, but with 10 categories: health, family & friends, love, money, career, fun, spirituality, personal growth, technology, environment

  • Health: How is your energy level? Are you getting enough sleep? How is your mood, mental health, nutrition? Are you getting exercise?
  • Family & Friends: How do you feel about your relationships with family members? With friends? With coworkers?
  • Love: How do you feel about romance, intimacy, and sex in your life? Do you feel like you connect and communicate well with loved ones?
  • Money: How do you feel about your income? Expenses? Financial freedom? Amount of debt?
  • Career: How do you feel about your current role and status at work? The industry you work in? Your work/life balance? Are you happy with your career trajectory?
  • Fun: How much of your time is devoted to fun, recreational activities? Do you go to events? Travel? Spend time outside? Play any sports?
  • Spirituality: Do you make time to meditate? Do you practice any religious beliefs or rituals? Are you connected to some type of higher power?
  • Personal Growth: Do you spend enough time on self-improvement? Are you making time to read, learn, or train?
  • Technology: Do you spend too much time online? Are you setting aside time to disconnect? How do you feel about your relationship to your devices?
  • Environment: How do you feel about your living space? Your workspace? Your city or town? Your country?

After completing your assessment, you should be able to see where you are out of balance and what areas need work.

Set Categorized Goals for the New Year

Set your goals for the new year in a few different categories that matter to you; keep your life assessment in mind when creating your categories. By breaking things up into categories, it will be easier to see what areas of your life need the most focus.

Some ideas may be:

  • Business
  • Travel
  • Health
  • Friends and Family
  • Income
  • Financial Saving
  • Learning
  • Service
  • Spiritual

You certainly don’t need to use all of these categories, and you may be able to think of other categories that better apply to your life. Try to think of between three to five goals for each of the categories you choose to use. These goals should work toward improving your satisfaction in those areas of your life.

Remember to keep your goals specific and measurable. Instead of “read more”, set the goal of “read one book each week”. Instead of “get in shape”, set goals to “run 20 miles a week” and "run a marathon".

List What Actions are Required for Each Goal

Knowing what steps you need to take to achieve your goals is key to actually accomplish them. If you set goals and don’t work toward them, you’ll never achieve them.

Focus on the major actions required for each goal, not each tiny step you need to take. If you want to read one book each week, how will you achieve that? Your actions might be to carry a book with you when you go out or to set aside half an hour before bed to read.

Give Your Year a Theme and a Statement

Now that you know what all of your goals are, see if there is an overarching theme. Perhaps this year will be your year of transformation, in which you focus on building positive health habits. Maybe it will be your year of business growth, where you have set yourself goals to hire an assistant, outsource aspects of your work, make more time to network, and increase your income by 25%.

Create Some Metrics for You to Monitor for the Year

Each person’s metrics will be very different because they will depend on your goals. At the end of the year, it’s interesting to look back and see how you’ve done, especially if this is a routine that you maintain each year.

Some ideas for metrics could include:

  • New countries visited
  • Books read
  • The amount in a savings account
  • Courses taken
  • Net income
  • Languages learned
  • Miles run

This section is a way to track your progress in your life over a number of years. From one year to the next you can see how much time you dedicate to reading, or how your income changes, or how dedicated you are to fitness.

Review Your Goals Regularly

Each month, have a look at your goals and action steps to see what you need to work on next. Note what you have already accomplished and what you still have left to do.

Set aside some time, about 30 minutes, each season - spring, summer, and fall - to review your goals and see how you are progressing. Are there goals you have already achieved? Are there areas that you have not been focusing on?

Your final review will be at the end of the year, where you can see what goals you accomplished and what you need to work on in the next year. Your successes and failures, the changes you’ve made in your life, the relationships that have altered, all of this is important to reflect upon so that you know what to do in the new year.

When you set aside the time to conduct an annual life review at the end of each year, you’ll be able to see how far you have come. When you can see what areas of your life are causing you dissatisfaction, you can set measurable goals and take actionable steps toward improving them. Even if you aren’t able to achieve each of your goals by the end of the year, you’re much farther ahead than you would have been without a plan.