3 step year-end review processTis the season, and I’m not talking about holly and mistletoe. No, what it’s really the season for is introspection and reflecting on the year gone by. Yes, the end of December is the perfect time for a year-end review, for taking a few moments to look at what you’ve accomplished over the past 12 months, and taking stock of all the things you still want to accomplish. It’s the time of year for reviewing your dreams, goals and plans and deciding what your strategy for the coming year will be so that you can totally crush it over the next 12 months!

My 3 step year-end review strategy

In today’s post I’m going to go over a year-end review exercise to help you understand yourself and your habits a little better, so that you can use this information over the next year. We’re going to look at what went well and at what happened when things didn’t work as well as you’d hoped. We’re going to do some serious self-analysis in this exercise, and I’m actually going to do the exercise right along with you so that you can see how it works, and how helpful it is in getting you clear about what needs to happen over the coming year if you want those dreams of yours to come true.

Step 1: Review what went right

The first thing to do when reflecting on the year gone by is to look at all the things that went well and figure out why.

  • Did you achieve any of your smaller goals this year? Which ones?
  • Did you make any progress towards a larger goal? What happened? Can you see how your accomplishment has brought you closer to making that big dream a reality?
  • What was your biggest success, or what accomplishment are you the most proud of?
  • What do you think was the biggest factor in your accomplishment of these things?

For me, my biggest accomplishment has been launching the Vibe Shifting web site and keeping it regularly updated. I also launched my podcast, the Vibe Shifting Show over the summer and got it listed in all three of the major podcast directories.

For the smaller goals, I created a presence for Vibe Shifting across the bigger social media platforms and have (slowly) started to build fan bases in each of these centres.

Reviewing what went right over the year and why it went right gives you insight into your strengths. Understanding your strengths will allow you to use them deliberately, and therefore to greater effect, next year.

For my larger goals, I started writing my first book and have outlined an online course that will complement it. I also have notes outlining a second book to follow. I’ve also started exercising regularly and have regained a lot of my flexibility. And I’m about 2/3 of the way through the requirements for my Toastmaster’s Competent Communicator (CC) designation.

I think the biggest factor in my successes this year has been consistent action. Even the bigger successes that I have had this year have been the result of a cumulative effect of ongoing baby steps; little actions, done regularly, that added up to big achievements overall. I’ve gotten myself into the habit of writing blog posts and creating podcasts every week. I’ve made lists of “to-do” items that need to be done in order to have certain things happen, and then made sure that I’ve gone through those lists and done each of those items. For my fitness goals, it’s been the same thing – getting myself into the habit of exercising and stretching every day, and that’s resulted in huge gains in flexibility and muscle tone over the last couple of months.

Step 2: Figure out your failures

Once you’ve taken a look at all the things that went well over the year, it’s time to take a good hard look at what didn’t happen, or didn’t happen the way you wanted it to.

  • What did you really want to achieve this year, but didn’t? Why didn’t you achieve it?
  • What else is disappointing about what didn’t happen this year? What do you think is causing this?
  • What is the biggest thing that’s been holding you back from achieving your remaining goals?

For me, I really wanted to publish my first book, start creating and providing webinars and online courses, and finish my Toastmasters CC designation this year – and I didn’t get any of them done. For my book, webinars and courses, it’s procrastination that caused it… I just can’t seem to find the time to work on them in between keeping my web site updated and looking after the kids. For my Toastmasters designation it’s a combination of procrastination and just not being able to think of speech topics that would work with the structure of the projects I have to complete, and the stage fright that leaves me shaking throughout every meeting in which I have to speak.

When you look at your failures for the year, don’t beat yourself up over it. The point of this exercise is to look objectively at the goals you did not manage to achieve, and figure out why you didn’t achieve them. Understanding the behaviours and/or mindset that contributed to your failures will give you insight into where and how you’re holding yourself back from the success you want, and once you realize that you’re doing these things, you can consciously do something to deal with it next year. 

I’m also really disappointed about the lack of traction my podcast has been getting, as well as the lack of interaction across my social media platforms. My podcast download statistics have been decreasing over the last couple of months and my social media sites aren’t doing much, even though most of them are updated regularly. I’m not sure what exactly is causing this – I suspect I just don’t have a good enough handle on what people want from these types of sites, so I’m just not giving them the kind of content they want. And lack of advertising… I haven’t done any, aside from limited Facebook ads, so I’m probably not doing a good enough job of getting the word out about Vibe Shifting and what I’m doing with it.

I think the biggest thing that’s been holding me back this year is self-confidence, doubt and fear. (Yes, there is a reason I write so much about those topics! 😉 ) I’m afraid of falling flat on my face if I take a really big leap on my bigger goals and of having to listen to what the people around me will inevitably say if I do.

Step 3: Decide what you’re going to do about it

Once you’ve taken a look at what went wrong, and why you think it went wrong, the obvious next step in this year-end review strategy is to figure out what you’re going to do about it next year.

  • How are you going to mitigate the things that held you back this year so that they don’t mess you up again next year? What specific steps can you take to do this?
  • What can you do mitigate that big thing that’s been holding you back?

In order to mitigate my ongoing problem with procrastination, I will take a good hard look at how I spend the pockets of time I do have during the day. Yes, I do spend most of my time looking after my small kids, but in the 10-15 minute pockets I can grab here and there, do I really need to be checking on my Facebook page, Twitter and email accounts every time? If I created a new routine of checking on these things first thing in the morning and then again at the end of the day, I could free up the other time pockets for writing and content creation. If I can at least get point form notes or outlines for blog posts done during these pockets, it would speed up the article writing process, which would free up my longer block of time after the kids go to bed for me to concentrate more on the book and courses.

In this step, you take what you learned in step one and step two, and create deliberate strategies for using this knowledge to your advantage next year. The key is to be specific about what you’re going to do; be clear about the action steps you’re going to take!

In order to fix the traffic and interaction problems with my podcast and social media sites, I could do some research into what types of content work best for these platforms and then tweak my posts accordingly. I could also look into traffic generation strategies like Google advertising or guest posting on other sites and see if that helps.

In order to mitigate the self-confidence issue, I could start meditating again, and start using affirmations specifically for that. I could also take the time to look within and figure out why this is such a big issue for me and see if understanding that helps to weaken it. I could also post some quotes around my workspace and bathroom mirror to remind myself that failure isn’t such a bad thing and that my path is mine alone, and other people’s opinions are irrelevant to what it is that I want to accomplish in my life.

Tying it all together

So if you’ve followed along throughout this (unusually long) post and done the exercises yourself, then you’ve probably already realized that the biggest benefit of the year-end review is the insight it gives you into how you “tick”. This kind of in-depth review really helps you to look at your strengths and weaknesses, and gives you something to focus on when you create your annual plan for next year (which we will be doing in my next post, so be sure to check back on Wednesday!). Once you’re aware of what the underlying factors in your successes from the past year are, and once you know what the habits and thought patterns are that have been holding you back from other successes are… then you know what you need to focus on in order to create a freaking awesome New Year full of even more amazing accomplishments!

photo credit: (c) Can Stock Photo
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