How to Complete an Effective Yearly Review

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

In This Post

  • We explore the benefits of doing a yearly review
  • Provide examples of areas in your life to focus on
  • The best ways to gather evidence and information for your review
  • The benefits of asking yourself questions, clarifying what you’ve learned, and figuring out how you plan to change going forward

Why Should I Do a Yearly Review?

Want to learn how to easily complete an effective yearly review and reflect on your progress? A yearly review helps you to see how your expectations and goals were met (or not!). It can also help inform how you should approach the next year. Reflecting on your performance over the past year is a great way to analyse your behaviour and habits. It can help you identify patterns and allow you to learn and grow. Recognising your successes and acknowledging your strengths is important for keeping you motivated. Doing a yearly review can help with this.

At the same time, changing your undesirable habits and behaviours is only possible if you can recognise them. So, taking a moment at the end of the year to honestly reflect on how you’re doing is a very necessary reality check. If you’re thorough enough, it can be influential for your self development journey.

Below is our simple 5 step method for doing your yearly review:

1. What Life Areas Should I Focus On?

Part of the challenge of reviewing how the past year has gone is accurately figuring out what happened. It can be hard to recall how you reacted to certain situations, challenges and scenarios. This can be made easier if you split your life into separate areas. By splitting your life up into specific categories, it is easier to evaluate each individual part on its own. This should give you the information you need to make your full evaluation.

You can split your life up and evaluate how you did in whatever categories make the most sense for you. It might be that you only care about some specific life areas. Or, maybe you have some niche goals that require their own category. You should create a category for whatever is important to yo. Even if it’s an area you know you struggle with. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Money and finance
  • Work and career
  • Fun and recreation
  • Travel and experiences
  • Knowledge and information
  • Romance and love
  • Social (family and friends)
  • Health (physical, mental and emotional)
  • Service (community and volunteering)
  • Personal growth (mindset, confidence and self-esteem)

2. Gather Your Information

Now you’ve decided what areas you want to examine, the next step is to gather the information that will help you assess how you’ve done. This depends on the category, but for things like your finances, maybe you want to create a spreadsheet with your spending broken down into different categories. Or, if you’re tracking your health, maybe you want to take a look at how your running times are or your PBs in the gym.

It is easy to track progress for things that can be measured numerically, but for categories like social, fun and recreation, or service, it can be harder. Take a moment to reflect on your experiences over the past year. If they’re memorable you might be able to list them mentally. But, you can also do things like flick through your camera roll to remind you of the things you got up to, or perhaps if you use a calendar or a journal you can skim read those to remind yourself. Essentially, you just want to refamiliarise yourself with how you spent your time over the past year.

Tip: Use Others to Help You

If they’re willing, you can also check in with people who are close to you. Pick people whose opinions you respect and whose input you value. Getting the opinion of people who know us well is a sometimes very-needed reality check. Try to talk to people who will give you the honest truth, without hurting your feelings. We can often be our own hardest critics, so if you struggle to recognise your accomplishments and successes, talking to someone for an outside opinion might be a good idea.

Checking in with your parent, best friend or romantic partner to ask about how they think the year has gone for you can be a fun, insightful thing to do that promotes social bonding. You can also ask them how their year has gone, and check in on the quality of your relationship. Occasionally reviewing your social relationships and checking that everyone is happy is a great habit to develop – creating the opportunity for concerns to be raised before they develop into larger issues helps maintain relationship satisfaction, regardless of who it is.

3. Ask Yourself Questions

Now you’ve picked the areas you want to focus on, and gathered the information, it’s time to start analysing. The easiest way to do this is to ask yourself questions. Asking yourself questions and either thinking about the answers or preferably writing them down, is the simplest way to review your performance, habits, behaviours and year overall. Depending on the life area and the information you have available, you can ask yourself objective questions like:

  • Did I meet the targets I set for myself?
  • How often did I practise the thing I said I would?
  • Did I make enough time for myself, my hobbies and time to rest?
  • Did I make any new friends or connections?
  • How often did I go to the gym?

Once you’ve assessed the objective facts, you can then begin to consider the more qualitative elements, which are important for providing further understanding. Often these questions involve asking yourself how you felt about the topic, this is important for understanding your thought process, as often our objective behaviour is heavily influenced by our internal world. Questions that help you think about things like that might be:

  • How did I feel about this?
  • What were the challenges that prevented me from doing better?
  • What did I feel proud of?
  • Why did this go well for me?
  • Why did I not improve?

4. What Have You Learned?

At this point, you’ve essentially evaluated your year and your yearly review might feel complete, but the next step is probably the most important. In order to actually benefit from reviewing your performance, you need to actively clarify what you’ve learned. Figuring out how well things did or didn’t go is interesting, but figuring out what you’ve learned from the past year is the useful part.

This is something that requires you to think more deeply about your experiences. You can figure out what you’ve learned by asking yourself the questions above, but also things that promote deeper understanding like:

  • What did this experience highlight in me?
  • Is there a pattern here, and why is it repeated?
  • What is the core issue that keeps resurfacing?
  • Why do I always struggle with this thing?
  • What is it about me, that means this happened this way?

What Does Asking Yourself Questions Do?

By asking yourself questions that relate your experiences to your character, habits and internal beliefs, you can add more clarity and understanding. Maybe you always struggle at improving one area in your life, and you can find lots of external reasons why you struggle with it. Perhaps there are lots of barriers like limited time, not enough money, or discouragement from your social circle.

It could also be that there are internal factors and beliefs you have about yourself that are limiting your potential. Taking the time to deeply analyse your experiences and the causes of your behaviours is one of the most important steps for being able to create meaningful change and improvement. Remember to take your time with this step!

5. What Will You Do Now?

If you’ve made it this far, keep up the good work! The next step is probably the most fun: deciding what to do next. Based on the information you have, you can now formulate your action plan for the next year. Setting goals and intentions for the next year, or any step in life is often met with a lot of negativity – people say it’s a fad, or that new year’s resolutions never work – and for a lot of people this is true. But, if you’re interested in improving your life, there is no shame in that. You deserve to create the most enjoyable, successful and meaningful life you can and setting yourself some targets is necessary to do that.

Based on what you have learned, and focusing on the life areas that matter the most to you, you can set your intentions, targets and goals in a nuanced way. If you’ve identified the core issue or thing you need to focus on to encourage improvement in a certain area, that’s great. If you’re not sure, you can set the goal anyway, and do your best at making it a reality. The key is to understand what the challenges and barriers to your goal will be, remembering your natural behaviours and habits that make you the way you are.

Remember Why You’re Doing It

It’s also important to have a clear reason why you want to achieve certain things. Maybe you’ve learned that trying to run a 10k isn’t actually about being fitter, but about finding a way to prove to yourself that you can be a dedicated, hard-working person. Whatever your goal is, whatever the life category is, remember and think about what it is about you as a person that it relates to.

Often we set external goals because the thing we are looking for feels like it’s worthy of our time, but we often actually want the way that goal makes us feel, or what it says about our character. With this in mind, think about who you want to be, and what you want your behaviours and habits to be like, and set your action plan accordingly.

To Put it Minimally

  • Doing a yearly review is a great self development exercise, and it can help you give yourself an honest reality check
  • Focusing on specific life areas will help give you clarity in your review – so your attention is only being given to things that actually matter
  • Getting your information and evidence for your review from the right place is crucial – you can reflect yourself, or ask people you trust for some helpful feedback
  • Figuring out what you’ve learned in the past year and how you will use this going forward is a great way to make sure you don’t have to learn hard lessons in life twice