The time around New Year’s is the perfect moment for reviewing the past year to remind oneself of tasks, projects, results and achievements. Once the review has been written, it can be used, together with one’s personal ambitions, to formulate goals for the coming year.
I was inspired to make such a review and to formulate goals for the coming year when a couple of years ago I read this article.
The article proposes a six-step procedure, starting from doing a “brain dump of the year” to summarize all tasks and projects, over evaluating performance and results, to formulating a plan for the coming year. These are all useful, concrete steps, and while I do not follow all six steps, I like and use the overall idea and flow.
The article focuses on professional achievements – even though the importance of including “life accomplishments” is mentioned once – and I have expanded my own review and goal setting to focus at least as much on personal (or life) accomplishments as on professional ones.
There are no rules for how to write the review of the past year, but it should summarize the year in a meaningful way for you. It can be with few details and items, or with many, and it can focus only on certain aspects of your past year, or describe it more broadly.
The specific content could also vary from year to year, as you may spend more energy and time on certain tasks or projects in one year than in others.
You decide its form and content.
I split my review into three sections: professional, personal, and miscellaneous (items somewhere in between professional and personal).
In the professional section, I partition the review into subsections such as publications and conferences; projects I’ve worked on; presentations I’ve given (both internally where I work and externally); trips and traveling, etc.
In the private section, I similarly split the review into subsections, and, for example, summarize exercise; sleep; books read; trips and vacations; home projects, etc.
Whenever possible, I quantify the achievements or results. I count the number of publications and conference papers as well as the number of presentations I’ve given, and I calculate the average number of days between each run as well as hours slept per night during the year.
Quantifying elements in the review is important to be able to set goals and later assess if a goal was met or not. It is also easier to motivate yourself to strive towards a goal if it is concrete and measurable.
Goal Assessment and Goal Setting
When the review of the past year is done, each of the goals for the past year should be assessed: has it been met or not?
I summarize this, and, using the review and goal assessment for the past year, I finally formulate goals for the coming year in a new document.
These goals, exactly as the review, contain both professional elements – such as tasks I’d like to work on in the coming year, or specific goals for projects – and personal ones. The latter, for example, include trips I’d like to take, how much I’d like to exercise, etc.
Formulating goals should strike a fine balance: They should be feasible, but at the same time challenging to meet.
If you already know you are going to succeed with something in the coming year, there is no point in formulating it as a goal, just for the sake of meeting one more goal. The review and goal setting is for you, and you should use it as a tool for reflection and development.
In the past year, I met three of my six goals. On one of the goals I had formulated, I didn’t meet my goal, but did better than the year before. So while I would have liked to meet this goal, I’m still happy that formulating a feasible, challenging goal helped me improve.
The past year wrapped up
Concretely, I write goals at the top of a new document.
One year later, when I make the review for the past year, I write the review in the same document, below the goals.
When I’ve written the review, I make the goal assessment, and thus, in the end, have a single document for the given year with goals (met or not met) and the detailed review.
That is a beautiful and satisfactory way of wrapping up and saying goodbye to the past year, and hello to a new one.