Taking stock: How to review the year that’s been and refresh for 2022

- December 21, 2021 3 MIN READ
man working at beach
It’s that time of year. When stores put up Christmas decorations; when crowds gather at the beach; when one set of holidays drinks rolls into another; when the cricket occupies the big screen TV; when cicadas begin buzzing at night.

It’s around this time, in the quieter moments, opportunities for reflection and introspection occur, along with the chance to prepare for the coming season.

Over the last few years, one exercise I’ve performed towards the end of the calendar year has been a ‘year in review’. In a table, that has a box for each month of the year, I note the key events of that month, both business and personal. Some events will be positive, such as supporting the next funding round of a portfolio company, celebrating a friend’s milestone birthday or scuba diving in Cairns. Others will be less so, such as losing out on a competitive bid, mourning a dear friend’s death or regretting lashing out with hurtful comments during an argument. My diary and notebook help jog my memory as I complete each month’s box. I then give each month a rating out of ten, which allows me to plot how I’ve felt over the course of the year on a line chart.

Comparing line charts from year to year is fascinating. I’ve found a strong correlation between positive events and my mental state of mind. While on holidays, especially the longer ones, my rating tends to be higher. Where it’s been a while since I’ve had a break or a series of negative events have occurred, my ratings are lower. Recognising this has caused me to be more aware of the impact of my mental state on decision making.

First, check the goals that were set at the beginning of the year

After plotting my line chart, I review the set of goals I made for the year and write up my progress on each. I have two to three goals in each of these areas:

  1. Relationship and family (this might be taking time out for a monthly date night, signing up to a book club to meet new friends or reconnecting with family members)
  2. Professional development (learning new skills, joining a mentoring program or working through a reading list)
  3. Life events and development (planning an upcoming wedding, an anniversary or celebrating a significant birthday)
  4. Lifestyle and fun stuff (running that marathon, seeing a new movie every month or planning an exotic holiday)
  5. Spirituality and society (focusing on meditation, religion or what can be given back to the community, such as volunteering)

Next, set new goals

After reviewing my progress, I identify big items that are likely to be on my goals list for next year but do not go into much detail. I then prepare a few key questions to ponder during the break, such as:

  • How can I make a more positive impact for founders, investors and colleagues?
  • How do I want to intellectually stretch myself?
  • What could a fitter version of myself achieve?

During the break, I occasionally check in on these big items and key questions, gradually adding more thoughts and comments to my notebook for each. I’m convinced that the sub-conscious mind is very powerful; an academic paper published by the US National Academy of Sciences found that humans can read and perform arithmetic without consciousness!

Take a time-out from tech

I’ve benefited from a digital detox (or fast) while on break. Instead of checking email regularly during the day, I’ve checked it only once per day. The same goes for WhatsApp, LinkedIn and Twitter. Turning off notifications has been helpful, so too is airplane mode. Apart from improving sleep habits and reducing stress, reducing the amount of time on devices allows for greater enjoyment of each other’s company, nature or exercise.

Towards the end of my break, I’ll begin to refine my responses to the big items and key questions, extracting the nuggets from my notebook and preparing tangible goals. It’s the responses to these questions that will drive the goals in each my areas.

So there you have it. That’s how I perform a year in review and set up for the year ahead. Best wishes for your new year!