End of Year Reflections: Looking Back at 2019 and Forward to 2020

For the last couple of years, I’ve taken a few hours at the end of December and did a kind of post-mortem for the year, breaking it down, looking at what worked, what didn’t, what could be improved, that kind of thing. Then I have looked forward toward the year ahead, setting up priorities for the year and establishing the outlook I want to keep with me.

This is different from making a list of New Year’s resolutions which are so easy to break. I’ve instead filled out the four annual questionnaires put out by a website called Ink+Volt. Mostly they sell planners and other related things, but they also maintain a really useful blog, and put out annual questionnaires to help you make the most of your life, basically.

I’ve found the questionnaires to be really useful. They put out one per week in December, but I usually just save them all up for the end of December and do them all at once. The first two are already out (Week One, Week Two), so I’m already getting prepared. (Edit: Here’s Week Three!)

Sure, the end of the calendar year is a somewhat artificial time to examine your life, but it’s a regularly scheduled event at a decent interval to think about where you are and where you’re going with your life.

Though you don’t have to follow Ink+Volt’s worksheets, they are filled with a lot of things that are worth considering. And, if you do it each year, it’s easy to look back at the worksheets from previous years and see how far you’ve come, or how much you got sidetracked away from your goals and intentions. Having done this twice now, I’ve had both experiences. In 2018, I accomplished a whole lot that I hoped to accomplish; my annual theme for that year was, “Make Future Me proud.” I managed to get a book published, had a successful Weight Watchers run, and learned quite a bit about myself. Alas, 2019 has not gone as well; this year’s theme has been, “Take Action: It’s up to me to make it happen.” Sometimes life throws you curve balls, though, and I’ve been too busy trying to keep the balls all up in the air to do any extra. But I’m optimistic for 2020. I have to allow myself to be.

But back to the Ink+Volt worksheets!

Week One has you examining the current year, reflecting on what happened, what went well or went awry, and what you can learn from it all. Revel in your successes and goals that you met, be honest about your failures and challenges.

Week Two focuses on relationships, both professional and personal. Who is on your support team? Who is important to you? Who has had a positive or negative impact on your life? It directs you to examine the details of your relationships and even why they are meaningful to you. Connections with others are vital to our success, no matter what “success” means to us.

If this year’s pattern is the same as what they put out the last couple of years, Week Three will have you identify what areas of your life you want to focus your energies on, and Week Four will have you set some long-, medium-, and short-term goals. It’s amazing how easy it can be to look at where you want to be in five years and figure out what you need to do in the next month to help get you there.

One of the cool things about evaluating your life is that you can examine your year with any kind of lens you like. It could be about work, family, relationships, hobbies, special projects, personal growth, self-care, or whatever is important to you.

And you don’t have to use these worksheets; I’ve just found them more helpful than any others I’ve found. But regardless of what kinds of tools you use to reflect on your year and look forward toward the next one, I think that an end-of-year taking stock of your life is a worthy exercise. I have no connection whatsoever to Ink+Volt, so I have no horse in this race, but I like the format they take and the questions they ask. The exercises really get me to think about what’s important to me, and thus where to put my energy going forward. There are plenty of other journal and reflection products online, but these are free! Free is always good.

So, this year, don’t just make a list of half-thought-out New Year’s Resolutions. Really look back at your year, and look ahead to the next one. Life’s short; let’s all make the most of it. Remember: “Someday” is now.

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