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What to Include in Your Annual Review

At the end of every year, I look back at where I’ve been. It keeps me from making the same mistakes again, and it shows me where my focus has been for the past year. Try it, and you’ll be surprised at the insights you get.

Gather up all your materials. It’s time to do your annual review.

Set up wherever you normally journal or capture thoughts. I use a fresh paper journal each year, and the review goes at the end. That makes it easy to find and review later. Electronic notes work fine, too.

Now, start going through your materials, one at a time, and record your observations. Here are some places to look for insights:

  • Quarterly plans
  • Monthly reviews
  • Goals
  • Paper journals
  • Travel journals
  • Electronic journals
  • Planners
  • Paper notes that are pinned up or laying around
  • Electronic notes on your computer or mobile devices
  • Books you read, notes from books
  • Exercise challenges and measurements
  • Scan through emails from the past year
  • Scan through your social media postings
  • Look at pictures you took over the past year
  • Review projects that were completed (or not)
  • Systems
  • Annual review notes from last year
  • Any other idea capture tools that you use

Take your time. It could take a few days to give everything a proper read. Take notes as you go. Write down anything that occurs to you, like new ideas for projects, where you focused your energy for the past year, and general patterns that emerge.

Here are some questions to ask as you go through your materials:

  • What have your forgotten about that you want to bring back?
  • What failed and should not be brought back?
  • How can your records be consolidated or improved?
  • What clutter can be cleared (physical or attention-wise)?

When you’ve finished reviewing all the materials, write sections to summarize any or all of these areas:

  • Professional life summary and direction
  • Personal development – what you accomplished, and still need to work on
  • Travel, tourism & events attended
  • What are your important relationships and where do they stand?
  • Health changes and fitness goals
  • Biggest accomplishments/greatest hits
  • What you failed to achieve and why
  • Most important lessons learned
  • Biggest obstacles
  • Points of frustration
  • Anything else on your mind to capture for next year

Let it all soak in for a day, and then review what you wrote. You’re ready to have a lucky new year.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.


If you’re ready to start planning for next year, consider planning one quarter at a time. Three months is an ideal time horizon that lets me think big but stay focused. Here’s how to get started: Quarterly Planning – What You Need to Know to Be Successful.