In “Organized Chaos,” I told you about the amazing organizational benefits of a “Junk Drawer” notebook — that notebook you can carry with you everywhere to record important notes and all your brilliant thoughts that just can’t be planned or scheduled. There is, in fact, another great use for the JD notebook: documenting your year as you go.
I’m a big believer in giving myself an “annual review.” I get a lot of flak for it, but I record everything in my notebook: each movie I saw that year, each book I read, new restaurant I went to, shows I saw, new artists I heard. It helps me gauge just what I did with my time each year (for the record, I’ve watched 35 new movies this year and have only read three new books — this kind of inverse proportion from every other year tells me that new balance is in order for the next year!) Annual reviews, of course, should include these things — they made up your free time/social life/experiences of the year — but should not be limited by them.
It’s extremely important to prepare for the new year. Before you do, however, take a look at this last year and start to think about what you learned, how you grew, and the successes you’ve had:
- What’s one thing you set out to accomplish that you followed through on? Think about how long it took to reach your goal and what went into it. How much planning did you do? Were there specific steps involved? Did you have a deadline? Analyzing a plan gone right gives you the opportunity to set up a format for your future plans. Plan smart in 2013 by repeating your successful steps!
- What’s one thing you set out to accomplish that you didn’t get done? What were your obstacles in achieving your goal? Were there things that happened or that you said or did that could have been done differently? It’s also important to do your post-game analysis after a failure. Remember that failure is an integral part of success — so is dusting yourself off, figuring out where you went wrong, and trying again.
- What is one thing that you learned about yourself as a person this year? Maybe you had a buried personality trait that rose to the surface this year. Maybe it was a 180-degree turnaround in goals or aspirations. Maybe an existing part of your character was reinforced in a new way. Whatever it was, you changed. The old yearbook adage we used to wish for everyone, “Don’t ever change! (stay gold!)” is not only impractical, it’s insulting. Growth happens in all directions and change should be mandatory for you every year. How did you get to know yourself a little better in 2012?
- What was your favorite part about yourself this year? Your least favorite? I’m not a big fan of using negative language in reference to ourselves, but I do think it’s important to analyze at least one behavior you may have that needs tweaking. Maybe you need to be more financially responsible, clean your house more often, work out more, etc. Whatever it is that nagged you about yourself this year, sit for a moment and really think about it. Are you simply beating yourself up or is this a tremendous opportunity for positive change? Don’t forget to think about your favorite part of you, though — often, we get so caught up in self-correction that we forget to praise ourselves for things done right. What did you kick ass at this year? Write it down and remember just how awesome you were in the last 365 days.
- Lastly, make your own peace with 2012. I truly believe that there is a sea change of sorts coming up in the next several years. I’ve heard from too many people that 2012 was an integral catalyst for change in their lives — I think this next year will be an incredible time. Your year may have been amazing, or it may have been your worst year yet. Maybe 2012 was so mediocre, it barely registers on your map. Either way, don’t get so caught up in your 2013 plans that you forget to make peace with your 2012. It’s good for the soul to actually finish the book you’re already on before you start another.
We study the history of our world and our nation and our people to understand what they did well and where they went wrong. We study this history to avoid repeating the mistakes of generations past and to bring new innovation to our world. Studying your personal years should be no different. Avoid using language like, “I don’t like this about myself, so I’m going to do the opposite.” Instead, in reflecting on your last year and planning for your next one, try to use language that makes peace with your unique year that has happened and is hopeful for the one you have yet to experience. Namaste, and Happy 2012 while we are still here!