Can you believe that 2021 is almost over?
The last two years have been anything but predictable, and it might feel like you're miles away from the goals and plans you had for this year.
But whether you stayed on track with all your goals, or you had to reset and focus on just the essentials, it is a major accomplishment to be standing here ready to review your year and beginning to plan for the next. We are cheering for you, no matter what your year has looked like.
We are going to be releasing our annual 4-part Yearly Planning Series over the next four weeks here on the blog, to help you collect all of your lessons learned and get on track for your best new year’s goals. This is a huge opportunity to take a deep breath, reflect on what you have done, and get ready to keep moving forward.
First up is Part 1: Looking Back at 2021.
Here are links to the other installments of the series so far:
Your 2021 year in review: reflection and growth
Once you have your worksheet downloaded, find a quiet place and time to work on filling it out. The more thought and focus that you give to this process, the more you will get out of it.
Self-reflection isn't self-indulgent. This is what the world's most successful people do – they think critically about their goals, their performance, and their experiences to make more informed, more strategic choices for the future.
Think of it like an investment in your growth and in your future success.
The best way to get started is to get yourself into a reflective state of mind. Don’t try to fill out the worksheet based on how you are feeling right now, today. Instead, take some time to think back on the year as a whole, and to reflect on specific ups and downs.
If you use a planner, flip back to the beginning of this year. Spend some time reading through your notes and plans from that time. What were you thinking about? What were you hoping for in 2021? What did you want to leave behind?
You might be surprised to see where your head was at 12 months ago! A lot in a short amount of time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; just something to notice.
Other details to take note of are the things you were working on and dreaming about early in the year. It’s so easy to forget the specifics of our life, even in the fairly recent past.
Take a moment to remember and reflect on the successes you have had this year. Maybe there was a big report you had to prepare and present in February that was a huge success; even if it doesn’t feel like a big deal now, remember how good it felt to accomplish that goal at the time.
This year in particular, look for the moments of success that may have come out of struggle. Did you have a problem you didn't know how to solve, but you figured something out? You proved your resourcefulness and your resilience this year.
The more we move forward, the more we see what is ahead of us. But don’t let your bright future take away from the successes you had in the past.
Then there are the details that are less fun to remember. As you think about your successes, take a moment to think about your challenges too. What was hard this year? Take time to acknowledge it all. Make space for whatever feelings come up, and try not to define them; just observe.
Resist the urge to gloss over the rough patches; they have so much to teach you too.
Once you have taken time to acknowledge the challenges (this could take a few hours or even days to let it all sink in), see if there are any lessons that you have learned. Did you find a skill you didn't know you had? Were your brave, strong, or bold in ways you didn't know you could be? You might not yet be aware of the ways you have already grown and changed.
Even the small things -- showing up every day, care-taking for people in your life, maintaining good habits -- are actually really big in such a challenging year. Consistency and continued effort are successes worth celebrating.
Filling out your worksheet
Now that you’ve reflected on the past year, you are in a good place to start filling out your worksheet and drawing out the lessons that will guide you into the new year.
Here are the questions you’ll need to answer:
- What was the best thing that happened this year?
- What were your goals this year that you achieved?
- What accomplishment are you most proud of?
- Were there things you wanted to do but didn’t?
- When did you have the most fun?
These might sound like simple questions, but they are actually asking you to dig deep and be really honest about your year. Some things might feel really good to answer, while others might feel painful.
Try not to judge yourself as you complete this worksheet; just be honest. Think of it like a science experiment: the results are not good or bad, they’re just data.
And you will use this data to be even more amazing next year.
On the second page of the worksheet, you’ll find questions that dive a little deeper. Here, you will list out specific examples of areas where you are winning and where you can improve:
- What are the things that went well?
- What are the things that could be improved?
It is just as important to be specific about your wins as about your losses. We usually remember our failures much more clearly than our successes (because they hurt), so this is an opportunity to get a clear picture of both sides.
If you’re having trouble remembering specific successes and failures, try flipping through your planner (or even your email inbox) to see what the highlights and lowlights were of every month.
Finally, the last question on the worksheet asks you to bring it all together:
- What are your biggest lessons from the last year?
Now that you have a full worksheet with your feelings and data about 2021 as a whole, it is time to start looking for themes and lessons learned.
Read over your answers. It might help to step away for a few hours or days, and then read your responses again, when they’re not so fresh in your mind. This can help clear themes pop out that you might not see in the moment.
If you’re reading this blog, I can assume that you have pretty high standards for yourself — Ink+Volt readers tend to have big goals and big dreams! Make sure you’re not being too hard on yourself when it comes to drawing out lessons learned. Sometimes the lesson can be really positive even from negative situations, like learning that you are stronger than you thought you were.
Some of your lessons learned will certainly be based on failures too, but don’t beat yourself up over those ones. The fact that you are completing this process means that those failures will not stay failures — they are now a step towards your future success.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week, and the rest of this series, which will release every week through the end of the year! We can’t wait to hear how this process goes for you.(And don’t forget to order your 2022 Ink+Volt Planner now to make sure next year is your best one yet!)