Are you the kind of person who spends time reflecting and planning at the end of the year? I wasn’t for a long time but have been doing this in one form or another for the past several years. It is a process that I have come to both love and dread. Often, I wait until December or even January to do this but this year I started early. Having seen the benefit of end of year reflections in my own life, I want to share a few thoughts with you.
What I am doing this year
Before we dig into the benefits, let me share what I am doing this year to reflect on 2021 and plan for 2022. I don’t have a firm rule on what has to be included each year, although I have some favourites that I tend to fall back on. It is more about going through the process than the exact questions. The goal is to take a broader view of the year that has been- to see themes and lessons that can be drawn out. This perspective then informs your dreaming and planning for the year ahead.
This year’s end of year reflections has been a combination of individual time as well as doing some planning in a group. I love this combination. I need a lot of time on my own to think through questions and allow myself to get past the surface to the deeper answers that lie underneath. Having time to discuss and plan in a mastermind group setting offers me motivation and accountability for getting it done. The people in this group walk with me and my business all year. This connection means they can ask me tough questions and point out aspects that I may be missing.
The group time has been split over four weeks with preparation time in between. My individual time has been a combination of reflection time during a weekend leadership retreat, time set aside to sit at a café overlooking the ocean and time in an armchair at home. The location doesn’t really matter but I find being away from my usual spaces helps me to focus on the task at hand and not the rest of my to-do list. I schedule these times into my calendar to create intentional space.
There are two main tools I am using this year: the Plan4 business planning process from Melissa Shanhun with my business mastermind group and ‘Dear Future Self’ from Amanda Viviers. I have done the Plan4 process for the past 4 years. I have noticed how much quicker this process has been as I am so familiar. It is also wonderful to be able to pull out previous ones and compare the progress. I have also used Amanda’s workbooks for the past few years. While some things change, many of the questions remain the same.
I find having an established process from someone else to be the most helpful. They may ask questions that I wouldn’t have thought of. My default is to focus on all that went wrong, all the places I felt like I failed and everything that needs to change. Maybe you are the opposite and want to gloss over those areas. An external voice helps to bring a fuller picture to our reflections.
Love and dread for the process
I have come to love looking back over the year and recalling moments that I had forgotten. Going through my calendar, photos and journal entries frequently surprises me in how much I have forgotten over the year. I am astounded by how much I have done over a year and the highlights that have been buried under successive hard times. I can acknowledge how much I have grown as a person and the areas of progress even if it isn’t perfect.
There is also dread that comes with this. I can tell which questions I really need to journal through by how strong my initial desire to skip them is. It becomes a matter of self-discipline to pause, think and put pen to paper. Funnily enough, it is often the questions around positive aspects of the year and myself that generate the most resistance. As I said, I default to the negative more often.
This process of deep reflection over a whole year requires slowing down and allowing your soul to speak. It can be painful. It takes intention. There are always more tasks vying for my attention and it seems a luxury to stop and do this. As much as this is uncomfortable, I recognise the benefits of the end result. I feel more settled at the end of the year and ready to close the year well. The lessons inform my plans for next year so that they are founded in intention. I can celebrate, grieve and move forward- letting go of the baggage of the year. At least, it helps with this.
Looking ahead to 2022
Part of me feels wary in planning for next year. The last two years have been so disrupted and filled with uncertainty. This still lingers into next year. This has shifted my focus from setting detailed plans to a focus on more general intentions around who I am becoming. I still set some plans but have learned to hold them more loosely. The control freak part of me has had to learn some tough lessons in recent times!
You can see the manifesto I wrote for 2020 and continued into 2021 in these posts:
I will be sharing more of my focus for 2022 in January.
What about you?
This is your invitation to set aside time to reflect and dream. It doesn’t have to be fancy or all at once. You may be surprised by what you discover and the patterns you see emerging. What might you learn? What can you carry forward into 2022? This year has been tough and filled with challenges. But so have other years. The challenges have felt more shared of late of course. This is your opportunity to bring some healing into the end of the year; to explore areas that may still need some attention moving forward. Let’s engage in this reflection and planning process well so that we can enter a new year ready for a fresh start.
I’d love to hear how you are reflecting at the end of this year. Leave a comment below, DM me or tag me on social media (links below).