We have all had challenging years in the past. It may have been because of work, a relationship, a personal challenge or grief. But what was different about those challenging years was that although we found support from friends and family, our challenges were still our own. What makes this year different is the collective challenge we have all faced. Noone has been untouched by Covid-19. So when it comes to reflecting on the year, where do we start? It may be tempting to write off the whole year and look forward to 2021, but given the problems we have jointly faced, it could be a chance to think about the year differently. I still recommend doing a Past Year Review, but perhaps with a slightly different focus.
What is a Past Year Review?
I first came across the concept of a Past Year Review in 2018 via Tim Ferriss, and wrote about them in a post at the beginning of 2019 about your ‘not to-do list’, and it’s been a helpful exercise for me ever since. It involves going through your calendar and jotting down peak positive and peak negative emotions experienced as a result of people, activities or commitments. At the end, you identify the top 20% of each column – what had produced the most reliable or powerful peaks. The positives are scheduled in for the next year – some of my positives in the past have been events like Brene Brown and John Maxwell, as well as multi-day hikes. The negatives form a ‘not to-do list’ – some of mine in past years have been saying yes to things even though deep down I should have said no. The list is a helpful reminder! And scheduling the calendar events mean that we don’t just end up doing something amazing because we have time, but rather we do it intentionally.
The exercise focuses on your calendar, but is asking you to recall emotions experienced. I think this part of the activity is most important right now because it invites us to dig a bit deeper. Planning travel or events is a bit tricky right now in this uncertain environment, but thinking about the emotions we have felt and understanding the source of these emotions is not. Nor is scheduling in calendar events or creating a ‘not to-do list’. In fact, thinking about the year ahead with focused intention is critical. We may not have had a peak experience from a fabulous overseas holiday, but we will have experienced positive emotions closer to home. We just have to search for them. The simple act of asking is often enough. Allow time and space to peruse your calendar and memories!
What are you most proud of?
We have all had to call upon resources that we didn’t know we had this year. We have had to be extremely resourceful! When we feel an emotion, we’re recalling something inside ourselves that was triggered by an event. So, while we make a note of the trigger attached to that emotion, we also need to consider the resource we called upon. What was needed to get through the experience? Some of the resources you may have called on this year include:
We often don’t realise we have resources like these until we’re tested. And this has been a testing year! As you recall emotions and events, make sure you notice the resources you used.
Anyone who has done a retrospective with me has heard me talk about the importance of the ‘what went well’. Before we look at the ‘did not go well’ themes and work to solve them, we need to understand the root cause of the things that served us – the things that brought us positive results. Not just so we can celebrate (although that IS important!) but so we can ensure they happen again! Without acknowledgement, that little thing that saved hours of time or enabled us to meet a deadline or keep a person happy may not happen again. Our brains are constantly on the lookout for things that are working and are worth repeating. And they don’t need a red carpet, a band or party poppers to know we did good. Just a moment of recognition. And when we recognise resources, we are better able to use them again.
Recognising resources makes your 2020 Past Year Review one of the most important you will do. The simple act of looking for peak positives is going to unearth some gems. And the act of recognising what is in you that got you through 2020 is just what you need to close the year and be ready for all 2021 has to offer!
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