How To Do An Annual Review: 10 Questions

Each year I do a private annual reflection where I look back at the past year, think about what I want for the year ahead, and make a list of dreams and goals.

Then, I edit ruthlessly, a skill I’ve learned slowly over time, because having a list of 50 things does not guarantee that I’ll get them all done, nor does it help me know what the most important thing is.

If you’d like to reflect on the year past, I invite you to join me, and I’ve written out the key questions below. I recommend taking around an hour to journal, reflect, and write (long-hand, if possible, because it lends itself more easily to sketching and drawing). Sometimes this process takes me down a bit of a rabbit hole, too, as I start to dig through past journals and to-do lists and notes, and take stock of what has changed—and what hasn’t—and where I ended up.

1: Dreams. What did I want at the beginning of the year?

2: Milestones. What were the major milestones of the year?

3: Reflections. What went well? What was hard? What didn’t go so well? What surprised me?

4: Growth. How have I changed as a person?

5: Gratitude. When I look back, what am I grateful for?

6: Unfinished. What do I still want that feels unfinished?

7: Analysis. What do my monthly reports tell me? (Each month I craft a monthly report, even if it takes me until the 15th of the month to actually do, and looking back at these notes is highly revealing.)

8: Education. What books did I read? Which ones were the most pivotal? What else did I learn? What learning was the most/least effective?

9: People. What people did I meet? Which relationships were the most important, influential, or meaningful? What relationships do I want to change?

10: Looking Ahead. What do I want for next year? How will I know once I’ve achieved it? And if I could only do, get, or be one thing this upcoming year, which one would it be?

I’d love to know in the comments what process you use for an annual review, what you’ve learned by doing it, and whether or not this list is useful to you.

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11 Responses to How To Do An Annual Review: 10 Questions

  1. luca says:

    Thanks for the post. Very insightful. The link to the monthly report page is broken.

  2. luca says:

    And here how I approach my annual review :)

    Happy New Year!

  3. naz says:

    very helpful checklist.
    may i post it on my -to be launched soon- website for women in tech?

  4. AR says:

    I have tended to do mine mentally-especially the personal aspect. I’ll give this more structured approach a try…

  5. Cindy says:

    I really loved this Sarah. Sometimes it is hard to be introspective and consider why things have or haven’t worked but without this, it can be easy to be hard on yourself for not slaying your goals. Sometimes though, life gets in the way of business and it is important to consider the ‘journey’ and not just the end goal. Your review questions are a great way to achieve this – thanks!

  6. Jessica Pearson says:

    Hi Sarah! I’m using your list for the first time and enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing this. I love this time of year for the new beginning and also looking back on last year!

  7. AR says:

    Really good posts – a good example of how we can get things done if we make a little effort to sit down and write. I have always done this mentally but I find this approach much more engaging and more amenable for monitoring an reflections later on. I believe this will help me to keep an eye on the priorities as the year progresses and the usual ‘madness’ sets in.