7 Questions You Need To Answer For a Mind-Blowing New Year

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a great time to slow down – spend much needed time with family, friends and loved ones. It’s also a great time to reflect on the past year. So I am confident that you have scheduled time for your year-end retrospective?

Haven't you? No? Now that is a shame.

As a leader, you are not only responsible for achieving goals and setting a vision, but you are also responsible for reflecting on the past year. It’s important to do this at every significant milestone, and especially at quarter-end and year-end. Why? Because you run the risk of dragging your unfinished business into the next year. And that could adversely affect new or multi-year projects.

I rarely reflected on milestones, quarter-end or year-end and that was a tragic mistake. I would drag unfinished work into the next year. And unknowingly, I would fall victim to whichever problem had the loudest voice. So my effectiveness to make ideas happen was always diminished.

Don’t ask what is wrong ask what is missing. - Michael Hyatt

So as a leader, the year-end review can be an incredibly productive time. A quieter time that allows you to reflect on the past while planning for the year ahead. It is important that you complete the review before you move on the future. I suggest that you find a place without interruptions; bring your journal, a pen, and your calendar.

Here are the seven questions and that stole from Michael Hyatt: Seven Questions To Ask About Last Year that I use for my year-end review:

1. If the last year were a movie of your life, what would the genre be? Drama, romance, adventure, comedy, tragedy, or a combination?

  • One of my friends who lost a son, said simply, “Tragedy.”
  • Another, who got engaged and married said, “Romance.”
  • Still another, who experienced one misfortunate after another, said “Comedy—in fact, slapstick!”

2. What were the two or three major themes that kept recurring? These can be single words or phrases. For me, they were:

  • Deeply moving times with friends and family
  • Making difficult decisions in the face of the economic crisis
  • Learning to get along with less and enjoying it more

3. What did you accomplish this past year that you are the proudest of? These can be in any area of your life—spiritual, relational, vocational physical, etc. Be as specific as possible. Here are some of mine:

  • Running the half marathon in April, even though I almost didn’t at the last minute
  • Cutting our company’s expenses to maintain the health of the business
  • Having eight of the top ten books on the November Christian bestsellers list
  • Getting my oldest daughter married and seeing her relationship with her new husband flourish

4. What do you feel you should have been acknowledged for but weren’t? Okay, this is a little too personal for me to respond to directly. But here are some examples of what others might say:

  • Working two jobs as a single mom to provide for my family
  • Not giving up on my marriage when it would have been easier to quit
  • Making time to workout, even though I wanted to sleep in.

5. What disappointments or regrets did you experience this past year? As leaders, we naturally have high expectations of ourselves and others. Where did you let yourself down? Where did you let others down? Here are some of mine:

  • Laying off so many of our employees, including some very dear friends
  • Failing to articulate the vision and be a better source of encouragement to my team
  • Not really unplugging from my vacation in October like I had planned
  • Losing focus on my exercise regimen and having to keep re-starting it

6. What was missing from last year as you look back? Again, look at each major area of your life. Don’t focus now on having to do anything about it. For now, just list each item. Here is my list:

  • More time spent on strategic planning, particularly vision and strategy
  • More time reading offline (i.e., books)
  • Time to really unplug and not think about work
  • More time with my parents

7. What were the major life-lessons you learned this past year? Boil this down to a few short, pithy statements. For example:

  • There comes a point in every experience where I am too far in to quit but almost certain I can’t finish. If I keep moving forward I will eventually get to the other side.
  • Being present with the people I love is the most important gift I can give them.
  • Don’t over-think the outcome; just do the next right thing.

Answering these questions should not take you very long. I typically take about 45 minutes to answer them. But once I am done, I have a feeling of closure. I can walk away with not only a deeper sense of self-awareness but I am now prepared to start planning my new year.

Question: What have you learned about yourself from this exercise that you will implement for the new year?