Harry Cresswell

A Year in Review

Whilst writing my year in review this year it seemed like a good idea and perhaps a useful exercise to outline exactly what this means to me – why I write one and the approach I use to write it. I hope this may in some way be helpful for you too.

This is very much my own take to what has become an annual practice for many and I follow a format that has, so far, worked well for me. Here’s everything I can tell you about it.

Why I write a review of my year #

I was drawn to the idea of writing an annual review after reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, in which he proposes that habits are the compound interest of self-improvement, and that success is the product of good daily habits. In other words, the effects of your habits multiple as you repeat them.

James writes the following:

“Improvement is not just about learning new habits, it’s also about fine-tuning them. Reflection and review ensures that you spend your time on the right things and make course corrections whenever necessary.“

You might boil this down to the following:

  • Build good daily habits
  • Reflect to identify what’s working and what isn’t
  • Fine-tune, re-focus, drop ineffective habits where necessary
  • Improve and become the person you wish to be

With reflection we get a better sense of perspective, we become more self-aware and identify areas in need of improvement. It helps you reframe your identity and become better at whatever it is you choose to do.

How I write a review of my year #

I use the same format as James for my own review, it’s simple and works well, so I see no reason to change it. By review my progress, I aim to answer the following three questions:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?
  3. What did I learn this year?

James has his own reasons for asking these three questions, which I encourage you to explore further, however I’d like to outline what these questions mean to me.

By asking “what went well this year” I ensure the year ends on a positive note.

It’s so easy to focus on the bad stuff and forget the good things that have happened throughout the year. This question realigns those negative thoughts, encourages a positive mindset and confirms a successful year.

By asking “What didn’t go so well this year?“ I hope to identify the areas I need to improve, so I can begin the year ahead with clear purpose and intention.

As Shane Parish writes in The Great Mental Models;

“You can’t improve if you don’t know what you‘re doing wrong. Admitting to your failures is the hardest part. But by doing so we can learn from them and avoid making them again.”

Finally, by asking “What did I learn this year?” I remind myself that I’m making progress and heading in the right direction.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you haven’t achieved much or that you haven’t made progress. The answers to this question help prevent these insecurities from manifesting and help give you a much needed boost for the year ahead.

Final words #

Whatever you choose to call it, taking the time to reflect on your achievements by writing a year in review is a helpful exercise. It’s an exercise that will help you learn more about yourself and identify areas in need of improvement.

Reflection can bring a sense of perspective and writing a review each year can help you identify whether you are becoming the person you wish to be.

For more on this check out my year in review archive and pick up a copy of Atomic Habits if you haven’t read it already. It’s an important book full of actionable advice.

Weekly Newsletter

Braintactics is a weekly roundup of articles, tools and tips for product designers and front-end developers. I send it every Friday morning.