An Interesting and Useful Exercise: The Year-End Review with Myself.

materials for year review

In my book The Happiness Project, I describe how I belong to the three-person group “MGM” where we get together periodically to talk about issues, challenges, hopes, and frustrations related to our careers. I’m the “G” in the MGM, and the Ms are Michael Melcher and Marci Alboher.

We’ve been meeting now for a long time — at least ten years. Many things have changed in our careers, and it’s great for each of us to talk in a group that has been following the long arc.

Several years ago, Michael suggested that we do an exercise: the “Year-End Review, with Yourself.” Marci wrote about this idea in this article in the New York Times.

We did the review several years ago, and it was very helpful. But for whatever reason, we didn’t do it again until this year.

Yesterday, the three of us met for three hours. During that time, we each went through our 2017 calendars and wrote down accomplishments, frustrations, high points, and low points from both our personal and professional lives. We used colored markers, stickers, and great paper to make the exercise more striking.

Of course, 2017 was a very dramatic year for the world; in this exercise, I focused on my personal sphere.

Several things jumped out at me from doing this exercise:

  • it’s easy to forget how much happens in a single year
  • boy, I had a challenging year–a fun year, but a challenging year
  • writing things down really did allow me to see patterns that I hadn’t seen before–for instance, in my case, I realize how much my sister is now integrated into my work as well as my personal life.

On the “Happier” podcast, in episode 134, Elizabeth and I talk about the power of writing a “ta-da list“–if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a to-do list, try making a ta-da list, to remind yourself of what you’ve already accomplished. Often, we get energy and insight from thinking about what we’ve already done.

This is essentially an end-of-year ta-da list.

Last month, I wrote a post about variations on the to-do list: the to-do list, the could-do list, the ta-da list, the to-day list — all can be powerful, but different people respond better to different versions.

After we creating our year-in-review pages, we each made a page for 2018. This was especially great for me, because I’d included this exercise in my “18 for 2018” that Elizabeth and I talked about in episode 147. So I checked that off my list.

Do you have an exercise — at work or at home — to review what the previous year has held for you? For me, it was gratifying and surprising to look back.

If you want to listen to Michael’s terrific new podcast with Michael Terrell, you can find “Meanwhile”–“a podcast to improve your life”–here.

If you want to read Marci’s recent and hugely popular “Modern Love” column from the New York Times, “When Your Uber Driver Brings a Time Machine,” it’s here.



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