If you’re anything like me, you see other people talk about doing a Year In Review, and you think “I should do that”. And then you don’t do it. For me, the reason for not doing it always came down to ‘I don’t have time’.
And to that reason, the most common response is, “it’s not that you didn’t have time, you didn’t make time”. Ugh, gag me with a spoon. I hate trite little sayings like that. While it’s true you’ll need to make time to do anything in life, it’s also true that sometimes life just doesn’t line up in nice neat little blocks of time or energy.
Sometimes your plate is beyond full and while you might want to add in a year in review journaling session, or take up a weekly yoga zoom class like your friends are doing, or commit to reading one book every month, you don’t have enough space in your life to do it right now.
So how’d I finally carve out the time this year? I’m going to tell you that, plus the six questions I used to do my Review, and the lessons I got out of doing the process.
Finding The Time: Do A Defrag
Do you remember old computers that had you to do a “defrag” every now and again to consolidate files on the machine and make it run faster? Our family’s computer had a very satisfying window that popped up during defrag which always reminded me of a game of Tetris.
I have been doing a variation on ‘defragging’ for months now, since this year’s social media hiatus.
Upon returning to restriction-free usage of social media, I noticed a direct correlation to a decrease in performance elsewhere in my work and life. And this is what led me to do a ‘defrag’ on my time and energy blocks. Let me explain –
First, I always feel I have to make it clear that I don’t use social media any differently than most people use it. I’m not glued to it for 18 hours a day, and I don’t feel I have an “addiction” as some folks do.
Over the course of a few months of usage, I noticed that I would open the social media apps at a few consistent times:
– In the morning while drinking coffee before starting work
– Anytime I lost focus or felt ‘stuck’ with my writing – this seemed to be at about the 35 minute mark of focus, a clear sign to me that I was deconditioned at the practice of focus
– After doing several hours of mentally taxing work and feeling a type of energetic tension that I wanted to release
– In the early evening as a “wind down” time after work
I first decided to do a Neil Gaiman style rule set for these times. When Nail Gaiman talks about how he writes books, he says that he sets one rule for himself: “you don’t have to write your book, but you can’t do anything else.” Meaning, you are free not to write your book, but you are not free to do anything else. So it’s either sit there and do nothing, or write your book.
Here’s my social media rule set: you can do anything you want, but you can’t go on social media until [whatever time/day/after you accomplished something else you decided on].
That rule set sentence could be filled in with “after 3pm”, “after you finish your work”, anything you decide is the appropriate time for you. Currently, I finish that rule set sentence with “Saturday”. My social media usage is once per week right now.
In doing so, not only did I inject other activities into the blocks of time where I’d been using social media, thereby helping me do more with my time, I also noted that everything I did had more depth to it. I think this is an overlooked and very powerful reason for doing a defrag.
If you can dive below that surface level of paying attention to the greater depths where being immersed in whatever you’re doing resides, the quality of what you do and the experience of doing it are both richer.
And that’s how I was able to make time for doing my Year In Review. I have more I could say about social media usage, but this article isn’t about that, so we’ll save that for another time.
Onward to the six questions I used to do a simple, yet impactful, Year In Review.
Try These Six Questions On For Size
1. What worked?
Go through your year and write down anything that you can look at and say “yah, that worked”. It could be in family, business, how you finally started saving money for retirement, how you unlocked a healthier communication style with your spouse/boss/younger sister, etc.
2. What didn’t work?
This is pretty obvious, but you might be surprised at what you harvest from this question. It requires you to be frank with yourself about things you did, didn’t do, focused on, or changed, that didn’t actually end up as a net-positive.
3. What surprised you?
I like this question for a few reasons. First, it makes you think about things that were perhaps outside of your linear-thinking “if A, then B” process of making choices and taking actions. And second, because happy surprises, even small ones, are often a better source of joy than happy experiences that were fully planned out down to the letter. They are sources of delight, thus it’s good to intentionally recall them. Feel free to also include any surprises that were unpleasant here, too.
After writing down your answers to the first three questions, answer the next three:
4. What are the takeaways from your responses to question 1?
5. What are the takeaways from your responses to question 2?
6. What are the takeaways from your responses to question 3?
These questions are almost like a review of the Review. They help you take ‘what happened’ and identify key aspects that led to it happening, or that you learned from it happening.
If something good happened, was there anything you did to set yourself up for that to happen?
If you accomplished something great, what actions had you taken to ensure you achieved it?
If something unpleasant surprised you, is there anything you can learn that could you help you be more ready for that in the future?
If something delightful surprised you, does that influence your perspective and how you view the world?
There are countless ways you could go with the takeaway questions, all of which will be beneficial.
I wanted to cap this post off with my Takeaways from my Year In Review, as I think they’re good little reminders we all might need from time to time. Perhaps a video is order to talk more in-depth about each one, but for now, please enjoy my Takeaways. And I’d love to hear yours – tag me on social (oh, the irony) until I figure out how to turn comments on for my blog.
My Takeaways From My 2020 Year In Review
1. Play the long game./ Do things now that will pay off in the long run.
2. A tiny investment invested regularly becomes a very not-tiny investment in due time./ Don’t overlook the weight of tiny investments.
3. Practice now leads to proficiency later.
4. Believe in the dream. Thus, be sure you make time to dream so you have something to believe in.
5. Take care of what “I own” first, share outward from there.
6. Give things their due attention now, or give double the attention later.