Why You Should Do a Year-End Review — Especially If Your Year Sucked

My favourite year-end review tools and benefits

Illustration by the author

I love to do year-end reviews in December. I’ve been doing that for four years in a row and always found the exercise insightful, especially if I thought my year was subpar before starting my reflection.

For some years, I’ve created my own process and tools. But every year, without fail, I still flocked to some interesting alternatives by other people or companies.

In this article, I’ll share one I use every year and another one I recently found but is remarkable in every way. I’ll also share some of my favourite benefits of doing a year-end review. If you’re reading this in 2020, I’d say it’s more important than ever to do one. You know why :).

Classic: YearCompass

Photo by the author

YearCompass is a booklet that helps close your year and plan the next one. In the routine of everyday life it’s easy to lose sight of your true goals and aspirations. And even though we all have dreams, only a few of us plan for them. Effectively, at least. YearCompass works simply. Using questions and exercises rooted in psychology it takes you through the past year, then helps you turn your dreams into achievable goals. — YearCompass.com

The YearCompass is a 20-page booklet you can print and fill by hand. It contains important questions to ask yourself for both the current year and the next one. These questions help you reflect both on the positive and the negative outcomes of your current year. With the way it’s structured, you don’t see the negative stuff as a bad thing, but rather as a learning experience. As a result, you leave with a positive mindset about the next year.

Newcomer: The Ultimate Annual Review

Screenshot of https://www.annualreview.life/

The Ultimate Annual Review is an actionable blueprint to conduct your own self-paced annual life review. You’ll explore the challenges you faced, what you learned, and what you desire in the new year. — annualreview.life

The Ultimate Annual Review is available in three formats: Notion, Google Docs, or PDF. My favourite version is the Notion one. You can get the PDF version in exchange for a donation.

What I like most about this version is how nice it looks and how upfront it is about expectations for each section. If you only have an hour to spare, you have an idea of what you can accomplish during that time. They also give some examples to fill some sections out.

Benefits of doing a year-end review

*The following are from my experience and may differ from one person to another.

They raise awareness

Time flies so quickly that we often forget everything we’ve accomplished in the past 365 days. Year-end reviews allow you to revisit everything that made that year, both on the positive and negative side. This raises your self-awareness.

Only by knowing everything that made the past year what it was can you make the next year better.

They make you feel positive

Most year-end review tools make you reflect on the negative, but only to view it as a learning experience. They help you draw important lessons so that if the negative was due to a mistake, you can find ways to avoid them next time.

Otherwise, they frame the positive questions in a way that is empowering to you. When you finish doing your year-end review, you should feel positive about the previous year, no matter how bad it might have been.

They give you clarity

I often find myself questioning what my next year should be like near the end of the current one. I use the year-end review as an opportunity to get clarity on how I want the next year to look like. This often happens at the end of my reflection.

I ask myself what went wrong last year and how can I improve on that the next year. For the things that went right, how can I do more of that the next year?

They help you look forward to the next year

If your current year didn’t go too well, it’s often hard to have a positive outlook on what’s next. I find that year-end reviews greatly motivate me for the next year. I also found that, if I do a year-end review, I tend to stick more to my resolutions.


I really think that everyone benefits from doing a year-end review. But I know it’s hard to do in December because of last-minute project deadlines and shopping. Yet, if only you took the four~ish hours it took to do it, you’d make your reminding days more positive and get the clarity you need to make the next year better.

So, do take the time to do it. Your future self will thank you.

You can do this!

— Danny
For more insightful stories, check out dannyforest.com.

dannyforest.com <- my new home. I don’t write on Medium anymore.

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