The Practice of Year-End Reflection

Deepen the lessons of the previous year with a dedicated review
January 3, 2020 Updated: January 9, 2021

At the start of every new year, I like to reflect on my past. I find that it deepens my learning, and it makes me more appreciative of the power of a year.

I spent about an hour writing a journal entry on the previous 12 months. It was a great practice. To really reflect on the year, I had to remember everything about it. Here’s how I did it:

  • I went through my travel history in my Tripit account, making a list of all my trips. You might store your trip information in email or some other place, so you’ll probably want to search for your travel-related messages on there.
  • I looked through the files on my computer that were created in the last year. On a Mac, you go to the “all my files” view and it’s sorted by “date last opened.” This gives me an idea of what I might have been working on.
  • I reviewed my Amazon orders for 2020. It was interesting to see the different books I’ve purchased and the different interests (OK, obsessions) I’ve had over the year.
  • I skimmed my credit card statements, looking for any interesting purchases that stood out.
  • I looked over journal entries, Google Docs, and notes (using Evernote or Apple’s Notes program). This showed me various notes or things I’ve been working on.

All of this showed me what I’ve been working on, what I’ve been obsessed about, what I’ve been learning, what I’ve read, where I’ve gone, and who I spent time with. As I looked over all of this, I took notes if something struck me as noteworthy. You don’t have to go through as much data, but it’s interesting.

When I wrote up a journal entry on all of it, I reflected on what this year has been like for me. It helped me deepen my learning that seemed sporadic and unconnected until I reflected back on all of it.

This practice helped me to see what I’ve done over the last year, and it kind of amazes me. I would never have guessed that I’d have done all of that. I didn’t plan it, it just ended up being what I was moved to do.

I also was able to see how I’ve changed over the last 12 months. In small steps, I’ve become a different person. The Leo from a year ago would want to be friends with me, I think.

I highly recommend this year-end practice, as a way to close out the year and say goodbye to all that you’ve been through.

Leo Babauta is the author of six books and the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with over 2 million subscribers. Visit ZenHabits.org