8 min read

Annual Reflection Template to Help You Reflect On 2022 and Attack 2023

It’s a common tradition in the media (and blogger) world to run end-of-year recaps, reflections, listicles, etc… Over the next week or so, you're going to see many yearly reflections of all kinds – things that went well in 2022, things that didn't, what shocked us, what will make the history books, and, of course, what we can expect in 2023.

I’m not immune to the end-of-year speculations, such as my notes reflecting on my social media strategy in 2023 and the value of taking more creative retreats.

But I’m curious if (and how) you reflect at the end of the year. What’s your process of self-analysis? Are your annual reflections even aligned with our calendar year?

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” – Margaret J. Wheatley

Everyone can benefit from reflection. It helps one clarify purpose, reframe goals, and alter habits toward the desired path. And I’m not talking about the surface-level reflection that is all too common with New Year’s Resolutions. I’m talking about a true look into oneself that rocks the ship back and puts it back on course.

This type of deep reflection can be difficult to do. Where do you start in analyzing one’s whole scope of existence? What structure do you use? And most importantly, how do you make this reflection productive and actionable to improve?

It’s easy to make self-reflection about deprecating oneself and edging on envy and regret. But the purpose is to not focus on what you didn’t do or are doing poorly, but rather to recognize missteps, accept your faults, and strategize on improving. To do this, it helps to have a proven structure for self-reflection.

Structure for Annual Review

I really enjoyed Anthony Gustin’s template for his annual reviews. I think it does a great job accounting for all aspects of life and helps you reflect on holistic human growth.

You can view his entire annual review template here: Gustin Annual Review 2022

Otherwise, I’ve provided a lightly edited and condensed version of his annual review below, although I’d recommend his template above if you’re serious about reflection.

Step 1: Housekeeping

  • Clean out your workspace
  • Respond and declutter all emails to inbox zero
  • Clear all tasks, projects, and messages in apps like Notion, Asana, Evernote, and Things
  • Consider setting up task/life management app processes shared in Building A Second Brain with Tiago Forte

Step 2: Reflect on 2022

  • What were my major milestones or moments? What accomplishments am I most proud of?
  • What are the people, events, habits or tasks that I look back fondly, energized me most, or made me feel the most expansive in 2022? How can I do more of this in 2023?
  • What are the people, events, habits or tasks that I dreaded, drained me the most, or made me feel the most contracted in 2022? How can I do less of this in 2023?
  • How did I grow as a person?
  • What is currently stressing me out the most?
  • What are the skills that I acquired in 2022?

Step 3: Review 2022 Outcomes

If you set goals for 2022:

  • How many did I hit?
  • Which three accomplishments in 2022 am I the proudest of and why?
  • Why did I miss the mark on any of them?
  • Are these goals still important? If so, pull down to 2023 planning.
  • What habits, people, routines, or environments supported me in reaching my goals? How do I lean into these in 2023?
  • What habits, people, routines, or environments prevented me from reaching my goals? How do I remove these blockers in 2023?

Step 4: Where You Are Now

Daily Schedule Audit

Take out a piece of paper and label it vertically with the hours you’re awake in the day. Write out a typical daily routine in blocks from when you wake up until when you go to bed. Now on another sheet paper do the same thing but write down what you ideally would do on an average day.

Think about why there are discrepancies. How can you shift your goals, habits, routines, people you surround yourself with, etc. to change this.

Weekly Blocking Audit

Now do the same thing for the week – typical week versus an ideal week.

Think about why there are discrepancies. How can you shift your goals, habits, routines, people you surround yourself with, etc. to change this.

Save a bunch of time with Automate/Delegate/Eliminate

From your schedule audit, write down all of the things you do that you can think of. Write absolutely everything, or split between personal and work. Make three columns on a landscape piece of paper with "automate, delegate, and eliminate" on each column. Now pull everything you possibly can into each column unless you love doing it.

If you have a lot of tasks left over, you can consider things like task stacking – i.e. listening to audiobooks while mowing the lawn – in order to eliminate tasks more efficiently.

Change Habits with Start/Stop/Continue

Make three columns on a landscape piece of paper with "start, stop, continue" on each column. Write everything here, or split between personal and work. Jot down anything you want to start doing, stop doing, or continue doing in each column.

Define Your Purpose

What was I put on this planet to do?

Defining your purpose, vision, and goals is the first step in creating a rock solid foundation. It works like this: Your purpose drives your vision, and your vision drives your goals. Without one, you can’t build to the other.

Purpose = What impact you really want to have on the world.

Define your Vision

What does my purpose practically look like day to day, year to year?

Vision = The way you are actually going to make that impact.

Your purpose will be the why, but the vision will be the how. The purpose will probably always be rock solid, but the vision will shift over time.

Step 5: What Do You Want

1. Ask yourself “what type of person do I want to be?”

Don’t worry about who you are now, it doesn’t matter. We are planning for who you get to be. Take a moment to write down who you want to become. Focus on behaviors. How you work, your character, how you treat other people, your thought patterns. We will work on figuring out how to become this person shortly, so no need stressing out how to get there just yet.

2. Set themes for the upcoming year.

Having a set theme will help make each category of your life much clearer. Take everything you wrote for you who you want to be and find some themes. Stating themes in the positive have a much better effect rather than planning. Ex. “Practicing love and joy” is better than “avoiding hate and judgment.” What you do want, not what you don’t want.

Now that you have some direction on who you want to be, and themes on what that looks like, it’s time to figure out how to get there. The best way to do that is become clear on goals, and then build a system of actions you can do to achieve those goals.

3. Set your goal areas

Setting arbitrary goals just to hit them is satisfying, but not lasting. You don’t want to end up chasing the checkmarks of achievement. Trust me on this one.

  1. Bucket all areas of your life to be able to focus on each one. If you had to rank the following in terms of priority right now, what would they be? (Examples: Physical health, mental health, spirituality, creativity, relationships, learning, family, travel, fun, finances, work, or any other self-defined category.)
  2. Split work up into as many buckets as needed for multiple businesses or projects
  3. Write why the top three priorities are priorities for you so you can get clear. If you need, write why 3 or 5 more times to really drill down on the importance of these and order them correctly.
  4. Do I currently live in alignment with my values and priorities of the top three areas of life? If not, where am I most out of alignment? (Ex. ranked high in physical, but eat garbage and sit all day)
  5. Assess the health of each and rank them on a scale of 1-10. Especially look for those who are prioritized high that have low scores.

Sit with each category for a long time to come up with what is important, what you want, where you’re at, etc. Again, think about how you can set goals and what you want in each area and how that relates to who you will be if you can get it.

4. Set your goals within your areas

  1. Write 1-3 goals for each of the above categories or whichever categories you want. This should be outcome-driven and time-bound as possible. Look into SMART goals for more context if necessary.
  2. What new habits or skills do I want to acquire? What habits do I want to break?
  3. What do I want to learn about that I've been putting off?
  4. Write either the next action step, the frequency of inputs required to make sure this outcome gets done, or ideally both
  5. What can I say no to that will make anything above easier while not sacrificing any goals or areas of improvement?
  6. To make sure these are my goals and not anyone else's, take some or all and ask "why" 3 or more times.

If you’re not used to writing goals in actionable ways, Chris Sparks publishes a great review set and I love his frame of goal setting to make sure you’re actually in the process of doing something to reach your goal. The frame is: “By  __(taking this action)__ I expect to ___(outcome of goal)___”

Step 6: 2023 Action and Plan

This is by far the most important part of the section. If you don’t have a system, you’ll end up in the graveyard of other “New Year's Resolutions” and get thrown back into the harsh currents of life, pulled wherever society, your friends, family, and bitter trolls on Twitter want you to go.

One of the first things I try to do before going forward here is literally making sure I have enough time to achieve the goals I set. Goal setting is like a buffet. Many people’s eyes are much bigger than their stomachs and too much effort gets left on the plate.

Put what you want to do in an ideal day PLUS how much time it will realistically take you to achieve the goals you set. I created the template below to show that even if I had a perfect day with no interruptions, I’d be left with less than an hour of buffer time. That’s a lot of commitments!

[Weekly Time Calculator Template]

Now that you know you can actually humanly do what you want to do, on to planning your actual systems.

  1. What is my system going to be to make sure you stick to these goals/habits/inputs?
  2. What software or processes am I going to use to manage my life moving forward?
  3. How will I review and complete the next action step for each goal I've set? How often?
  4. How will I track the regular inputs needed to progress towards the outcomes you want?
  5. What habits, behaviors, or people are most likely to support me in achieving my goals above?
  6. What habits, behaviors, people, or obstacles are most likely to get in my way in achieving the above?
  7. How can I change my home and/or work environments to help me better achieve my goals?

For a more detailed walkthrough, see Anthony Gustin’s Annual Review.