How do you measure a year?

When you gather data and review your work for the year, you'll be set to celebrate your success.

Written on January 7, 2022 by Jessica Yaeger

A whole year can really fly by! Time keeps passing and it’s easy to forget all the details, successes, and themes of what we’ve done. Sometimes the hardest part of the year sticks in our mind and we miss out on noticing and celebrating all the wins we really had.

Every time a new year starts, we like to do a look-back at the previous year in our business. This exercise does take time but helps us to clearly see all that happened, and all that we accomplished, in a 12-month span. Taking stock like this works just as well for an individual as it does for an organization as a whole.

If you’re not already doing a yearly review, any time is a great time to start. There are lots of ways to review your year; here I share a few of the best strategies we’ve found over the decades of doing this (both as employees previously, and as business owners presently).

Step 1: Gathering data

This step can feel overwhelming when you are staring at a blank notebook page or a blinking cursor in a fresh new document, but do carve out the time to do it! The hardest part is just getting started; it gets easier from there.

  • Lists, lists, lists: Jot down as many lists as you can think of. Any topic that you can find more than one entry for, can be a list! List out all the clients you worked with, the projects you started or worked on or completed, the areas where you were a leader. What new contacts did you meet last year? Think about any books you read and any training you completed that grew your skills for your role or your career. What impact did you make on the world? You even can make a list of disasters you managed, or opportunities you saw for growth and improvement (both personally, and in your department or organization if you are part of one).
  • Collect all the numbers and stats, too! Think about the number of: work/orders you brought in, items you sold, people you called, words you wrote, tasks you completed, people you served, meetings you ran, changes you kicked off or made happen, posts you wrote, newsletters you pushed out, mailings you completed, clients you brought in, donors you connected with, money you raised, events you planned, revenue you impacted, budget you trimmed back….
  • Use your calendar or any logs you might have to help jog your memory. Twelve months ago was a long time ago now! Make sure you’re remembering things from the start of the year too, not just the most recent events.

Step 2: Review your year

Now that you’ve gathered all this data, bask in it for a bit! The year might seem different already, laid out all together like this. See what looking at it all holistically reveals to you about your year, and write it down now too.

  • Wins: Notice what successes immediately rise to the top. Find the less-clear ones too. Are there any themes to your accomplishments? What are your areas of strength – obvious and not so obvious? Are you making more of an impact than you realized? Where were things really tough, but you made it through? How is where your year ended different than when it started?
  • Challenges and growth opportunities: Can you learn anything from what you see? Are there areas for you to improve in? What could you do better? Where would you like to make changes or steer in a different direction?

I like to write this review out either/both “resume” style (converting your lists and numbers into the sorts of brag-worthy claims you might see on someone’s resume) or/and “employee review” style (pointing out your positives and areas of opportunities in the style of an imaginary boss that really sees you and words their feedback fairly but compassionately.) We don’t actually share out this review when it’s complete, but it may be a different way than you usually look at yourself. And it’s powerful to see it in writing.

Step 3: Celebrate your success

Now the fun part… celebrating your accomplishments!

  • If you are an employee, make sure that you mention the impacts you made in the year to your boss. If given the opportunity to do a self-review, or just in conversation, you’ve already done the work to gather and reflect. Now you’re empowered to share those points, reminding the decision-makers of your organization just how much impact you have made and claiming all the success you have achieved and enabled. Speaking up about all you have done will support you in being recognized and rewarded for your hard work and accomplishments.
  • For those of us without bosses, we have other ways to celebrate our successes. Try reading your yearly review out loud, like you were reading about someone else. Feels impressive, right? You are! Even unshared beyond yourself, let your yearly review appreciate you and empower you.
  • If you work with others, you can also share some of what you collected with your fellow team members or staff members. By sharing the wide successes that you saw, you can build the collective confidence and pride of those around you. You can also use the yearly look-back as a spring-board for planning future goals and actions.
  • Finally, don’t forget to take opportunities to naturally share all you’ve accomplished more broadly, too. This yearly review exercise has armed you with the stats and details that you can now use to answer people’s questions about your work or business in a way that claims your success, confidentially. When your college asks for alumni career updates, you have achievements at the ready to share. Working on your resume to make a move? You have clear impacts that you can now include.

Worth the work

We schedule our Blustery Day Design yearly review for each January, to look at the previous year before all the details fade away. We set aside a whole day to do this work together for our business, and I take stock of my own year individually too. It’s absolutely worth the time.

We hope you can make the time to do your own yearly-review too. You’ve got this!

Top photo by Tim Zänkert on Unsplash

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