A lot of people get excited towards the end of the year. Christmas is coming. And for lots of kids, that means presents from family and friends. Families get together for reunion. Of course, students get a break from school. Even workers get to take some vacation for the holidays.
At the same time, the end of the year is a great time to look back at the year that was. It’s the perfect time to ask:
- How did I live my life this year?
- What are the high points and low points of my life this year?
These questions may remind you of your strict High School English teacher who gave you writing assignments related to your New Year’s Resolutions.
You probably used up all sorts of adjectives and traits that would make you appear like an angel from heaven.
This is different. It’s really drawing on the benefits of hindsight to look at the past year. This is not about patting yourself on the back; although, that is somewhat included in my process. After all, aren’t we entitled to some satisfaction if we knew that we did good this year? Nevermind Sta Claus’ naughty or nice list. It’s more important to reflect and learn from the successes and mistakes of this year.
I started doing this in 2013 in my efforts to streamline my life. You see, I over-extended myself and committed to too many pursuits that I felt like “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”(that, by the way, is a quote from Bilbo in the Fellowship of the Ring.) Since then, I have done it yearly. I have developed a Google Spreadsheet for this, which I am sharing below.
After almost three years of doing this, I could say that this practice has made me more aware of the way I live my life, and observe how my attitudes and sense of purpose evolve. Maybe I believed too much in what Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” On top of that, here are other benefits I have discovered while doing this Personal Evaluation process:
Celebrate victories and successes.
Twelve months has gone by and I sure hope that I’ve put them to good use. Even before the end of the year, I keep track of my accomplishments monthly. During the 29th or the 30th of each month, I try to look back and identify the highlight of the month. Of course, if I have completed a project or if I feel that I’ve done something remarkable in my professional or personal life, I put that as the highlight of the month.
For example, in January 2015, I learned that I was the top candidate for a Director-level position in our organization. And because of that, I will be moving to the USA soon. Then in February 2015, the Asian Theological Seminary (ATS) informed me that the paper I presented at the ATS Theological Forum in 2014 was chosen to be included in a book. Naturally, these two incidents made it to my 2015 Monthly Highlights.
Learn from mistakes and failures.
Not every month gets such a big highlight as my January and February got. I dropped some commitments, I failed to follow through on some personal projects I wanted to pursue, and some months are just quiet and slow, like a lazy summer afternoon. Mistakes and failures will give us wisdom if we let them. And we can only learn if we sit down, reflect, and resolve to do better next time.
Streamline my list of commitments.
I only started my yearly evaluation in 2013 after realizing that I had way too many things on my plate. My wife just gave birth to our only child (so far, we plan to have another one, a girl hopefully :D), and it meant that our life is bound to become infinitely busier. I didn’t want to be that busy dad who is barely home, and when he is home, doesn’t have enough energy and mental bandwidth for both quality and quantity time.
Besides, when my wife was pregnant, she had to go by herself to her OB-GYN specialist because of my busy schedule. That’s an interesting story for another, longer, post (don’t worry, I will get to it in the first few weeks of 2016).
Get helpful data in planning for the coming year.
Of course, this is essentially a data-gathering activity. It is not about feeling good because of accomplishments or just trying to blunt the impact of mistakes and failures.
By digging deeper and understanding the factors that led to the success or failures, I can replicate them for my goals in the coming year. I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. I would rather set goals, so the result of my yearly evaluation can have an impact on my goals in the coming year.
Identify the highlights of each month.
By doing it monthly, you avoid becoming overwhelmed. Look at your planner or organizer. If you’re like me, I ditched the paper calendar in favor of a digital one. I manage all my appointments and deadlines through Google Calendar. So far, so good! It syncs really well with mobile, laptop, and the cloud!
Since my schedules are in my calendar, I can easily identify my monthly highlights just by looking at my calendar.
Since this is really a personal evaluation, nobody else but you needs to see it. Don’t fall into the false humility trap. If you did something great, then own up to it. Feel good about it. Just don’t be arrogant and feeling that it was all about your strength and talents.
Same thing with failures, if you failed, then you owe it to yourself to admit that you failed. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Some actions on your part, and some factors beyond your control just didn’t deliver the results you wanted.
List down the factors that helped you achieve your accomplishments–the people who helped you, resources or tools that made a difference, and any strategy you might have used.
Given your accomplishments and your mistakes or failures, what major lessons have you learned this year? How would these lessons affect the way you live your life next year?
Compare Your Year-on-Year Performance
My year-end evaluations since 2013 are on the same spreadsheet. That helps me look at my year-to-year performance and see the areas where I have grown and where I still need to grow.
This may sound tedious, boring, or time-consuming, tracking what happens in your life can yield great benefits if it becomes your habit.
Here’s the simple Spreadsheet that I use in doing my year-end personal evaluation.
You can see the spreadsheet here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1W4nsMmr3uSZ2TfG82UrkQFb8w3_zGp4fezoB_o3IOJs/edit?usp=sharing