Note from Emilie: Happy New Year! In last week’s post I shared my very free-form annual review and goals for the new year. I tend not to have any specific procedure for doing this, and I like it that way. But after reading about Neil’s method, I find myself wanting to head to a coffee shop and decide on some “award winners”!
Ever since 2003, I’ve been reviewing my years using a system which I call “The Awards”. They began very simply, but they’ve grown into a useful and fun way to process the past and choose a new direction.
Step #1: preparations
First, I head to a cafe*, along with a nice notebook and some pens.
* café is optional but highly recommended
I only have one rule: the Awards MUST take place in January, as otherwise the year isn’t yet finished. It’d be a disaster if I gave out an award on the 30th December, only to discover on the 31st that it should have gone elsewhere!
Step #2: quick review
Using my diary (actually my Google Calendar, these days), I quickly read over the events of last year and write a little bit about important things that happened, places I went, things I did, people I met, highs, lows, etc.
I keep this fairly free-form, without letting myself worry about getting every last detail down, or in the right order. It’s always amazing how much I forget about what I’ve done until I put in the effort to go back over it. There’s usually a lot of “Oh, THAT happened this year?!”
After writing a couple of pages, my memory is sufficiently refreshed for the main event…
Step #3: the actual awards
For each category (more on those in a moment) I write all the nominations as they come to mind.
Then I choose a winner (using a special red pen, for maximum ceremony, although this, also, is optional), including a little explanation as to why they won, and what this person/thing/event meant to me.
Here are the categories I’m currently using:
- Favourite New Person– Who is the best new person that I met for the first time in this calendar year? (This means everyone I meet is only ever eligible to win this ONCE so it’s important to put in the effort early if you want to win it. ;)
- Most Improved Friend– I like this award a lot. Who did I grow closer to this year? This has to be someone I knew already (i.e. everyone who wasn’t eligible to win Favourite New Person). This award really shows who has stuck around, and reading back the winners of this over the last decade and a half is like reading a list of the best people I know.
- Best Memory– What moment comes to mind as my favourite one from this year?
- Most Exciting Moment– Not necessarily the same as the best moment!
- Most Frightening/Worst Moment– Can be fun to look back at these in years to come, believe it or not.
- Miscellaneous Award– At this point I like to arbitrarily give an award to ‘something’. It can be a good cup of coffee I remember having, a random stranger I talked to once, an unusual experience – what random memory jumps to mind from this year that would be good to honour and remember?
- Quote of the Year– What memorable thing has somebody said – whether funny, meaningful, deep, or silly?
- Family of the Year– Sometimes I’ve felt a whole family has been important to me during a year, and it’s been good to recognise that here.
- Place of the Year– What place had the biggest emotional impact on me this year? Where will I look back on as “this year happened THERE”?
- Song/Film/Game of the Year–Did some media have a big impact on me this year?
- The 100% Clare Martin Award– Named after the award’s first winner, back in 2003, this is an award for a person who most deserves an award but didn’t win any of the earlier ones.
- Best Virtual Person– Who’s my favourite person this year that I know purely through the internet?
- Most Significant Blunder– What’s the worst mistake I made this year? Any lessons to learn from it?
- Greatest Life Lesson– Any useful life lessons I could take from what’s happened this year?
- Accomplishments List– What did I actually accomplish in the previous year? Even in ‘bad’ years there are usually quite a few things to still be proud of. And if not… that’s what next year is for.
- To Work On Next Year–Usually by this point it’s obvious that there are a few things I could do differently, so I write a simple list of priorities for the coming year.
- Theme Of Next Year– Is there a theme that ties together many of the aspects from #16? It’s fine if not, but it can be helpful to identify a unifying theme if one exists.
You can write a lot for each award, or just a sentence. And of course you shouldn’t feel constrained to use the same categories I do!
Step #4: The Future
Usually by this point I’ve been writing for a while and I really can’t face any more of it, but I like to end the process by writing a few paragraphs looking to the year ahead:
What am I hoping for? What good things are coming up? What challenges?
I don’t do “resolutions” but usually after this process there are some actions I can commit to just for the first few weeks of January, to give myself a good start.
Maybe somebody comes to mind that I’d like to get back in touch with. Maybe I’ve realised I ought to alter my plans.
Having done this process for so long, I love going back and reading the old awards and seeing who/what/where was important to me at the time, and who has stuck around over the years.
How do you review your year? Do you have any particular plans for the year ahead? Share with the community in the comments below!
(And if you do try out the Awards maybe drop Neil an email in a few weeks to let him know how it worked for you as he’s super curious. ;)