I love the end of the year. Not only is it one of the most festive times of the year, it is also a time when I reflect over the previous months and prepare for the coming year. It is very difficult to make adjustments in direction if you don’t know where you have been. Being realistic about what has taken place will help you in your evaluation.
One of the hurdles to doing this is knowing where to begin. Sometimes looking back over 12 months can be overwhelming and so we just don’t. Asking some specific questions can help eliminate some the clutter in your mind and help you focus on the things that are most important. These questions will bring clarity to the year ahead and help you identify places where changes are needed.
Where did I spend the most time?
This is a key indicator of what is important to you, or at least what consumes that majority of your efforts. This may be a career or the responsibility of parenting, but there are usually only a few top competitors for your time. There are probably a few things overlooked when thinking about how you spend your time as well. Things like social media and television often take up way more time than you realize. Participation in hobbies or service organizations can also rank high on the list. Identifying where you are spending your time will often provide insight as to what things need changing and how to better prioritize your time. You might be surprised by what is actually getting your attention.
Where did I spend the most money?
This is a simple thing to check. You may already be using some type of personal financial tool like Mint or Quicken, that will quickly tell you how you spend your money. If not, a few minutes scanning through bank or credit card statements will let you know where your resources are going. If there are a lot of ATM withdrawals, it might be a sign that money is being wasted. If where you are spending money is not something you look at regularly, you may notice that there are significant resources being used in places you don’t consider important. Small changes to your financial practices can yield large long-term results and significant short-term improvements for the coming year.
Where did I have the most impact?
This question is a little more subjective than the others. The frustrating thing with impact is that typically the influence you have had will only show up later. This may be an impact on your children or immediate family. It could be your career or an organization where you serve. It might be in your community or for a team you coach. All of us are having some type of impact. Sometimes it is positive and sometimes it is negative. None of us, however, are neutral. We are moving the needle one way or the other. When you realize where you are making the most impact, it might help you identify where you should be spending more of your time and resources.
How is my health?
Neglecting to spend time and resources to take care of your health can be deadly. Some of the more important health factors to consider when you reflect include your weight, blood pressure and stress levels. Exercise duration and intensity as well as taking time to rest play an important role too. You may be struggling with your health because some of the other areas such as time and money are not being allocated properly. Poor health can limit the time you can commit to your priorities and can also cause you to spend money unnecessarily. Knowing where you are with your health will help you set goals to improve it.
How is my family life?
Nothing creates more stress than trouble in your immediate family. I see this most often in marriages, but there can also be stress in taking care of aging parents or just being parents. Is trust strong in these relationships? Is there open and honest communication? Are you spending quality time together? Your family life has influence on all of these other topics of reflections – your time, money, impact and health. A strong family life is a key indicator that you are probably doing well in these other areas.
How is my spiritual life?
If you are not a person of faith, this may not interest you. If you are a person who claims faith, spiritual life should be important to you. It should be an area that gets time, money and influence. You should be growing spiritually by spending time with others of like faith, studying your Bible and praying. When your time is taken by too many other things, your spiritual life can suffer. Deficiencies in this area can often have an affect on all your other relationships. Taking a spiritual inventory should be part of every year-end review and included in plans for the coming year.
Maybe you have other questions you think are important. Whatever questions you use, the process of reflecting and reviewing will give you great insight on how you can make the coming year better.