Women growing older with grace and gusto

Review you!

It’s wise to understand that the best of our plans can and will get scuppered by the unforeseen. But making plans is still a good idea.

This is an excellent time of year to look both backwards and forwards.

Blogger Chris Guillebeau crystallised some of my ideas around reviews and resolutions with his excellent article How to Conduct Your Own Annual Review.

Now of course I’m not talking about one of those dreadful office appraisals. I’ve spent part of my career managing performance review processes and can say quite categorically it’s the rare process that gets it right and the even rarer manager who gets it right. Most are more like this excruciating scene from The Office.

In our personal “annual review”, it’s between us and us. It can give us a road map from which we may need to take detours, but at least we’ll know the general direction in which we’re going.

In reviewing our selves, I’m not talking only about what we have done and plan to do. Who we are becoming is just as important (and if you think we’re stuck in our current thoughts and identities, read something about neuroplasticity).

How to do a review

It’s one of the few things I do on paper, not on computer, because it gives more flexibility. But do what works best for you.

First, make two lists for the year just passed: everything you’ve done and all the habits you’ve created that you’re delighted with.


So for example in my case these would include my writing here at Pilgrim’s Moon, getting my lovely new job at wonderful MacIntyre (a UK charity which supports people with learning disabilities) and my new-ish habit of getting my head on the pillow by 11.00 p.m. (mostly!) so I don’t go through life exhausted.


Second, make a list of what hasn’t gone so well this year. (My garden is a wasteland! And many other things!)


From these two lists, you may be able to put together a third list of realisations. In my case it would be that I don’t actually enjoy gardening at this point in my life. I am a theoretical or future gardener, not a current one.


There are mostly likely things in the “Uh-oh” list which you’ll have to find a way to deal with. And they’re probably in that list because you don’t want to deal with them. For example my garden isn’t going to go away unless I have it paved over, which I couldn’t bear. So I reckon I can choose between 1) leaving it as a wasteland, which the birds and small animals enjoy but neither my neighbours nor I do, 2) paying someone or exchanging with someone to do my gardening or 3) knuckling down and doing it myself. If it’s the last item, it needs to be scheduled under Plans (below).


This is the fun list! This is where you put down everything you might wish to do and be the year ahead.

Have you made a Bucket List yet (everything you want to do before you kick the…)? If you haven’t, it’s a great idea. Now unless your Bucket List is very short (and if it is you’re not trying), you won’t be able to do everything on it this year. Pick a few things.

And think of characteristics and habits you want to develop. Become more mindful? Get into the habit of getting up 15 minutes early and spending it in meditation.


Repeat after me: “Your diary is your friend”!

Once you know what you want to do next year and what you have to do, you need to make plans.

For me, this involves one big sheet of paper, twelve smaller sheets of paper, a pack of Post-it notes, some Blu-tack, a large mug of fresh coffee and two large chocolate cookies.

Assuming you know what to do with the coffee and the cookies, I’ll explain the rest of the instructions:

  1. Take the post-it notes and write on them the activities that you want or have to do. One activity per Post-it note.
  2. Add to the note whether this is a one-off (visit Prague) or a regular event or task (attend cooking classes)
  3. Write a month on each of your 12 pieces of paper and Blu-Tack them to a wall in order.
  4. Distribute your Post-its around the months.
  5. Rearrange them as needed, and be realistic – you really will not be able to write your novel, visit Australia and get a new puppy all in the same month, not even if you have a big red “S” on your chest.
  6. If you’re feeling really anal, add smaller Post-its to each month as a reminder of a regular activity, or save that for the next step.

Once you have all the Post-its arranged and are being realistic about what you can do and when, it’s time to transfer your plan to your diary, whether you use paper or electronic, or a wall calendar. I quite like a home-made wall calendar backed up by an electronic diary.

Put in all your recurring items, and for big events like holidays, work backwards and add in tasks such as when to book, when to start packing etc.

By putting everything in a plan like this, you won’t spend December next year thinking “Oh if only I’d remembered to/got around to…”.

Changing habits

Habits don’t change miraculously, and trying to develop too many habits at one time is setting yourself up to fail. Plan for your habits too. Perhaps you’ll decide that in January you’ll start putting things away as soon as you’ve finished with them, without fail (yup, that’s one for me!), and in February (by which time January’s habit will be, well, a habit) you’ll start something else. Put them on your wall calendar.

Some new habits may need to have time allocated to them (a new exercise plan for example), so that needs to go in your diary.

A final thought…

Don’t commit your time so far up the wazoo that there’s nothing spare to sit and dream, or to go with the flow. Remember, this is for you, not for show.


What do you think, are you ready for your review?


Photo credits

The clock that makes my head hurt:  Donald Lee Pardue

Pretty notebook: Lenore Edman

Colourful Post-its: Jorg Beckmann


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13 Responses to Review you!

  1. Yes, a very helpful challenge for the New Year, Tess! Thank you. Maybe your garden needs a rest — if it goes to seed for awhile, that might be a good thing.

  2. Nope, I am not ready to do this review 🙂

    It could be something to do with the fact that it’s summer here. But really, does the weather being hot ever interfere with my desire to be inward? Nope.

    Actually, it’s more the case that I am already full up to the scuppers when it comes to doing internal reviews. I am seeing a fantastic therapist at the moment 🙂

    But anyway, that’s just me. I love Pilgrim’s Moon posts even if I’m not participating in them 🙂
    Sue recently posted..The gentleman rapist (being an anthropomorphising of chicken sex)My Profile

  3. Oh my… that spreadsheet of Chris Guillebeau’s left me reeling with overwhelm! Your approach seems a little more doable (I do love a good organizational system – especially one with brightly colored Post It notes 🙂 ), but I think I’m going to pass, too. I’m really trying to stop looking at my life as one big self-improvement project. That’s not to rule out healthy growth or goal setting or adventure. But I have knack for turning things like this into weaponry – all the “should”s and (even worse!) “should’ve”s rear their ugly heads and I wind up feeling like the world’s biggest underachiever. And like there must be something fundamentally wrong with me because I’m happy with my quiet little life.

    As Sue says, that’s just me. So, happy planning! I will joyfully celebrate your achievements and look forward to hearing about your adventures.

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