Caroline's Year End Review featuring tools and books to ring in the New Year
We’ve almost made it through 2020. Phew... If you’ve made it all the way to December mostly in one piece this year, you killed it. That is enough. Full stop.
Please take a moment to lock that in before you read on.
We all made it to December of 2020! (Photo credit: Chong Oh)
Year End Review
I’m a real dork about setting goals for the new year, and that process begins with a year end review in December. Even though 2020 ended up being nothing like I imagined, I’m grateful to be around to pick up my stack of notebooks for my annual ritual of looking back, celebrating what went well and making sense of mistakes I made or hard things that happened to me. This review helps me identify changes I really need to make in the new year. If you want to see a longer read on how I review and plan each year, see this “expert interview” that I had with WID (Women In Development) last year called Creating Space for Successful Year Ahead.
Even if you don’t believe in creating New Year’s resolutions, I hope that you will consider spending even an hour of your time this month to reflect on this wild year. I feel like not taking the time to think about what I learned and how I grew in a ridiculously difficult year like this, is like taking an extremely difficult college course, doing all the reading and taking all the exams, and then not getting any credits for it. Ha. If you feel up for it, here are some ways you could try to reflect.
I answer the same set of questions each year, with some tweaks, which I keep in a Google Workbook. I love comparing the answers to see what remains the same and what’s different each year. Please feel free to adapt them for yourself.
What are you proud of?
What went well?
What was fun?
What was hard?
What do you regret?
What did you learn?
What did you gain?
Who/what helped you? Gave you energy? Contributed to good outcome? (Who are the clients who offered the most interesting projects and sent you new clients? Friends or family who got you through a difficult stretch? What are the events or activities that brought joy or fun or fruitful opportunities?)
Last December, Wendy Gutin, my very own coach, asked me to create a “contract” with myself to truly hold myself accountable and change some behaviors that tend to get me into the same type of challenges year after year.
One clause I actually typed out is: “I will stop tricking myself into doing more than I have time for.” I then further spelled out: “I will not take on anything new unless I continue to do A & B well, complete X & Y projects, and hire a new assistant.” Checking my workload against this contract every month in 2020 helped me not fall into the trap of overestimating my ability to work quickly and well, often leading to loss of sleep and sanity.
+ & - Columns:
I also love podcaster and author Tim Ferris’ approach to year end review. His review will have you actually sit down with your calendar for the past year, and make two simple columns of + and -. You will then place all of the people, activities, events, and projects you spent time on into one of these columns.
Once you identify things that positively contribute to your life, the next step is to literally sit down and start scheduling people you want to see more of and the things you want to do in the new year into your calendar. While doing this, you will also make plans to actively shed what you no longer want.
I love this simple yet action-oriented approach for people who don’t have a lot of time or interest in ruminating too long and want to begin making changes ASAP.
Books of Note
In order to be kind to my Zoom-fried eyes, I consumed a lot of audiobooks this year. But being a total paper geek and hoarder, I also love to hold and flip through actual books and gawk at the photos that go with them. Here are just a couple I recommend.
Like many of you, I read several books on race this year, and my two favorites were:
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo. I normally prefer to read “regular” fiction or memoirs by people of color to form my opinions more organically on the issues of racism and my own relationship to it. However, the national racial justice movement that culminated in the summer of 2020 required me to dig deeper and learn the frameworks and shared languages from these books. I have a better understanding now of my own contribution, even as a woman of color, to a society that tolerates racism and is even built on racism. You have to first know more about the problems before you can work to solve them. If you have not read these books, please consider doing so. These books were great to listen to on Audible (but if you're looking for a free option you can listen to them on the Libby app where you can check out audiobooks and ebooks via your local public library).
My favorite physical book this year is: Letters of Note of which I own Volume 2. It's a moving, delightful collection of letters written by all sorts of characters in history, including writer Jack Kerouac's letter to Marlon Brando asking Brando to play him in a film version of his book “On the Road”. Brando never replied. Another great one is this letter from the chairman of a London Hospital to a newspaper editor to spread the word about "The Elephant Man" to crowd fundraise for his continued care. One of my favorites though is a letter written by a freed Black man named Jourdon Anderson to his former abusive enslaver who angrily demands Anderson to come back to work for him. The letter in which Anderson declines the job offer with dignity and wit, ends with this line: “Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.”
I would love to share a copy of this treasure trove if you would like one. As always, be the first two to respond. :)
I have personally been involved in, or have done the due diligence on all of these organizations, and know that the funds are being put to great use and as intended. My kids like to donate to the local Humane Society where we found our dog Moby, and we have also contributed to a food bank this year. If you are considering giving this year, please feel free to join me in supporting these organizations.
I would also love to support what you care about. Please reach out and let me know what organization you give your money or time to and why. For the first two readers who respond, I would love to make a modest gift and learn more about them.
This winter I will miss these outdoor dinners with friends. (Photo credit: Chong Oh)
Through the summer and fall, I savored leisurely outdoor dinners with loved ones, even if we were sitting six feet apart. Hunkering down for the long, frigid winter months feels hard right now. Perhaps I will share next month how I am coping. Please share some ideas!
In the meantime, please take good care of yourself and enjoy the last few days of this very long year. Wishing you a very merry, peaceful and healthy holiday.