Journaling a Recap of the Year Even if You Haven’t Kept a Journal

Journaling a Recap

Wow, it’s the end of the year! Do you get caught up looking at what you didn’t do? Or at all the possibilities ahead?

Personally, I do a little of both.

It’s easy to get caught up in the here and now, as Dr. Covey put it, the “urgent” needs of day to day living. But living life attending to only the urgent needs doesn’t help me move ahead to the most important work and art of my life- the part that really resonates with my heart and soul and is my best gift to share with others and the world.

Journaling a recap of the year helps me to look back in order to look ahead and make decisions about what is most important to me.

Even if you don’t journal regularly, doing this simple exercise can help bring the past year into focus and help build anticipation for the season ahead.

All you need are four things:

  • Time: give yourself a good hour to settle into this exercise, perhaps in the early morning or before bed
  • A journal, notebook or a few pieces of paper
  • The calendar of your last year’s events
  • A pen or pencil

First, take a few deep breaths and sit in silence for 3-5 minutes, letting any anxieties go and relaxing all your muscles. It’s important to be present for this.  As things come up to do (like laundry or sending an email) write them in the corner of your notebook paper, but don’t stop your hour block to do them.

Second, stop to take time to look back to what happened the previous year.  It’s important to acknowledge the important and meaningful accomplishments as well as the things that didn’t happen.

Browse through your calendar. Pay attention to special events as well as consistent events such as exercise, coaching a child’s soccer team or getting together once a month with a group of friends. Notice what brings a smile to your face and jot it down on the notepad.

I’m guilty of focusing on the lack and glossing over the meaningful accomplishments.  One of the things I started to do was to intentionally set aside time to celebrate the wins.

This past year, I completed a number of writing assignments.  My highly critical brain wants to remind myself that I didn’t hit my goals, but I’m going to pay attention to the cup half full and focus on the work I accomplished, not the outcomes I did not achieve.

In the relational department,  I intentionally set aside time to vacation with my brother, sister in law and nephews in June.  My sisters and I had several fun get togethers and I was able to focus on them over the holidays.  These represent meaningful  accomplishments in my life: my creative work and my family.

Your turn. What did you do well?

Exercise consistently?

Participate in a community event?

Go to the reunion with your family?

Painted the house, planted the garden, took home the puppy from the pound?

Write down all the precious things you loved about the past year.


Next, let’s look at what didn’t get done.  For the things that didn’t happen,  why not?  Did I not put in the extra effort and I need to be more disciplined in the future year. Or, was that goal not a priority, maybe not even important?

Sometimes things don’t happen because they aren’t as important as we thought they were.  I wanted to beef up my Spanish speaking skills this past year, but that didn’t happen.  Am I going to make a concerted effort to make it happen in 2016?  Probably not.  I’d like to, but there are other things hovering in important above it.

Some things remain important but we didn’t give them priority.   How many of us have unused vacation saved up because we didn’t plan ahead and take the needed time off? (my hand is raised here).

Write in your notebook a few thoughts about what didn’t get done.  Consider the list and circle the things you want to prioritize in 2016.

Life is short. We’ve got a few precious years to focus on the most important things and people and experiences.  Many good things will go undone for the pursuit of the best. It’s okay.  GIve yourself permission to let go.

Now you have a list of the “best of” 2015 as well as unrealized goals you want to re-prioritize in 2016. Hopefully, you’ve had some smiles as you thought back on the good times. Maybe there were some tears as hard situations came up. Working through all of these things helps move us to the next season of our lives.

Now, lean back and relax in your chair. Take a few more deep breaths.  I

finish my time with a prayer of thankfullness for the past year, all the lessons learned, the joys felt, the times shared with friends and family and knowing I was held and carried through another year.

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