Top 10 Ways to Journal Out the Old Year and Ring in the New 12


THE BEGINNING OF A NEW YEAR provides an opportunity (or should I say, “excuse”) for reflection and planning. In the media, you’ll see a lot of “Top 10” and “Top 15” (for 2015) posts and news stories and movies. It’s always fun to take a look back, see where we’ve been. And there’s something about the lull between Christmas and the first Monday in January — the darkness of winter, the relief of getting through the holidays, the lowered business pressure at work — that invites thoughtfully examining the past year and making plans and resolutions for the future.

Personally, I avoid resolutions and take a flexible, planning, or goal-oriented approach to each year. So I thought I’d share with you my top 10 journaling methods and prompts for reflecting on the past year and ringing in the new one. I recommend scheduling at least two hours (more is better) when you can be alone for quiet reflection and planning. Then, select one or two prompts from the Looking Back section and one or two from the Looking Forward section and write away.

Looking Back

  1. Read journal entries from December and January of last year. In particular (if you wrote one), read the letter you wrote to myself at the start of the year. What were your hopes and fears at that time? What is your perspective now, and what has changed?
  2. Review goals you made this year and write about your successes and failures. Which goals did you accomplish? What factors contributed to your success? Which goals did you not accomplish? What factors prevented you from reaching them? What have you learned about yourself around goal setting and priorities? What would you do differently? What did you accomplish this year that was unplanned? And how have you acknowledged and celebrated your accomplishments?
  3. What major life changes occurred this year? Which were expected and which were unexpected? How have these changes impacted your life? In what ways has your perspective or outlook on life changed as a result?
  4. What are your most precious memories from 2015? What relationships meant the most this year? Who were your positive influences?
  5. If you were to sum up 2015 in one word, what would that word be, and why?

[Tweet “If you could spend more time doing only one activity in 2016, what would it be? “]

Looking Forward

  1. What are your hopes and fears about the coming year? And what are you basing those hopes and fears on? What areas of your life do you have most control over?
  2. Spend some time wishing and dreaming. At the top of a page, write the year. Beneath that, draw six circles and label each circle as follows: 
    • Things I want to do
    • Things I want to be
    • Things I want to learn
    • Things and people I want to see
    • Places I want to go
    • Adventures I want to have

Brainstorm answers around the circles for each category. Let yourself think large and not be constrained by “reality.” Write as if you could do and be and see anything and go anywhere you want.

  1. Now, thinking about what’s realistic, what goals do you want to accomplish this coming year? (Consider life categories, such as work/career, family, relationships, spirituality, health, and so on.) What steps will you take to accomplish your goals, and how will you celebrate or reward yourself for achieving them?
  2. If you could spend more time doing only one activity in 2016, what would it be? Would you paint, write, spend time with family, more time outdoors? Do you already spend time engaged in this activity? What might you gain by doing more of it? What might you lose or have to trade in order to have that time? What are your greatest conflicts about the activity? And what motivates or drives you to engage in it?
  3. Write a letter to yourself about 2016 — encouraging, predicting, and providing wisdom for the year to come.

These are my top 10 prompts for reflecting on the previous year and looking forward to the next. Reflection helps to ground me in the present moment, and thinking about my hopes and plans for the future sets my feet in the direction I want to take as I move forward.

Do you use these other methods and prompts for reflection and planning. Share your wisdom and experiences with us.

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