It is possible you could take longer than 90 minutes, and you could perhaps spend a bit less time, but if you will look at your calendar for New Year’s Eve and give yourself 90 minutes to do what follows, you will be very glad you did (and it will give you one more reason to celebrate).
Find a quiet comfortable place to do this activity. You will need a pad of paper and something to write with. You might want your calendar and a cup of coffee or your favorite beverage. You won’t need the internet or other technology, I promise. In fact, part of the value is to disconnect from your stuff and connect with yourself.
Here is how I suggest you spend the 90 minutes you have set aside.
1. Look back at last year (20 Minutes)
Think back over the events of the year, the accomplishments and the disappointments. Make notes of what you think about on your paper. Write down the key memories of the year, the new friends, and the friends you lost or drifted away. There needs to be no real process here, just spend time thinking and writing about the past year. Your calendar might be helpful in spurring memories.
This is pure review – not everything in your year was perfect, so capture the fullness of the year – the glad and the sad, the joys and struggles, the achievements and disappointments.
2. Spend time in gratitude (20 Minutes)
Next, focus on the great things in your life, the things you are grateful for. The year in review exercise should give you many things to be grateful for, and even if you had a particularly challenging year, you likely have identified a number of things to be grateful for. But don’t stop with the last year! There are things large and small to be grateful for, all around us! Write them all down, allowing yourself to look for and notice things, people, situations and emotions.
This time is meant to provide perspective and buoy your emotions as you prepare for the rest of the exercise. And if you put yourself into this, I guarantee you will feel great as you move to step three.
3. Look forward (20 Minutes)
Think forward to the year in front of you. Make note of the things you are looking forward to, whether a dinner with a friend, or the vacation you have been planning. This can include both what you know the year holds and a list of things you would like to happen in the next twelve months. This is a chance to let your mind, heart and soul be free.
Use this time to project and describe the year you want to have. Take off the limitations and let the pen run over the paper. This list doesn’t have to be perfect or complete. Write down what comes to you in whatever order the words come.
4. Pick your focus word (20 Minutes)
With the three inputs you have completed, think about the coming year in a more intent way. Your goal now is to find a word that will encapsulate your thoughts and feelings for the coming year. What word will move you and remind you of the feeling you have now? What word will help you create as much of the New Year as you have just described? What word will help you focus on how to best create the upcoming year?
There are no perfect words here; just start writing words down as they come to you. At the end of the ten minutes, pick the one that is calling to you. You will want to “try this word on” and live with it for a day or so. Chances are if it doesn’t quite fit, you will identify a new, better word within a couple days.
5. Write a letter to yourself (10 Minutes)
This might sound strange, but do it. Get another piece of paper, and write yourself a letter. This is a letter that you are writing as if it were written about 360 days from now. In other words, you are writing a letter to yourself about the year that you are about to live!
Write this letter describing your accomplishments and things that you have done that have brought joy to you and others. Make this the most positive letter – a letter you love to receive. The goal is to receive it one year from now and make it part of your reflection process next year. Put the letter in an envelope addressed to yourself and stamp it, then give it to a friend for him to mail it back late next December. Write on the outside of the envelope, “Do not open until New Year’s Eve.”
This is your exercise and my hope is that even if you adjust it, that you will try it. By now you have also figured out that it wouldn’t have to be done on New Year’s Eve, but I really suggest you do it then – psychologically it is a perfect time to do it!
You might have expected me to mention goal setting, and while I am a big fan of it, I didn’t suggest it specifically in this activity. This activity will however be an excellent starting point for goal setting for the coming year. Take your notes from this activity and you will have a big head start as you think about setting specific goals for the coming year – and with this head start, finish the job soon.

Author's Bio: 

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Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. You can learn more about him and a special offer on his newest book, Remarkable Leadership: Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill at a time, at