Self-development

How to Have Your Best Year Ever: Annual Planning Practice

by Intelligent Change — 5 min read

How to Have Your Best Year Ever: Annual Planning Practice

Year end review and goal setting is an extensive, deep exercise that may take you from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Reviewing your past year and creating a vision for the following year is important if you want to live the life of your dreams. In this article, we share with you tips on how you can plan your next 12 months with purpose and mindfulness, and set achievable, life-enhancing goals that will help you on the way to your best year yet.

Part 1. Reflection and Gratitude

How to Have Your Best Year Ever: Annual Planning Practice

End of year review involves every aspect of your life, from well-being and your personal happiness, to your career and life purpose. By reviewing your past year, you get the opportunity to learn from your lessons, notice certain patterns, and get a better understanding of what makes you happy and how you can set mindful goals that truly represent your values.

Start your end of the year review with quick five questions, and then move to a deeper reflection.

Quick review

Tip: list things that first come to your mind.

  • Top 5 happiest moments of the past year
  • Small everyday things that made you happy and filled you with energy
  • New experiences and things that you have done for the first time in your life
  • Overall main lesson of the previous year that really stood out
  • Highlight of the year that brought you joy.

Deep Gratitude Review

Here at Intelligent Change, we are advocates of gratitude. When you focus on what you have in your life, you always attract more–you come from a place of abundance rather than a place of scarcity.

Think of all the things and experiences you are grateful for, and reflect on your magical moments.

What are magical moments? The magical moments are those small moments–and not milestones or accomplishments–that made your day to day life even more special. Maybe it’s quality time spent with your friends, a warm hug from your partner or child, a beautiful sunset you got to enjoy, a very meaningful conversation…

Feeling stuck and having a hard time remembering all those moments? Here is a tip for you: go through your photos and videos for the past year, and they will remind you of special moments when you felt happy. Why? Because, often, we take a picture when we are happy to memorize that particular moment.

Reflect on progress that you have in your personal life, paying very close attention to your well-being. Have you started eating cleaner, cooking for yourself, meditating, doing daily exercise, going to bed earlier, taking social media breaks, going for a regular walk after lunch? List all your small wins.

Some major life goals take more than a year to accomplish, and some take even years. You can talk about how you got closer to accomplish things that truly matter to you. And if you haven’t, you have a space for an honest review and honest conversation with yourself, where you can see where you stand and where you need to go next.

Think about all the people who have helped you on your journey during the past year. Write down their names, reflect on your connection and their role in your life. Then, pause this exercise, pick up your phone and text/call them or even schedule a meeting to express your gratitude. We believe that saying ’Thank You’ is what can help you build and improve your relationships.

Reflect on your professional life and list your professional accomplishments, milestones and achievements.


Part 2. Knowledge Gained

How to Have Your Best Year Ever: Annual Planning Practice

If you want to plan your next year with intention, look back at all the challenges and difficulties you had to face over the last year, and think of top 5 life lessons you can learn from the experiences you have had. We believe that it’s that practice of pausing, noticing, thinking and reflecting on life’s lessons is what makes us more aware and mindful.

  • Start with lessons from your professional experiences.
  • List disappointments, roadblocks, challenges that you faced. Write them through, analyze them and try to see them in a different perspective.
  • Another powerful part of the exercise is to list things, people, feelings, experiences that are holding you back from being the person you dream to be.

As you review your year and go through the difficulties you have faced, there might be a need for you to journal through these feelings and face your fears and sorrows. It’s important to give yourself time to process these feelings and your emotions, and then find the way to let them go in order to move forward. This will help you finish the past year with purpose and hope.


Part 3. Vision and Clarity

How to Have Your Best Year Ever: Annual Planning Practice

This is the part where you start thinking about the vision and gaining more clarity about the next year. As you plan the year ahead, it is important to have a theme, as it’s going to help you have a clear vision of where and who you want to be.

Choose a word or phrase that will describe what you want to accomplish and that will inspire you in your day to day life. Maybe it’s “balance”, “abundance”, “creativity”, “business”, “family”… Whatever it is, choose the word that is important to you.

After choosing the theme, create a vision. Imagine yourself in a year from now and describe how you see your life. Mention how you are feeling, who you are with, how you see your own happiness, what success means to you, what excites you, what brings you energy, what matters in your day-to-day life.

After describing this vision, think of the goals you want to achieve in the next 12 months. Describe specific, measurable and tangible goals in every key area of your life.

  • Health and well-being: set goals that will help you stay healthy and feel good.
  • Self-growth: think about what you are going to do to expand your mind; what skills you want to attain; what books you want to read; how you can maintain a positive mindset.
  • Giving and contribution: think in which ways you can contribute to your community, other human beings, our planet.
  • Relationships and romance: set attainable goals for how you can deepen and improve your relationships; and, if you aren’t in the relationships at the moment, then envision what your future partner will be like.
  • Family and friends: list steps and actions to improve your relationships; think of how you can spend more quality time together; and decide if you want to establish new connections.
  • Creativity and learning: list new skills, knowledge, improvements, etc.
  • Spirituality: whatever spirituality means to you, focus on your beliefs, values, self-discovery and self-awareness, and decide how you want to improve your spiritual practices.
  • Time-management: think of changes you can make to manage your time better and more efficiently to help you readjust your work-life balance.
  • Happiness: this is an area of reflection on how happy you are at the moment and what exactly makes you feel this way. Open up and go deeper with yourself. Be more intentional and mindful with the things that light you up, and set goals to do more of these things.
  • Sleep: review your sleeping patterns and set goals on how you can improve your sleeping habits.
  • Professional: envision your professional goals and get into details – make these goals measurable, achievable and relevant. Think big and set goals that will also help you leave your comfort zone.
  • Financial: list here anything that goes under the umbrella of finances–saving, investing, gaining more money–.

    Part 4. Creating Your Own Personal Action Plan

    How to Have Your Best Year Ever: Annual Planning Practice

    Without an action plan, you don’t follow through all the relevant goals that you have set for yourself and for the following year. You think you remember them at first, but then, if you don’t schedule some important things, they won’t happen.

    This is how you can create an action plan for the next year:

    1. Choose your focus area.
    2. Write down your goal and choose your words carefully–you want your goal to be specific and measurable.
    3. Write down WHY you want to achieve this goal and connect with why this particular goal matters so much to you.
    4. List supporting actions and tasks that will help you achieve your goal.
    5. Think of the additional resources that will help you on your way to accomplishing your goal.
    6. Set the exact timeline.
    7. At the end, think of the reward for yourself once you accomplish your goals, because it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate your wins.

    Part 5. Monthly Review

    Stay on track and review your monthly progress. Acknowledge small wins, write down memorable moments, share your monthly gratitude, new experiences and life lessons, and keep track of the goal progress.


    Having this clear annual strategy with you–be it the Best Year Journal or your own notepad where you keep track of your goals–will make you more intentional and mindful with every single of your decisions and steps; and more clear with where you are now, and where you want to go. If you want to know more about this annual practice, head to Mimi Ikonn's video, creator of the Best Year Journal, where she shares this process in full.

    Best Year Journal (Digital)
    Best Year Journal (Digital) $9.99 USD $24.95
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