I originally wrote this article for my physician colleagues, but it applies to everyone so I’m sharing it here as well. Each year it is important to reflect on what has gone well and plan for the future. I hope you find this article helpful as well.

I can’t believe I’m sitting down to write my last batch of articles for the year. December has officially arrived. This article is going to be different than most, though. This week I’m not going to be throwing out a bunch of sage advice. What I am going to do is ask questions. Specifically, I’m going to give you questions that you can ask yourself as you reflect back on 2016 and prepare for 2017.

Every December I set aside time to evaluate my year. This practice allows me to review what worked and what didn’t. It gives me an opportunity to see where I succeeded and areas where I need to focus a little more energy. I can see clearly if my time was spent on those things that I consider to be priorities. It is a great practice to get into, and one I encourage my coaching clients to use.

I recommend setting aside at least half a day for this reflection time, and make sure that it is uninterrupted. It really is that important if you want to break through your ruts and achieve your goals. Have your calendar handy – whether paper or electronic – along with a pen and notepad. Then go over the questions below, writing down your observations.

  1. Go over your calendar.

Literally, sit down with your calendar and scan over each day. What activities did you spend most of your time on? Where they activities that brought you closer to the goals you had set for 2016?

  1. What things do you need to do more of?

This is where having a clear understanding of your priorities is essential. We only have a limited amount of time each day and each year. Are you doing the things that you need to do or want to do? Or are other people dictating your schedule to you?

  1. What things do you need to do less of?

For example, a year ago while doing this annual reflection I realized that I was spending way too much time in meetings. Most of them were not productive and tended to be a waste of time. There were more important things I could be doing with my time. Are there meetings that you can get out of? Are there tasks that you can delegate?

  1. What goals did you have for the year that got neglected?

Do you still need or want those same goals? If so, why did you not make progress on them? For example, this year I had intended to start taking some of my written content and creating webinars. It was one of my goals, but I spent a lot of time traveling for work so it didn’t get done. When I am home, a higher priority is spending time with my toddler. Since I still want to accomplish this goal, I need to find other things I can take off my calendar. If your neglected goals are still a priority, what can you do to move the needle in that direction in 2017?

This one simple habit of taking half a day at the end of each year to reflect on how you spent your time can make a big difference in how you spend your time in the coming year. It can determine how successful you will become.

Christopher Burton, MD
Christopher Burton, MD

Christopher Burton, MD is a physician, speaker, coach and author, practicing in Pensacola, FL. He specializes in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, which focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions - particularly those of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems - that may produce temporary or permanent impairment of function. Dr. Burton also provides one-on-one Health & Wellness Coaching for select clients who want to improve their life significantly. In addition to his practice and coaching, he actively lectures on health, nutrition and exercise for healthcare groups, colleges, and businesses, and travels internationally teaching on various topics including the treatment and rehabilitation of athletes.