The end of each year is the perfect time to reflect on the past twelve months and to set intentions for the coming year. While you can do this quickly and in private, I find that it can be very powerful when you give yourself time to dig deeper, and when you share your reflection with others. It creates a sense of accountability and can also deepen connections with others as you invite them into your reflections.
For the past four years I have taken this practice to the rather extreme end, creating personal annual reports about my life that span 40 pages or more which I would share with readers of my newsletter and across social media channels. You don't need to be as extreme.
In this article I will take you step-by-step through this process to maximize your learnings of the past year, set goals for the new year, and package it all into a neat and beautiful report that you will want to share with loved ones – all made in Paper. You can access the ready-to-use templates that I’ve shared to Paper.
Start by opening Paper and create a new space, and name it Annual Report 2015.
Draw a timeline of the year and mark the most significant events. Don't overthink it. Just add the milestones that you feel mattered to you. It can be a big event like a wedding or something that is entirely personal to you. Do the first draft in 15 minutes or less. After that you can look through your calendar and see if you missed anything significant.
Tip: On iPad I suggest that you draw the timeline and write notes on top. If you are working in Paper on iPhone, draw the timeline and add letters or numbers to mark each event and write the notes in the text field below.
Draw an emotional graph of your ups and downs during the past year. Use the timeline from step 1 to remember what happened.
Identify 1-3 peaks and 1-3 valleys.
For each, ask yourself: How did this make me feel? Give yourself a few minutes to recall the feeling. Try to describe it. Don't judge it. Just describe it as it was.
Create some fun and simple graphs of your life. Don't worry too much about the data. Just draw based on your experience. It can be your average coffee consumption as a block chart, miles traveled, or even a pie chart breakdown of your relative consumption of different foods. For example, take a look at the my pie chart above comparing the burgers, burritos, and salads I ate this year. Make sure to add a clear title so that the reader can easily grasp the context of each graph or chart.
Now that you’ve brought to life your tangible and emotional memories from the past year, ask yourself: What did I learn? Give yourself 10-15 minutes to explore this question.
Then read through what you wrote and pick out 3-4 core learnings. Rewrite them into a concise sentence and highlight them as headlines in the text.
Tip: Bonus points for drawing some kind of visual for each learning. Make sure to write the learning next to the drawing.
Now it's time to look ahead. What would you like to happen in the next year? Here it works best if you can be as tangible as possible. If you want to "travel more" then draw a world map and draw the locations you want to visit. If you want to "make new friends" then draw your new friends, smiling, waving.
Now you have the raw material. Let's turn it into a gorgeous annual report.
First, look through your Camera Roll and pick out 3-10 of the best photos you took this past year. Import to your Paper space. Pick one as the front page and use the drawing tools to write your name and "Annual Report 2015" on it.
Second, make it feel like an annual report by having a short “Letter from the Chairman/CEO" (or whatever role you feel that you play in your own life). The objective is to give context to the report. What is this report about? Why did you make it?
Tip: Read a corporate annual report and copy the format of the “Letter from the CEO" and apply it to your life. This can be quite funny when you begin describing your wife as a primary stakeholder, your parents as "advisory board," etc.
Lastly, reorganize the pages for flow, incorporating the graphs you made, photos and text. Add section dividers if needed or use photos.
Export to PDF and read through your creation. Make adjustments where necessary, correct typos, and export again.
Share with the world. Or at least share it with me. It would be an honor!