Want Next Year to Rock? 30 Questions You Can’t Afford Not to Answer


It’s the final few weeks of the year and most of us are focused on all the stuff we have to get done for the coming holidays. There’s shopping, cooking, planning, travel, parties, and creating “strategic avoidance plans” for people you’d rather not see.

I used to treat December like the night before a big test and try to cram in everything I didn’t do in the previous 11 months. As a result, I’d often dread December and the holiday. Even though the Christmas season is my favorite time of year, I’d get depressed, burnt out, and frustrated. I just couldn’t enjoy it.

The end of the year can be a difficult time for many people. For others, it can be a time of reflection that helps them pave the way for a successful new year. I want you to make it the latter.

I strongly believe that waiting until sometime in January to review the past year and prepare for next year is too late. January is one of the best months for achievement because most people are in a state of action and excitement. You can use that to your advantage as long as you’re also ready to act – and planning is not acting.

Planning is better suited to December. Why? Because most of us are naturally in a reflective mindset as we think back on the year and talk about it with family and friends. Our minds and bodies require time for reflection and the holidays provide a great time to relax, reflect, and plan for the next year.

Right now, I have most of my coaching clients easing off the accelerator and focusing instead on what they learned this year and what they can do to setup next year for bigger and better things. This doesn’t mean I don’t want them doing anything. Far from it. It just means that I don’t want them cramming to get done in one month what they didn’t get done in the previous eleven.

I’ve written out 30 questions that you can use to help you evaluate your performance over this past year. Nobody will see your answers unless you choose to share them so, for your own sake, be honest with yourself. Don’t use this as an opportunity to beat yourself up though. Lying to yourself and kicking yourself in the gut are two things that never help.

What Are Your Year-End Questions?

  1. What did you say you were going to accomplish at the beginning of the year?
  2. Which of those did you accomplish?
  3. Which did you not accomplish?
  4. Realistically, can you still accomplish them?
  5. What did you do that worked?
  6. Why did it work?
  7. What did you do that didn’t work?
  8. Why didn’t it work?
  9. What should you have done differently?
  10. What should you do more of next year?
  11. Who was a positive influence on you?
  12. What wasn’t a positive influence on you?
  13. What was your biggest success?
  14. What was your biggest disappointment?
  15. Did you really write down your goals correctly? (SMART)
  16. Are you as far along as you wanted to be by this point?
  17. Did you have someone to keep you accountable to your goals last year?
  18. Do you have someone who can keep you accountable to your goals next year?
  19. What resources are you lacking to accomplish your goal(s)?
  20. Who do you know that could help you obtain those missing resources?
  21. Who or what have you been blaming for not reaching your goal(s) rather than taking 100% responsibility for them?
  22. List any areas you gave up on too easily.
  23. List any areas where persistence helped you reach a goal.
  24. In what areas did you have a plan?
  25. In what areas did you not have a plan?
  26. In which of those areas did you accomplish more work?
  27. Did I spend most of my time reacting to external stimuli or proactively determining what I wanted to work on?
  28. What were my most common excuses for not hitting my goal(s)? Time, money, resources, etc.?
  29. What steps can you take to fix those areas and prevent them from becoming excuses next year?
  30. Were you doing what you love?

Finally, share your BEST year-end questions in the comments below with the community! I’d love to hear them and I’m sure others would too!

About the Author

  • Tweeted and sent you 13 responses. Great article for getting me to think through patterns that need to change for 2012.

    • Awesome! Thank you! You are one of the winners. They are starting to go but you made it in time. I’ll be in touch shortly and we’ll get a Skype call scheduled.

      • Thanks Travis. Excited!

  • Amy B.

    This helped me realize I did accomplish some things, when I was down about not meeting my main goal.  Im getting there.  Thanks for the thoughtful questions.  You have my full 30 answers.  Thanks again for the questions!

    • Awesome! I’m so glad it helped you. It can be discouraging to do year end reviews if we don’t have a strategy to celebrate our successes as well as review our misses. I always try to get people to do both.

      I received your questions and will be emailing you shortly.

  • Oh wow…this is an EXCELLENT list! Thank you for providing me with a powerful tool to help me skyrocket in 2012.

    • Thank you so much, Heather! I’m glad you found this list helpful!

  • I’m right there with you!  December is the perfect time for reflection.  It’s a time of activity, as you said, but it’s also a time to appreciate beauty, friendships, and family.  As we fill our cup with these things, we can reflect on ourselves and our year.

    Every year, I pull out a notebook where I have tracked my goals for several years.  I can flip back through the pages and see how my interests and passions have changed.  I feel a sense of renewed commitment as I write out the next year’s goals.

    This year will be a difficult one because I have completed a lot of major goals.  In my rush to get there, I almost missed my kids growing up (they’re not done yet thank goodness).  I also forgot to savor the quiet passions I enjoy: riding my horse and writing.

    So, as I answer your 30 questions, I have to say that #30 may not have been at the top in 2011.  For 2012, I am going to start there.

    Thank you!

    • I love your honesty, Kelly. Thank you for sharing that. Starting w/ #30 is a fantastic idea because, like you said, we can sometimes rush to achieve our goals and, in the process, lose sight of what’s most important.

      I also LOVE the fact that you have a notebooks that you’ve used for several years to track your goals and I LOVE the fact that you review it every year. Such great advice!

  • Kaari

    My biggest year end question is what one thing do I need/want to focus on? I have too many plans and ideas flying around in my head and tend to flit from one to the other without making a lot of progress. I’m not a single-passion person, there are a lot of things I want to do, but I think I’d be a lot better off picking one and pursuing it.

    Great questions, thank you! I will be using them.

    • Thank you, Kaari! That is a great question to maintain focus. A lot of people struggle with that same problem – staying focused on the big goal. I know I do.

      Sometimes, I let my own ideas distract me simply because I like the idea generation process. I have to constantly remind myself of the importance of picking something and intensely pursing it.

      • Kaari

        That is exactly it. I’ve always been more of a jack of all trades than focused on one thing, but diving deep into something is fun and helps us get somewhere.

        Because I can’t set goals until I know what I want to do.

  • Deby Wallace

    Loved it.  Got me ready to face my challenges in 2012.

  • Great list. I would suggest running through it quarterly or montly if you are really serious about getting somewhere with your goals. Reflection and learning are extremely important to correcting your course.

    • Great point, Doug! It really does need to be more frequently than once a year. Course corrections are part of hitting your goals and regular review times are critical.

  • Dan

    I sent you an email with my questions and tweeted it!

  • Rosvita Rauch

    This was such a good exercise and has begun to focus my mind on how best to finish this year and embark on the next one. Thank you very much.    My most useful question was: 

    What did you do that didn’t work?

    I  turned over a
    lot of information but didn’t necessarily make use of that information. Instead, I flitted off to finding yet
    another bit of information. I need to become more disciplined in turning over
    information and then using it, recognizing that I almost never go back.

    • Thank you for your honesty, Rosvita! Understanding our tendencies and habits is huge to being able to move forward and progress in life. 🙂

      • Rosvita Rauch

        Yes, your question made me “recognize” it more formally, which is useful, thanks. I also sent you the email last night. Hope you received it.

  • I like this idea – tweeted it to you – looks like I should email answers – so I’ll do that next! Love the generosity!

    • Thank you so much, Phyllis! I’ll be on the lookout for your email! 🙂

  • Rachel Mehta

    hi, this looks like a neat opportunity. Will work on those answers and email them in asap. ~ Rachel

  • Rachel Mehta

    hi, this looks like a neat opportunity. Will work on those answers and email them in asap. ~ Rachel

  • Paul_straub

    Thank you for these questions. I’ve been reading and surfing for some type of personal yearly review but all the others felt forced. Appreciate the time you put into this!

  • Paul_straub

    Thank you for these questions. I’ve been reading and surfing for some type of personal yearly review but all the others felt forced. Appreciate the time you put into this!

  • MaryAnn

    Hi Travis, Number 15….what does (SMART) stand for in terms of writing goals correctly?