2020 Reflection and 2021 Planning

What an Annual Review entails, and 3 steps to achieving a perfect 2020 Annual Review before stepping into 2021.

Welcome to the first edition of GrowPro Labs!

Since we're in the last two weeks of 2020, this week's theme is Annual Review. I've attended several annual review events and workshops this month, and I have curated a handful of resources to help you complete your 2020 Annual Review, whether you're doing this for the first time or you're a seasoned pro at annual reviews.

First things first: What does an annual review entail?

A successful annual review has two sides: a backward-looking component that includes reflecting on your year, and a forward-looking, planning component where you design your next year using the learnings from the previous year and your dreams for the next one.

My goal is to offer you a simple and effective process to complete your annual review in the next few days, so you feel truly confident to start 2021. Since this is a themed edition, my three highlights this week are:

  1. Introspection tips to improve your 2020 reflection process

  2. A visualization exercise to anchor your 2021 planning process

  3. A free annual review resource for you to use now and get ready for the new year

So here are my three steps to complete an annual review.

1️⃣ Reflect

This month, I attended Juvoni Beckford's Annual Reflection Workshop. It was a vibrant weekend, and it had a diverse group of participants from various countries. Here are my top three takeaways from the event for you to keep in mind before you begin your 2020 reflection:

💯 Your 100 Things

We wrote a list of 100 things that gave us happiness or motivation this year. Revisiting 2020 in this way allowed me to end the year on a positive note. Try it out for yourself- set aside 1 hour of your time, and make a list of 100 things that brought you joy this year.

I learned that it is easy to forget to smell the roses in the face of overwhelming adversity, but our paths are always lined with at least a few of them. Please take a moment to take them in.

⏲ Overcome Recency Bias

When we reflect on the year, we tend to remember the events in its last quarter much better than the rest of the year. I later found out that this psychological constraint is called Recency Bias. So, if the last three or four months of your year were harrowing, you are more likely to brand the whole year as a painful one because of the Recency Bias.

To overcome this and achieve a holistic reflection of your year, you should examine Catalyst Events throughout the year. A Catalyst Event is any event that affects your life and decisions and can be identified as a cause for a change in your life.

Outline your year from month to month by identifying Catalyst Events. Start in December and work backward to January since you can get the easier milestones out of the way first and then proceed to the elusive ones. Examples of Catalyst Events: starting a new habit, shifts in your work life, a major event in your family, etc.

🔦 Use Artifacts

To truly overcome Recency Bias, we need to rely on much more than just our memories. Our memories are always colored by our biases and emotions. To effectively outline our year starting from January, we need to rely on Artifacts. Artifacts are sources of data about our year that are stored outside of our brain.

Examples of Yearly Artifacts are the pictures in your Google Photos, your Netflix or Spotify playlist, your bank statement, your Google Maps history (don't forget your traveling in the Jan-Feb period!), your sleep tracker, etc. Your Artifacts are the dots you can connect to piece your year together.


2️⃣ Plan

‘Knowing is not enough; We must apply. Willing is not enough; We must do.’ –Bruce Lee

I used to believe that an annual review is only looking back at your year, being consciously grateful for the plusses, and learning from the pain. However, an annual review has an equally important second step, which uses the process to plan for the year ahead. Your annual review is an incredible opportunity to acquire a new form of knowledge about yourself, and there is no better time to apply that knowledge to plan for your future.

Do you plan your year? Do you maintain a digital or paper planner or journal to set your goals and track your progress? Even if this is the first time you're considering it, we all begin with a Visualization Exercise that anchors our planning process. The Visualization Exercise is as follows:

  • Sit in a quiet room, and be prepared not to be disturbed or distracted for the next 30 minutes.

  • Take deep breaths and relax until you achieve a calm state of mind.

  • Visualize the answer to this question: What would a perfect day in 2021 look like?

Complete the exercise by writing down 500 words about the perfect day in 2021. Write your sentences in the present tense instead of the future tense. For instance, say, "I wake up at 5:30 am and start my Yoga routine...". This makes it easier for you to visualize and also to remember the goal.

If your 2020 was anything like mine, you might have a little trouble being able to look into the future. I struggled with this exercise since this year, I lost my ability to look or plan for the future beyond a day or a week. While goal setting is the topic of a future edition of this newsletter, I have made a worksheet to make your Visualization Exercise easier. It is filled with questions under various life themes, and you can choose to answer them to guide you through the exercise. You can download my Worksheet here (if you don't know about Notion yet, please get your free account, we'll be talking a lot about it here): Download my 2021 Visualization Worksheet here.


3️⃣ Review

A good annual review consists of both Reflection and Planning. In this first edition of my newsletter, I wanted to give you a resource that incorporates both elements, is easy to follow, and is free. And I am delighted to tell you that I found an excellent one— the Unravel Your Year workbook by Susannah Conway.

It is a beautifully designed workbook available in both color and black & white versions, and it is easy to follow. I am all about the simple-but-effective principle, and this workbook is a great guide for your annual review this year.

🔽 Download the Unravel Your Year Workbook by Susannah Conway here.


These have been my three highlights from the productivity and personal growth space this week. If you liked what you read, connect with me on Twitter and let me know. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, subscribe to GrowPro Labs here to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

I'm on a mission to make Mondays great, and this newsletter is a part of my efforts in helping you achieve mindful productivity, personal growth, and living your Ikigai.

-Vensy