The Ultimate Annual Review

Steve Schlafman
3 min readDec 1, 2020

2020 has stretched us, unlike any year in history. All of our lives have been upended. We’ve had to cope with COVID-19, social distancing, work from home, the election, economic hardships, and much more. This year has been truly unprecedented.

Thankfully, it’s time to turn the page on 2020 and begin to look forward to 2021.

I’ve always believed December is the perfect time to step back and reflect on what we’ve experienced and learned over the past twelve months. It’s also an ideal time to define what you hope to accomplish and change in the year ahead.

Dating back to 2015, I’ve conducted a comprehensive annual life review every December. I’ve found this process to be not only cathartic and illuminating but also transformational and empowering. This exercise has helped me identify what’s important, shed what isn’t, and change in many ways. As a result, I decided to get sober, leave a job that wasn’t the right fit, and pursue coaching as a calling.

This process has had such a profound impact on me that I believe everyone should complete an annual review.

That’s why I created The Ultimate Annual Review. It’s an actionable blueprint to conduct your own self-paced annual life review. You’ll explore the challenges you faced, what you learned, and what you desire in the new year. In other words, you’ll gain a holistic perspective of where you’ve been in 2020 and where you want to go in 2021.

The review is broken into five distinct exercises:

  1. Moments & Milestones: what were your significant moments, milestones, and memories?
  2. Reflections & Learnings: what were your lessons and learnings from 2020?
  3. Current Life Assessment: what is your current level of satisfaction across 10 life dimensions?
  4. Intentions for 2021: what do you intend to change and accomplish in 2021?
  5. Planning for 2021: what are the next steps to achieve what you want in 2021?

The process should take at least several sessions and weeks. I don’t recommend trying to complete it in one session. View this as an investment in yourself and your future. Take your time with the exercises. Be patient and enjoy the process. Like anything in life, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.

This framework is not meant to be prescriptive. You can move sequentially through the five exercises or focus on a few. If you don’t feel like answering a question, skip it and continue. You are in charge here. This is for you.

I hope The Ultimate Annual Review inspires you to take the plunge this year. I also hope it inspires you to recruit family members or friends. Accountability and support is a powerful force. You’ll likely be surprised what you learn about yourself and those in your life.

Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions, comments, or feedback at any point in the process. I would be delighted to hear from you.

All that said, I can’t promise this framework will help reveal the meaning of life or solve your biggest problems. Here’s what I do promise: you’ll end the year with greater perspective and a compass for what you want to achieve next year.

May 2021 bring you happiness, fulfillment, and prosperity. Good luck and happy holidays!

(this was originally posted on my personal blog at



Steve Schlafman

Founder & Transition Guide at Downshift, the world's first decelerator for high performers in transition.