The end of each year is generally a good time to reflect on the year that has passed and focus on the year that is to come. I have adopted, modified and incorporated an end-of-year process that I learned from the Army. The process is called an After Action Review, commonly referred to as an AAR. When conducting an AAR, I ask myself the following five questions:
1) What was supposed to happen?
When the year begins, I will make resolutions, set goals and/or create expectations about what I want to achieve throughout the course of the year. By year’s end, I reflect back on those aspirations or tasks I set out to achieve by asking the questions, “What was supposed to happen?”
2) What did happen?
Once I have answered the first question, I think about what happened during the year. I then compare the events that occurred to my expectations for the year.
3) What can be sustained?
Once I have compared my end-of-year reality to my start-of-year expectations, I identify at least three areas of my life from the past year that went well. I identify three positive aspects from the year that I want to sustain going forward into the new year.
4) What can be improved?
Once I have identified positive aspects that I want to sustain, I identify an equal number of areas from the past year where I have room to grow. I think about what areas of my life can be improved upon.
5) What improvements can be made?
Once I have identified those areas from the past year that can be improved upon, I brainstorm ideas on how I can improve in those areas. I articulate tangible ways to make those improvements.
The AAR process works best for me when I memorialize the answers to the five questions. Once the AAR process is complete, I then articulate and memorialize my resolutions, goals and expectations for the upcoming year. When you set goals for the year, it is important to also determine how your goals will be measured so that you can clearly assess whether you accomplished those goals at the end of the year.
Establishing a process for measuring your goals is a great way to not only track your progress, but to also realize your success.