How to Pull Off a Personal Annual Review

A no-fuss, intuitive way to take stock and map your priorities

Yi Shun Lai
Human Parts
Published in
4 min readNov 9, 2022


shadow of a hand holding up a sparkler against a dark grey or indigo sky
Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash

Everyone! It’s almost the end of the year. It’s nearing that time when we arbitrarily decide we’re going to turn over a new leaf; start a new great habit. But so many of us embark on this process without once considering our baseline — where we’re starting from.

I want to introduce you to a process I’ve used the past couple of years, one I really like. It’s such a pain-free process, but it’s also a remarkably revealing look at what matters to you, and your life. Ready? Here we go.

Some background

In 2020, I joined an online community called Ness Labs. The brainchild of Anne-Laure Le Cunff, Ness Labs is a community of over 50,000 global learners, people who call themselves knowledge workers. I was a member for a year and am about to re-up my subscription.

The beauty of Ness Labs, for me, was its internationality. One tiny example: In a weekly Pomodoro meeting created by a fellow Ness Labs member, we had members from Asia, from Europe, from the United States. We learned a lot from each other, and I’ve definitely reaped the fruits of that productivity. A solid draft of my forthcoming novel was written during those Pomodoros!

We also met up for classes. One of them was about a year-end review, and it was so fruitful I immediately passed the technique on to others. Now I’m passing it on to you.

The backbone of the technique

There are two primary things you have to remember when you’re using this technique:

  • Keep it simple
  • Set a time limit

Here’s the technique itself: Everything falls into one of three status markers — a plus (what went well); a minus (what didn’t go so well); or an arrow forward (what can you do better next time?). It’s worth noting that “what can you do better next time?” isn’t about the things you want to stop doing, but also about the things you want to keep doing.

This technique makes good use of the four questions the ShelterBox disaster-relief team I volunteer for asks itself every…



Yi Shun Lai
Human Parts

Author: A SUFFRAGISTS’S GUIDE TO THE ANTARCTIC (2024), Pin Ups (2020). Columnist, The Writer.; @gooddirt. Psst: Say “yeeshun.” You can do it!