Forget New Year’s Resolutions and Conduct a ‘Past Year Review’ Instead

46 Comments

Im often asked about how I approach New Year’s resolutions. The truth is that I no longer approach them at all, even though I did for decades. Why the change? I have found “past year reviews” (PYR) more informed, valuable, and actionable than half-blindly looking forward with broad resolutions. I did my first PYR after a mentor’s young daughter died of cancer on December 31st, roughly eight years ago, and I’ve done it every year since. It takes 30-60 minutes and looks like this:

  1. Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
  2. Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
  3. For each week, jot down on the pad any people or activities or commitments that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month. Put them in their respective columns.
  4. Once you’ve gone through the past year, look at your notepad list and ask, “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”
  5. Based on the answers, take your “positive” leaders and schedule more of them in the new year. Get them on the calendar now! Book things with friends and prepay for activities/events/commitments that you know work. It’s not real until it’s in the calendar. That’s step one. Step two is to take your “negative” leaders, put “NOT-TO-DO LIST” at the top, and put them somewhere you can see them each morning for the first few weeks of 2019. These are the people and things you *know* make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.

That’s it! If you try it, let me know how it goes.

And just remember: it’s not enough to remove the negative. That simply creates a void. Get the positive things on the calendar ASAP, lest they get crowded out by the bullshit and noise that will otherwise fill your days. Good luck and godspeed!

Posted on: December 28, 2018.

Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.

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46 comments on “Forget New Year’s Resolutions and Conduct a ‘Past Year Review’ Instead

  1. It is so important to reflect back on the year. I journal and reflect back on every day. There are so many lessons to learn in life and we miss them if we don’t take time to reflect. Happy New Year to all!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tim,

      I wrote down a reminder for myself when I got this email to make this list for myself today. Immediately when I started the list I realized I don’t have those kinds of items on my schedule. Most of my tasks get scheduled through the ToDoist app (which I use on a daily basis). But even then, the types of TODO items that I have don’t include the type of content that I can use for a review like this. It has been working for me, but noting that difference I wonder if there is another way I can look at my daily tasks. I’ve never been much of a journal guy but am starting to find the appeal and may be doing that soon.

      I’d be curious to see what a sample of your calendar may look like so I can see what kind of things you evaluate look like on a yearly basis.

      Thanks again.

      Dave

      Like

  2. Tim,
    As you are always focusing on the most effective to ways to contribute, add value and grow Ihopethis year you will interview relationship expert Harville Hendrix
    The 30th anniversary edition of his best-selling book Getting the Love You Want comes out in January.
    I promise it will be a conversation you will long remember.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Do you really have to use a calendar? I know what’s going on in my own life, I remember what im doing and where i’m supposed to be. I write down 10-20% of the stuff I do, that’s all. If I spend time planning out what I do and writing it all down, I either a) dont follow it or b) spend all my time doing that and not the thing I want to do. I suppose you disagree?

    Like

    • You do whatever works for you obviously. I am an incredibly busy person. So much so that I turn down a lot of things. Because of this writing everything down on a calendar is crucial for me. Works for me. Doesn’t have to work for you! (:

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pareto principle at work.

    This is definitely one of the more powerful ways to understand what should be avoided and focus on what matters most.

    At the same time, your 2nd point might be quite difficult to implement since there’s no objective, and many times, not even a subjective list available with all of those things.

    It would be nice to get a follow-up blog post detailing what you recommend measuring during the year, especially since what to measure is just as important as what not to measure. I think most problems occur from this lack of clarity because not many people are talking about it and we all know that majoring in minor things is not quite useful.

    ~ Felix Dragoi

    Like

  5. I did the New Years’ positive/negative review last year and was surprised to see how simple many of my positives were (ie impromptu game of dominoes with my kids, riding bike
    to do errands). For 2018, I began jotting things down every week on Sundays so now going thru my calendar is much faster. Thanks!

    Like

  6. Tim, have read Tools of Titans & Tribe of Mentors books and enjoyed them both.
    In Tools you mention that not all will apeal to everyone. You are correct as I lost interest but as I continued but would come across some that hit home.
    As I, (in your words)”pondered” why that was I put off by all these people is it that they are mostly successful in their present life and have no fear of what life brings tomorrow or in other words, live paycheck to paycheck tolling in work/family/life? They don’t have the ability to enjoy traveling, special coffee, meditation in a forest those things these people write about… Granted these people went out and made it happen but don’t you think 85%+ of the world are struggling to get through?
    Don’t get me wrong, I believe in creating your own success but I would challenge you to ask the same questions to the store manager of a Target, a cashier at a 7-11, a bank teller, a trash collector, nurse, warehouse employee…… I believe the answers they provide and your insight into those answers could help more people than you know.
    I’m not a smart person (Forrest Gump LOL) but people like yourself influence many and have the ability to create positive gain in many.
    I just wanted to say Thanks for putting your material out to us and to give you an idea that might help the working class.
    I have the 4 Hour week on my 2019 books to get which I’m sure will be just as enlightening.
    Thanks again

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve followed every media project of yours for many years. For a long time I considered myself one of your “true fans.” I’ve gotten less interested over recent projects that seemed celebrity focused at the expense of usefulness, and now that you’re sending out gun control ads, I’m out. Thanks for 4HB.

    Like

  8. Tim, (off Topic here) I recently listened to your podcast in which you shared candidly about your previous struggles with suicidal thoughts and more. Simply said I was shocked. Thanks for your vulnerability. Ultimately happenstance seemed to allow you enough time to work through those personal brawls and you choose life.
    I for one, (I’m sure I represent millions), am so grateful you worked through those things. You have provided through your books and podcasts so much applicable knowledge/wisdom from both yourself and others that is quite frankly, amazing! Short-cuts, life hacks, and just general life help only begins to cover the ways in which you’ve helped what amounts to countless people. So even though you may not see it, feel it, or get to touch it as often as you like, your decision to choose life has impacted others fantastically and is greatly appreciated. THANK YOU TIM! Thanks for taking your thoughts captive, renewing your mind and staying strong while no longer needing to be a perfect persom. You’re an inspiration and well appreciated!

    Like

  9. Very nice Tim! IMHO it’s very important to actually do all the steps that Tim lays out here. To amp the results even more try and find emergent patterns and themes among your positive experiences.

    [Moderator: additional text and link removed.]

    Like

  10. I’ve always throughly enjoyed your podcasts and writing because they’re basically free of the political bias that permeates the interwebs. So I was very surprised to see this 5-Bullet Friday’s email promoting an anti-2nd amendment/liberal agenda. I really do hope that you don’t go down that road so that I (and probably a lot of other regular folks) will be able to keep benefiting from your great content. Thank you.

    Like

  11. I was just reading about this in your 5 bullet Friday update. I decided to implement a yearly review process for myself for the first time this year partly inspired by your advice in the 4HWW and a newsletter from Tony Robbins.

    I use a framework outlined in one of Tony’s newsletters to review my life and career on a quarterly basis and will for the first time look to use this as part of a review for 2018. It’s just 3 questions that I ask myself, yet it keeps me on track and focused on who I am, what I want in life and how I can help others.

    Thank you for all the work you share to the world and I hope you have a great 2019.

    Like

  12. Thanks Tim! I will write a follow-on of my yesterday’s blog that focused on the past year darkness, the lessons learned and the blessing. Your blog inspires me to rethink my blog one level deeper with the perfect template! Thank you so much!
    [Moderator: link removed.]

    Like

  13. Hello Tim,

    A new question to add to your reportoir: instead of best advice to a smart college graduate… get best advice to folks who didn’t start so well… or ended up on the bad side of some dust ups.. or just fucking failed and are trying to get their lives back together. Absolutely love your contributions and thoughtful, interesting interviews.

    Like

  14. My husband died on Dec 15 We have been married for 49 years. We had so many plans for our 50th. I just feel so lost and lonely. I had back surgery two years ago that went bad. he took care of me for those years and went I went into hospital he came and stayed with me most of the time. I was the sole bread winner greg was disabled. HE WAS A CANCER SURVIVOR , developed copd from the chemo had double hip replacements heart valve replacement.Last 10 weeks of his life was in the hospital. Thought he was getting better but found a large abscess in his spinal cord with fever and repeat of sepsis. He was getting more and more lethargic but he would say he loved me when he could. After bleeding all night he opened his eyes looked straight at me and passed away. As he stared I felt his spirit was leaving and he was looking at me saying it was alright. I am on a Walker now I lost the love of my life. PROBABLY SOON WILL GO TO A EXTENDED CARE FACILITY. Looking at the size of the rooms now will be losing the possessions that Greg and I bought together. We did everything together. I just do not know how to go on. Have two wonderful They have their professions that they worked so hard to reach their goals. They have both been there for me as well as my wonderful daughter in law. OH WELL I GUESS THIS IS ALL.

    Like

  15. To move forward and making goals for the new year, it is also important to look back a little and note down the changes you have done or anything negative impact is making you stuck at one point and then taking the lessons learned, forge towards the future.
    Tim, you opened a new way to look forward. Happy New Year!

    Like

  16. I’m not sure why you are creating it as an either-or proposition. I’ve used New Year’s resolutions for a couple of decades to implement sometimes stupendous transformational change. Why not add in a past year review then look forward, and act, with resolve?

    Like

  17. Hi Tim, I hope 2018 was fantastic & 2019 is doublley so. I’m going to give this a go, I think it a really neat plan. My wife was talking about resolutions the other day, so I think on the 31st, we’ll sit down and do this.

    Like

  18. How many do you aim to put on each list?

    I have only 10 items on my negative (20%=2) and am thinking this only has extraordinary (hopefully) unrepeatable events.

    Like

  19. Instead of using my calendar, I found that going back through my Google Photos archive starting in January was a good way of seeing what I was doing. Lots of spontaneous activities – like going along with a friend’s friends to a performance at the Guthrie theater – never made it on my calendar, but the pictures reminded me how much fun that event was!

    Like

  20. Really enjoy your work, Tim! Wondering: have you done an episode, or any digging for that matter, on women who have been out of the workforce to raise kids, then find themselves needing or wanting to go back to work with now outdated skills or work history that doesn’t translate to today’s workplace? Looking specifically for women getting over this hurdle by taking the steps to whittle down specific paths and setting a clear path from there. Books? Specific people? Any help is GREATLY appreciated. Thanks for doing what you do!

    Like

  21. Tim I did this exercise last year, and one of things in POSITIVE was your book Tools of Titans and Naval Ravikant book recommendations. I remember your book’s first page start with a book recommendation of Poor Charlie’s Almanack. I started reading that book in 2018 and it tooks 2-4 months to end this massive book. But after I read the last page, I just don’t know much about this and weird thing is the day I read that last page, couple minutes later I felt curiosity tingling inside my heart. Which means I started writing it and everyday, yes everyday, I wake up, read that last page and write whatever, which I publish on my blog. That page was the last point of his “Psychology of Human Misjudgement” speech which was titled “Availability-Misweighing Tendency”. It’s changed my life.

    Like

  22. Dear Tim,
    I want to say thank you for something semi-related to this blog. Turns out leaving a comment might be the easiest way to get this message to you, so please pardon the seemingly low relevance.

    About two months ago, I listened to your interview with Debbie Millman during my commute to work. I cried in my car as Debbie was describing how she asks her students to write down a day in their lives ten years from the present. I cried because my body needed to release the restraints it was feeling. My body knew before my brain did that I had been keeping myself from dreaming for years.

    Since that day, I had tried a few times to envision a day in my future life. I couldn’t get anything down on paper when it comes to tangible details, not my job, not where I live, nothing. So I switched to just practice dreaming. Every time I think of something I want and not yet have, I remind myself that I’m dreaming. Today, New Year’s Day, I wrote down a stream of consciousness filled with nothing but dreams a few hours ago. I felt so much freedom and joy, and the good vibes didn’t stop there.

    I walked into a coffee shop an hour before I started typing this message. I was going to journal more about the dreams I had just written down, but as soon as I began to write, an image popped into my head, and then another, and another…I saw a life that I want myself to be living in the future, and I wrote it down. It’s not down to the nitty gritty, but there are parts where I can look at and go “I know exactly what that looks like.”

    For now, whether this life comes true or not isn’t that important to me. What I value most is the fact that I dreamed. I changed for the better in 2018 in so many ways because of the work you put out to the world, and this is the latest and perhaps most impactful change. I say all this to say thank you, and may 2019 be full of magic for you.

    With love,
    El

    Like

  23. Dear Tim

    I have recently purchased your book and it’s blowing my mind! In the past couple years my husband and I have been experimenting with many of the things you write about, and this is bringing us to a whole new level of understanding and excitement about what we can do.

    There is something I really crave to ask you.

    We are currently in an outwardly pretty shitty situation because of all our experimentation with working less hours. The problem, from what I understand from reading your book now, is that we have reduced hours but have struggled to reduce our work load. So A LOT has ended up being outsourced last minute, and we haven’t benefited from all the money our company earned last year, leaving us in a terrible place financially.

    So my burning question is, what would Tim Ferris do?

    We have literally sold all our things, left our home and are currently living in the loft of some friends in Vienna!
    BUT, another thing triggered by your book, is a long-forgotten business project we once dreamed about in Argentina (I grew up in San Carlos de Bariloche). Which now we see a huge opportunity to pull off. The problem: our banker hates our guts, and is threatening with blocking our accounts, which god forbid, will leave us in a very paralysed state as you can imagine. We have tried applying for funding and some loans, but our current situation is too unstable for anyone to take us seriously.

    So what the hell would you do????!!!!

    Secretly hoping that your answer will change our life! Haha! Just Kidding…
    But I would be very grateful for any kind advice and tips to get us closer to living like a New Rich 😀

    All my warmest regards,
    Sarah [Moderator: last name removed.]

    Like

  24. Interview #18 with James Altucher inspired me to reach out. James suggested “giving you something” to get your attention. One way he suggested listeners do this is to highlight potential podcast guests.

    As a health professional I would be interested in a “pros / cons” of different modalities in relation to spinal and back health – ELDOA vs Pilates vs Physio etc. An interview with the respected osteopath Guy Voyeur would be outstanding. I would also be interested in something on neuropathic pain – Adriaan Louw or any of his colleagues would be interesting.

    I would also enjoy knowing more about the host of “The Daily” podcast from The New York Times. How they pick their stories etc. In general something on the topic of reporting and how to keep your integrity as a reporter during these dived times would be fascinating.

    Also, something on “relationship theory” would be useful. I loved your interview with Esther Perel. Terry Real and / or John Gottman would make great guests. Even better, get both on the same podcast so they could discuss pros and cons of their theories. A few potential guests I am SURE you are aware of being Carol Dweck, Kristen Neff, Martin Seligman.

    Thank you for the work that you produce. I credit you in my recent book [Moderator: book title removed.]. If you are willing to accept a copy I would be honoured to mail one to you.

    Like

  25. @tferriss I am in Austin this weekend. Have been visiting since 2011 when friends from college moved there. Hit all the big must dos. any local activities you love / recommend? Also, still want to see a commercial real estate pro on your podcast…

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Reflecting back at the gone year gives us a lot of perspective and understanding about where we are going in life and how much we have learnt. It also helps us sort out our priorities.
    I just started my journey of being self employed towards the end months of last year. Overall, I alway have a positive outlook towards everything life has offered me when i look back, though i may have felt resentful back then at sudden change of lot of events.

    [Moderator: website link and additional text removed.]

    Like

  27. It is a step in the right direction.

    Constantly monitoring your habits and results like Tim suggested.

    Trim. Clean. Dispose.

    Thanks, Tim

    Like

  28. Tim, when are you going to add video to your podcasts? Have you seen the ammount of viewers Joe Rogan is getting over on YouTube? All you need is a camera so when are you gonna up your game to the next step and do it?

    Like

  29. Tim Tim,

    I’d say thanks but it was always going to be this way right? 🙂

    How was the New Years Eve party? Fancy giving us mortals an insight?

    Merci
    J.

    Like

  30. I did it – took my 2018 week-by-week and filled up columns of “Positve” and “Negative.” There were SO many more positive things, I’m quite gratified, and yes, I’ll do more of those in this new year. Thanks for the idea, Tim. No NY’s resolutions for me.

    Like

  31. I have a question, though it is 4 hour body related (new years resolutions and all). You talk about muscle contractions before and after meals on cheat days, to induce GLUT4 transporters in the muscles. The question is, will electronic muscle stimulation with a TENS machine, offer the same effects? The idea of relaxing on my couch, while my quads or biceps fire away sounds amazing. What’s your thought on this? Thanks in advance for any help, I have lost 12lbs on slow carb already!

    Like

  32. This is where the daily journal, and all the writing and figuring stuff out, really pays for its self, at this time of year. Reading back through it and finding out what worked, what didn’t, and where to apply more of less effort next year. As much as Journaling throughout the year is so beneficial, going through it and adding it all up is an equally as beneficial exercise.

    Like

  33. hey tim. I am a teenager from india who wats to contact joe gebbia. Ifyou would be kind enough to share his email adress or even a proxy, it would be great. I want to share a business idea i had with him. If you would like to contact me and ask something , then my email address is [Moderator: email address removed.].
    thanks and hope you are interviewing more awesome people.

    Like

  34. Thanks for sharing this exercise, Tim! I usually just spend about 5 minutes reflecting on the year past, before diving into my goals for the year ahead. Your method, however, is sure to prevent you from repeating the same mistakes. I also love how actionable it is! It’s so important to put things in your diary, otherwise it never happens! Definitely going to try this!

    Like