Look Back to Plan Ahead

There’s a lot to do at the end of the year. Adding a 2023 business strategy to the mix isn’t necessarily something that a lot of us want to do or have the bandwidth for. But as the year comes to a close, we do probably have a lot of ideas and thoughts circling, and it can be an excellent time for reflection.

Taking time to reflect allows us to have a better idea of how the year went and what we might want to do in the future. Reflections don’t require us to make a plan for what’s next, they simply ask us to consider how things have worked up to this point.

How can we best reflect on the year behind us? There’s no one way to do business reflections, but it’s helpful to start from a place of curiosity. Reflecting is less about coming up with concrete takeaways and more about asking yourself questions that encourage you to see the overall picture. These reflections can also help in creating a roadmap to guide your business with intention while still making room for flexibility.

Schedule some time between now and the end of the year for reflection. Prioritizing reflection means that you are taking the time to construct a framework so that you can better focus on your 2023 strategy when the time comes. If you can, block out a morning or afternoon on your calendar. Get out pen, paper, and even art supplies, if you want. Cultivate a space and setting where you are excited about taking a look back and learning along the way.

Ready? Here are a few questions and prompts to kickstart your own reflections.

What Are Your Successes?

Make a list of all the months in the past year and identify one success for each of them. Remember, success comes in many forms and does not necessarily have to be financial.

  • What are the things that you did with your business that you enjoyed?
  • What are the things that fueled your inspiration?
  • What are the projects that you loved working on?

Take a step back and look at this list of successes with a bit of a more global perspective.

  • Is there anything that ties these successes together?
  • Is there repetition in the kinds of things that made you feel successful?

You can now use this list to identify common themes about what things you are doing with your work that you want to do more of in the next year.

What Did You Learn?

Learning is essential to our creative process. It’s also essential for moving our businesses forward. As we build out our businesses we see what works and what doesn’t. We move through challenges. We find solutions. What are five things that you learned this year?

Identifying what you learned may also help you articulate some of the strategies that you may want to apply in the year to come.

If You Could Change One Thing What Would it Be?

Now that we have worked through the successes and our learning moments, let’s shift the focus to what we might want to change. If you could change one thing about how you do your business, what would it be and why? The why is the important part here because the driving motivation behind what you would want to change might tell you more about yourself and your business and provide deeper insight.

What’s On Your Not-To-Do List?

When we’re reflecting, we’re often thinking about the things that worked well. We’re focused on the positive. But take some time to think about what didn’t serve you this past year, as well.

  • Was there work that you didn’t enjoy doing and also didn’t support you financially?
  • Were there toxic work relationships?
  • Were your own expectations too high?

Checklists are fun for getting work done, but I also love the opposite: the Not-To-Do list. It’s exactly what it sounds like—all the things we are not going to do. After going through the last year, what would you put on a Not-To-Do list?

Who Is Part of Your Creative Team?

We’ve now worked through some of the individual-focused questions. Next let’s take our attention and extend it outward. Even when we work for ourselves, we don’t create in a vacuum. We all need support systems, collaborators, and yes, even executive boards.

  • Who did you like working with this year?
  • Who offered you support?
  • Are there areas where you want more support next year?

This is a great time to start thinking about who you might want to collaborate or work with in the new year. It’s also a great time to reach out to those people and thank them—we’re all better because of creative collaboration, and it’s worth expressing that gratitude so that you continue to cultivate a relationship that you can move forward with.

Very few of us are in the space where we can say yes to 2023 projects right now, but if you begin reflecting on what those might look like now, you can prioritize committing to those collaborations and partnerships in the new year.

How Will You Slow Down?

If you’ve taken the time to do some end-of-year reflecting, then give yourself some space to let those reflections marinate. These last months of the year can be hectic with all kinds of constraints, so if you’re able to, give yourself permission to rest and take time off. You need it; your business needs it.

Then you can come back in the new year and get to planning all the creative endeavors, collaborations, and pursuits that you’re excited about. We can’t wait to see what you create in 2023!

Anna Brones

Writer and artist based in the Pacific Northwest. Author of several books including Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Works as a papercut illustrator and teaches classes and workshops on art and creativity. Find her online at annabrones.com.

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