My year summaries are quite long. They are usually 50 to 80 pages long. This may sound very labor intensive. However, I break them up into a simple structure and I add lots of pictures so it actually isn't very difficult. Yes, it does take time but it is well worth it.
I have included the structure I use in my year summaries below with a description of what I write in each section. Hopefully this will give you a good start. I basically make each of these as 'headings' in in Microsoft Word and give them each their own separate page with page breaks to make up the year summary.
This structure changes slightly from year to year but for the most part it stays the same. I am saying this because I don't think that there is a perfect way to do this and I recommend you add and change this structure to best fit your style. I would love to hear any ideas about this in the comments section below.
- Year Summary Summary: This is essentially an executive summary of the year. I take a page or two to simply reflect on the big picture of the year. This is a good place to talk about blessings and gratefulness.
- Mission Statement: I am big into 7 Habits stuff and I always include my mission statement and a few paragraphs on how I have lived according to my mission. If and when I make changes to the mission statement I will write about why it changed.
- Goals: If you can record your goals from the last year, you can hold yourself accountable to them by including them in your year summary and writing about which ones you did and didn't accomplish.
- Family: I dedicate a few pages to each of my family members in my year summaries but I also write about the progress of the family as a whole. Here I also include our family mission statements and any goals we had for the year. This is a good place to write about the places you live, your family friends, changes, etc about your family.
- Family member pages: Like mentioned, I write a few pages for each of my children and my wife. They get a page or two of writing and several pages of pictures. I write about each person's year from my perspective: their development and growth, fun memories about them, and their accomplishments.
- Professional Development and Resume: Here I write about my employment and career development for the year. I always include an up-to-date resume as well. I like this section because even if I don't make progress, I become aware of that and it helps motivate me to progress the next year. When I do make progress it motivates me even more and helps me keep my resume up to date.
- Education: When I was in college this section listed the classes I took and my grades for those classes and other educational progress I make. Since I have graduated, I try to keep this section in here since education and learning are so important to me. I will write about new things that I learn from books, from life and from any independent courses that I take. This last year I took 2 EdX courses online and will write about them in my year summary for 2013.
- Books Read: This section simply lists the books I have read for the year. Some years I will write small reviews and thoughts about the books that were most influential to my life.
- Fun Memories/Events: Vacations, parties, hikes, adventures, school events, etc. Make sure to include pictures where you can.
- Pictures: My wife is a photographer so I usually have one to two hundred pictures in my year summary which is probably why they are so long. I like to put the pictures in with the events and people I write about. I usually have so many pictures available that I end up with several pages with only pictures.
- Wins/Successes: I started writing about past successes in a class I took in college and it was a really positive experience. People that don't feel successful can surprise themselves by making a list of their life successes. The key is to write about even the small successes. So every year I make a list of about 20 to 50 wins from the year and I am surprised every year with how much I have accomplished. This is a section I would strongly recommend for everyone.
- Facebook Posts: I like to include a list of all my Facebook posts and statuses. This section isn't absolutely necessary but I would recommend at least going back and reading all of your Facebook statuses for the year because you will probably discover some fun memories that somehow slipped your weekly and monthly journals.
- Monthly Journals: I like to include the chronological journal in my year summary even though I will write about the separate events that I have already written about in my monthly journals in my year summaries. This might seem redundant but I like to write about these events anyways because of the year context it gives. You could simply take your month journals and just add some pictures and call it your year summary if you like.
- What was going on in the world: One thing I recently started doing is to write a quick summary of events that happened in the world around me. This could be national or world news, events that happened for family and friends, or things that happen in the community. I always plan to write my opinions and emotions about these events but I haven't yet.
- Looking ahead: Next Year: This is the time to reflect on the future and coming year. I will almost always include my New Year's resolutions and goals for the coming year in this section. When you do this you can simply look at last year's year summary for your goals for the year to see if you accomplished them.
Below I have listed a few items I haven't included in my year summaries that I would like to start including or have included in older versions. The whole point of these year summaries is to capture the right data or information about your life and year that gives you meaning and makes you happy.
- Gratitude journal: I have started a daily gratitude journal and I write three good things that happen every day. I would like to start including this in my year summary.
- Writings: If you write blogs or essays or poems you might want to include those writings in your year summaries.
- Lessons learned: I have started to merge this in the education section of my year summary but it can be a section on it own. It is very simple when you learn a lesson (moral, social, etc.) you should log it so that you can remember and pass down those lessons to the future.
- Ideas: Most ideas go to the grave. Someone once said the graveyard is the most valuable place because of all the inventions, business, and ideas that were never written down and acted upon. If you have an idea write it down. You should do this no matter what and the year summary might be a good place to log those.
This should give you enough to get a really good start on a solid year summary. Good luck!
Next Week: The Year Summary Part 2: Formatting Using Microsoft Word