Set Your Compass to Reach Your Goals for the New Year


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With the new year less than three weeks away, it’s time to reflect on your successes and failures from 2019 and set new goals for 2020!

A couple of years ago I learned about YearCompass, a fabulous free resource to facilitate this process. Before that I found the whole process of figuring out how I did with my goals and setting new goals pretty challenging, but YearCompass made it fun and enlightening. In this post, I’ll tell you about Year Compass and some other year-end exercises, and share a bit about my own review.

What is YearCompass?

According to their website:

YearCompass is a booklet that helps close your year and plan the next one. In the routine of everyday life it’s easy to lose sight of your true goals and aspirations. And even though we all have dreams, only a few of us plan for them. Effectively, at least. YearCompass works simply. Using questions and exercises rooted in psychology it takes you through the past year, then helps you turn your dreams into achievable goals.

You can choose from different formats, including a fillable PDF, but I highly recommend printing a copy. Lifehacker and others have written about the benefits of journaling by hand. Although YearCompass isn’t technically a journal, the fact that “writing stimulates and engages your brain better” and “writing by hand is a more raw, authentic experience” definitely come into play. In addition, there’s a drawing exercise (sounds silly but it’s amazing) and I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I can do easily on my computer.

What’s so great about YearCompass?

It’s not about measuring your progress on the goals you set but about looking at the past year overall. What were the highlights? What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?

Doing the exercises really opened my eyes to what’s important to me. When you’re a business owner, especially a work-at-home solopreneur, your personal life and your professional life get so closely meshed together that sometimes you lose sight of the big picture.

But I don’t want all this touchy-feely stuff. What about my business?

Sure, you still need to look at your numbers so you can set goals and determine how you’ll reach them. But choosing numbers out of the air is meaningless if your targets aren’t based on what you want to accomplish in your life and your business.

If you’re looking for a business-specific year-end review exercise, Milana Leshinsky posted some great questions on her blog a number of years ago. The post is no longer online, but fortunately, I kept a copy on file.

Year-End Review Questions for Your Business

  1. What’s your biggest business objective in the new year?
  2. Where are your biggest opportunities right now?
  3. Where do you see a gap in your market, what’s not being offered?
  4. What do your customers and clients complain about?
  5. Where are you leaving money on the table?
  6. What new revenue streams can you easily add next year?
  7. What are your top 3 time eaters and energy drainers?
  8. What is your “Biggest Opportunity Project” for the new year?
  9. What are the top 5 marketing strategies you’ll focus on?
  10. How will you know you’ve had a great year?

I recommend writing the questions in a notebook for the same reasons I suggested printing YearCompass. If you’re just not a “paper person” you can copy and paste the questions into your preferred platform, whether it be Word, Evernote, OneNote, Google docs or something else.

Put each question on its own page and write down whatever answers come to you. Don’t try to complete the exercise all in one sitting, but continue adding new ideas as they come to you. You can then write or type your answers out neatly, highlight keywords and phrases, or whatever best suits your workstyle.

More Review Questions

For more questions and a worksheet to help you review your accomplishments over the past year and set goals for the future, read my post Planning for Your Best Year Ever.

My Year-End Review


I worked on a record number of website projects this year, both large and small. I’ve blogged about a few of them:

  1. Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants Group (membership site)
  2. Institute for Professional Organizers (e-learning site)
  3. Basic Organization
  4. Free Your Space Organizing
  5. Career Impressions


I’ve spent quality time with family as well as friends, old and new, and got away a few times. I also went on a couple of guided walking tours in my own city, and I joined a choir, which has been far more rewarding than I could ever imagined.

And of course, I’ve kept up with my reading and photography. I’ve been posting all year on Goodreads and my personal Instagram feed, but will be publishing recaps here as 2019 draws to a close.

Looking Ahead

Looking back, I’ve realized that 2019 was very satisfying, especially after the challenges I faced in 2018. I haven’t written down my goals yet for 2020, but it seems that if I keep doing what I’ve been doing, I can’t go wrong!

Wrapping It All Up

Even if you have a pretty clear idea in your mind of what you want to achieve in the new year, take the time to write it down. Experts say that seeing your goals in writing can motivate you to taking the actions needed to achieve them. In addition, your goals document or notebook can become your compass for the coming year, to keep you on track and help you evaluate your progress.

Have you tried YearCompass?

If you’ve used it, what did you like and dislike about the process?

Is there another method you recommend for conducting year-end reviews?

Photo © alexandkz / DepositPhotos

Casual Photo of Janet Barclay

Janet Barclay

I eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, cooking, watching movies, drinking tea, and spending time with my family.

Join the Conversation!


  1. Seana Turner on December 16, 2019 at 8:05 am

    This sounds like a great idea! I love hearing about your year, Janet. My daughter joined a choir as well, and she is loving it! I’ve enjoyed seeing your photos all year on Instagram. You definitely have a talented eye:) Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year ahead!

    • Janet Barclay on December 16, 2019 at 1:46 pm

      Thank you so much, Seana! My best to you and your family, especially your singing daughter!

  2. Sabrina Quairoli on December 16, 2019 at 11:32 am

    I downloaded YearCompass last year and it was really helpful to see what I did and did not focus on with my goals. It helped me determine my goals for the new year.

    The questions you listed are great to help me trigger deeper thoughts about what I have done this year. I’m going to use them before I do my goals for next year. Thanks for sharing!

    • Janet Barclay on December 16, 2019 at 1:48 pm

      My pleasure – I hope you find them helpful!

  3. Carol Jones, A Jones For Organizing on December 16, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    Love it! I’m going to try it!

    • Janet Barclay on December 16, 2019 at 1:48 pm

      I’m sure you’ll like it, but look forward to hearing your thoughts!

  4. Janet Schiesl on December 16, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    Thanks for letting us know about Year Compass. I’ll check it out. I went to a business planning retreat at the beginning of 2019 and found it very beneficial for my business throughout the year. Setting goals and having a way to track my progress was what I needed to move out of the rut I was in. I’m going again in January. Really because I need to set aside the time to work on planning and goal setting undisturbed.

    • Janet Barclay on December 17, 2019 at 12:23 pm

      A business planning retreat sounds wonderful! I’d love to hear more about it… how long, how many participants; is it through a group you belong to or can anyone sign up, etc.

  5. Linda Samuels on December 16, 2019 at 8:39 pm

    Last year I remember that you shared about the Year Compass. It was so intriguing that I downloaded it and took a look. While I didn’t fill out everything, it definitely stimulated my thinking. It helped me to set an intention for the year that ended up playing a significant role in all of the choices I made. Thank you for sharing it again.

    I love reflecting back and future thinking, especially this time of the year. Recently, I reread many of my old journals going back to age 12. It was quite the experience. At a point, I had to stop. I like to look back, as a way of understanding. Rereading made me appreciate the present and recognize how the seed ideas and choices made led me to this time.

    Other years I’ve written out specific goals in various areas of my life. Or I’ve picked a “word” of the year. For 2020, I’m going to set an intention like I did last year. That worked well for me. Thank you for the nudge to start pondering.

    • Janet Barclay on December 17, 2019 at 12:27 pm

      Linda, you inspire me so often that I’m happy to return the favor. I loved reading about how you set your intention for last year so much that I just went back to re-read it now, and I hope 2020 is even better for you!

      • Linda Samuels on December 20, 2021 at 10:21 am

        I remember how powerful the Year Compass exercise was. Since you introduced me to it several years ago, I’ve used it in different ways. I’m looking forward to diving in again soon. For 2022, I decided to go back to picking a “word” for the year. And that word will create an overall intention for my choices, decisions, and goals. I’m sure I’ll write more about it soon. But I’m happy to give you a preview. My word for 2022 is “Flourishing.” I’m excited to see how it manifests.

        • Janet Barclay on December 20, 2021 at 12:52 pm

          Thank you for sharing your word for 2022! I wasn’t planning to choose one but “Nurture” popped into my head and it’s perfect for where I am right now.

  6. Nancy Haworth on December 17, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    Janet, congratulations on a wonderful year! You are right that planning ahead and handwriting your goals can help you better reach goals in the new year. I have downloaded the Year Compass booklet, and I’ll try it out as I make my plans and goals for 2020.

    • Janet Barclay on December 18, 2019 at 12:28 pm

      I hope you’ll enjoy the process as much as I do!

  7. Phaedra Studt on December 20, 2021 at 9:27 pm

    This sounds like a great product! I know I often speak about the things I didn’t accomplish, but it’s great to reflect on what actually was accomplished and set goals for the new year!

    • Janet Barclay on December 21, 2021 at 12:15 pm

      You definitely need to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!

  8. Julie Bestry on December 23, 2021 at 3:27 am

    This post feels like a time machine considering all that’s happened in the two years since you originally wrote it. I write about year-end reviews to help for moving forward, but I’ll admit I’m terrible at any real kind of backward glance. (I instinctively feel like I must be lazy not to have done ALL THE THINGS and then when I look back, I do see my achievements but also everything left on the table because I’m less aspirational than I feel I “ought” to be.) But between the YearCompass booklet and the questions you’ve posed above, I’m looking forward to giving this a try. Thank you for sharing!

    • Janet Barclay on December 23, 2021 at 1:43 pm

      I am pretty sure that 2020 wasn’t the way I pictured it when I wrote this. I didn’t even do these exercises last year – there were just too many unknowns. The pandemic has taught us to be more flexible, but I wonder how many will lose the ability to make long-range goals?

      • Julie Bestry on December 26, 2022 at 6:38 pm

        I just re-read this post and it’s just as excellent as the first time around. I learned about Year Compass from you, and have incorporated it in my annual review and future-planning posts since then, and I love how it really challenges me in ways that just looking at metrics fails to do. You are always finding us the best stuff, Janet, and I look forward to what you discover and share in 2023!

        • Janet E Barclay on December 27, 2022 at 2:59 pm

          Thanks for your kind words – I love sharing resources and especially learning how they have helped someone.

  9. katherine macey on December 27, 2022 at 1:40 pm

    Such a cool concept! Thanks so much for bringing it to our attention.

    • Janet E Barclay on December 27, 2022 at 3:01 pm

      My pleasure, Katherine! Your recent post about goal setting offers a unique twist on a familiar topic.

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