Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016: Year End Planning and Review

There is little more than two weeks left in 2015. In the midst of filling last minute orders and holiday fun and celebrations, now is a good time to slow down a bit, reflect on the past year and make plans and preparations for the year to come.

A good many successful artists, creatives, and business owners make year-end review and planning an annual practice. Everyone has their own “special sauce” for doing their review and planning. I’ve asked five creatives, artists, and entrepreneurs to share their year-end planning methods and favorite techniques and tools. Use these tips to help you create your own year-end review and planning practice.


Andreea Ayers

Entrepreneur, Founder of Launch Grow Joy

To wrap up 2015, I use one of my all time favorite planners: Leonie Dawson’s Create Your Shining Year Biz planner. One of the things that I love the most about this planner is that it prompts you to acknowledge, celebrate and release the current year before moving on to planning for next year. I love reflecting back on the current year and seeing what worked and what didn’t and then “officially” moving on to the next year. Planning is not my strong suit – I prefer implementing rather than planning, but over the years I’ve realized that planning is just as important as implementing.

For the last few years I’ve been setting aside a date in my calendar in December when I will sit down, uninterrupted, with my planner, and I focus for a few hours just on filling out the prompts in the planner. The reason I love Leonie’s planner is because it prompts you to think about every aspect of running your business: finances, team, support, systems, boundaries & balance, education, customers, marketing and your dreams for your business. All of these parts of your business work together to help you achieve your dream business and this planner makes it so easy for me to not only focus on the details, but also on the big picture as well.

Over the years I've realized that planning is just as important as implementing. @andreeaayers Click To Tweet

Photo credit: Brian Emerick

Lisa Congdon

Fine Artist, Illustrator, Author

Photo credit: Brian Emerick

Planning for the future might be one of my favorite parts of being a small business owner. I’m pretty old-fashioned when it comes to planning. I like to use big chart paper, a calendar and markers. At the end of each each year, I sit down with my team (which is almost up to three people), and we brainstorm all of the goals and projects for the coming year. I schedule a lot of client work, book projects and book tours in advance (as early as September for projects that will begin in January), so I make sure that stuff gets added to the list first.

Then we take that list and put everything in a calendar for the coming year. After the stuff we’ve already agreed to is in the calendar, we take a look to see what’s missing. For example, do we have any new products we want to release? When is the best time to release those? And we add those to the calendar far in advance to make sure they’re produced and ready when we want to release them. If I’m traveling somewhere for a speaking gig or book signing, we also look to see what other opportunities there might be in those cities: a publisher or client I could meet with or a fellow artist I could visit.

All of the projects & travel get added to my workflow document in Google Docs, which is basically a spreadsheet that lists everything I’m responsible for at any given time. Once a project is completed, it gets moved off the list.

Every Monday over the course of the year, I review my workflow with my team at our Monday morning meeting to make sure we’re on track with everything that’s due or about to happen. Over the course of the year we have a couple of team retreats to check in on where we are with everything overall, to set new goals and make adjustments. Life happens and sometimes I take on too much, so paring down is sometimes necessary! A combination of big picture and micro planning keeps me calm and on track with my busy work life.

A combination of big picture and micro planning keeps me calm and on track with my busy work life. @lisacongdon Click To Tweet


Lisa Jacobs

Marketing Consultant, Creative

End-year review is an event in both my personal life and business. Every year on my blog, I host a 7-day series in the sacred space between Christmas and New Year’s titled, New Year for a New You, in which I publicly review and reflect on the year that’s passing. I issue daily prompts and share my answers.

Most people don’t have the advantage of reviewing their previous goals and challenges, but I keep a public record of mine. Last year, as I was working on the 7-day series, I reviewed my previous series to collect questions for the current year’s time wasted / biggest challenges / worst setbacks post, and I found that my answers for the 2013 review matched exactly what I planned to talk about in the 2014 review. I looked back a year further and found the same challenges / setbacks / bad habits from the 2012 review! It was the most unsettling discovery: I was keeping the same problems year after year.

I have a specific goal in end-year review, and that is to identify where I’m stuck so I can take full responsibility and change it — no matter what, and as soon as possible. This year, I’ve cut contact with immediate family members who are toxic, I’ve changed the way I eat and how I treat my body, and I’ve finally overcome money blocks and insecurities that have held me back for years.

And I promise you, it’s no coincidence that I’ve also doubled my salary, lost weight, improved my marriage and relationships with my children, and created the biggest breakthroughs of my career in 2015.

You are one-half of every relationship that you don’t love or enjoy. You’re one-half of every argument, loving exchange, passive-aggressive wiggle and direct confrontation that happens in your life. You’re one-half of every good relationship, and one-half of every bad one.

It’s entirely your responsibility to move things in the right direction or quit what’s not working altogether. That is entirely the point of end-year review and New Year planning, and I wish you the best of luck with yours!

I have two major recommendations for making the most of every moment, and those are Your Best Year 2016 (written by yours truly) and 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Managementby Kevin Kruse.

It’s entirely your responsibility to move things in the right direction or quit what’s not working altogether.… Click To Tweet


Lori McNee

Artist, Blogger, Author

Like most other artists and crafters, I prefer spending time creating in my studio rather than crunching numbers and pushing papers at my desk. But as a creative entrepreneur, I know I must think like a small business owner.

The end of another year means a fresh start ahead. It’s the perfect opportunity for me to tighten my belt, and improve my organizational skills. Here are a few of my yearend preparations to jumpstart 2016. Maybe a few of them will inspire you…


1. Tighten Up My Finances: My son has introduced me to an app called Mint. Mint makes managing my personal finances less daunting. It automatically pulls in all my financial information into one place so I can get the entire picture without having to call my accountant for advice. Now, I can easily track my bills, and investments.

2. Organize Business Cards: If you’re a networker like me, you probably collect your important contact’s business cards. Until recently, I organized them into a rolodex. But, now I’ve been using the nifty little business card reader app, CamCard. Just snap a photo of a business card, and CamCard will quickly scan the information and upload it to the folder of your choice on your phone! It’s easy to get organized.

business card app

But most importantly, a positive outlook is one of the best things you can do to jump start your New Year!

3. This is the first order of business in getting ready for the new year! I am so busy; I am guilty of collecting clutter. I’d rather be painting and not wasting time cleaning my studio! But, research shows there is a direct correlation between productivity and clutter. Even if I don’t mind a little mess and disorganization, daily clutter definitely adds to stress, and chaos. Did you know 75% percent of all physician visits are stress related? Uncluttering can increase productivity, security and profits, while reducing workplace accidents and possible medical costs! Whether you have a small or large studio, it’s best to keep it shipshape! So, I’ve already rolled up my sleeves and cleaned my studio for the new year. Lori McNee studio

4. Out with the Old, and In with the New: Next, it’s time to organize all my paper files. One study found that the average person wastes over 4 hours per week searching for papers while reducing concentration and creative thinking! Having an organized filing system will save a lot of time and headaches.

5. Tame My Inbox: This is going to be a beast to tame! My email inbox has become a catchall for thousands of emails from many years. It’s time for me to face this dragon and start with a clean slate by deleting everything I don’t need. I’ve also been ‘unsubscribing’ to newsletters and other spam.

6. Keep A Travel Log: Each year, my accountant asks me to keep a log of my business trips including gas expenses, and mileage for tax purposes. I keep a journal, but I often forget to use it! This year I will be using a mileage tracking app on my iPhone. Here’s a list of the best mileage tracking apps for iPhone.

The end of another year means a fresh start ahead. @lorimcneeartist Click To Tweet


Tara Swiger

Author, Maker, Podcaster

Excerpted from “Make 2015 Awesome

I love using the next few weeks as an opportunity to hit pause on everything for a minute (remember, you have permission to take time off) and look at what happened in this last year, and what I want to happen.

As you’re planning your New Year, keep these things in mind:

Review the last year first.

List what worked and what didn’t. Celebrate your successes and ask yourself: What actions made that happen? Let go of what didn’t work. Enumerate the lessons you’ve learned. Make a list of what lessons you want to bring with you into the New Year.

Be specific.

Everyone wants more sales or more money or “growth.” What does that look like in your specific business? This is where you’re going to take what you learned while reviewing your year, and build on it. If you made 50 sales last year and you want to grow – how many sales do you want to make this year? If you want to write a book, how you will you do it (self-publish? book proposal to traditional publisher? something else)?

Find your reason.

Why do you want this? For things you truly want, you can usually answer this question swiftly, with multiple answers. Knowing your why will keep you motivated, even when things get hard. It will inspire in you another way of fulfilling that deeper desire, when a goal doesn’t work out.

Pick a focus.

If you listed 500 things you wanted to do in 2016 – that’s fine! But in order to make progress on any of them, you’re going to need to pick one or two to really focus on in the next three months. You can start anywhere – I always tell explorers to pick the thing they are most enthusiastic about, no matter how crazy it might seem. After you choose a destination for your next quarter, you’ll break it down into individual steps, so that you can take an action every day to get closer to your goal.

You may find, as you go through this process, that what you thought you wanted actually…isn’t. Maybe you’ll come up with an easier or more obvious way of reaching your definition of success. Maybe you’ll realize that you don’t have any reasons, and you’re only doing this because you think you “should”. No matter what the results are, be encouraged and keep going until you have some goals and ideas you are truly enthusiastic about!

Make a list of what lessons you want to bring with you into the New Year. @taraswiger Click To Tweet


No matter what stage you are in your art and your business, year-end review and planning can help you see where you’re succeeding, where you need improvement and can help solidify the direction you want to take for 2016.

So now it’s your turn! Look at your calendar right now and schedule some time before 2016 to do your year-end review and plan. Read over the interviews and jot down your favorite tips and tools to use in your own planning. I’ve included my own year-end planning method and worksheet in the 12 Days of Goodies giveaway (it’s the very first goodie you’ll get), so feel free to use that as a planning tool as well.

If you have your own go-to method for reviewing and planning your year, feel free to share it in the comments below. And you can take a page from Lisa Jacobs and share your goals in the comments as well!

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One Response to Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016: Year End Planning and Review

  1. Lori McNee December 16, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    What a great year-end round up of wonderful advice! Thank you for including me. I’m sure your post will inspire others with some fresh ideas for the New Year. Cheers to a productive and Happy New Year!

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