It is powerful to review the past before you plan forwards 

Whether you are laying personal, team or business plans, it is not easy to create a blueprint of how you want to grow and develop in the year ahead without first considering where you have come from. Reflecting on past difficulties and triumphs – on what worked and what did not – can provide a great foundation from which to set future goals.  


For you to intentionally create a winning action plan for yourself or your business the year ahead, it is essential to set aside adequate uninterrupted time to pause and reflect. It is important to recognise and celebrate what worked well – and to take the hard lessons and move on from your mistakes. With this accomplished, you will be better prepared to set focus areas, priorities and goals – and then create an action plan that will lead you step by step toward the 12 months you want to create. 


First take stock 

Go through last year’s calendar or diary day by day. When you come across a noteworthy event or project, or any significant happening, write it down. Then ask yourself a series of “reflection questions.” These will provide useful insights into the highs and lows of the previous year. For example:  

  • What went well? 
  • What took you by surprise? 


When things do not work out as planned, people generally want to just move on and forget. But looking back can help you to better understand and appreciate the lessons learned – and help in not repeating mistakes. 

  • What would you like to do differently in the year ahead? 
  • What needs to be left behind as you move forward? 


It is important to celebrate your accomplishments and successes – and to recognise the hard work that went into them.  

  • What were your three greatest achievements last year? 
  • What did you do to achieve this success? 
  • Who helped you reach your goal? 

It is also important to show gratitude for those people who helped you reach your goals. Take the time to remember and list the particularly beneficial things people did for you – or when someone went the extra mile so that you can thank them.  


Then take the time to set goals 

Before you set your goals, look forward. Where do you want to be at the end of the year? Once your end-goal is decided what personal, career or business goals do want to set for 2024?  

  • When it comes to your personal goals, break down each goal into smaller, manageable steps. This approach makes progress tracking easy. It helps to gain momentum and regularly celebrating smaller wins helps to keep you motivated. 
  • When it comes to business goals, consider short-term (quarterly), annual and long-term goals. 
  • As a business owner, this will include determining revenue streams and setting revenue goals. 
  • As a team leader, it includes prioritising and narrowing down new projects and ideas. 
  • As an employee, this includes determining where you want your career to be in 12 months’ time. 


Finally, create a practical action plan 

To develop a detailed action plan for each goal, outline the specific steps required. Then set up a series of incremental targets or milestones and establish deadlines to keep yourself accountable. An action plan will have the following components: 

  • A well-defined description of the goal to be achieved 
  • Tasks or steps that need to be carried out to reach the goal 
  • People who will oversee or implement each task 
  • Deadlines and milestones as to when will these tasks be completed 
  • Resources needed to complete the tasks 
  • Metrics by which progress will be evaluated 


Automate your goal tracking 

Today, there is a wide range of online project management software available that can help you set business or team goals and keep track of an action plan.  

Choose software with these capabilities: 

  • Dashboards and progress reports to help you accurately measure overall progress. 
  • Workflow features that break down your goals into simple “to-do” action plans. 
  • Text and email notifications to communicate within the team and stay on top of deadlines. 
  • A mobile app to regularly revisit your goals. 


Many people and organisations do not set aside time for intentional reflection and review. However, treated as a reference point for planning and action, examining the past can inform and drive future progress. It can provide perspective, clarity, and motivation. 4 Seeds Consulting has developed a comprehensive guide called Life Navigator that will help you direct your reflections on the past year – so you can purposefully design the upcoming year you want to live.  

Email me at if you would like a copy of our Life Navigator.

Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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