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woman planning her quarterly life review in her office

What You Can Learn From Doing A Quarterly Life Review

Sometimes we get so focused on being busy to show we’re being productive and achieving things we forget to stop and take stock of what we’re actually doing and how it’s fuelling a broader sense of purpose and fulfillment in our lives.

Something I’ve been trying to get better at in recent years, especially as a freelancer, is figuring out what the right things are; the ones that work for my personal and professional growth.

One of the ways I’m doing this is by conducting a Quarterly Life Review. As we reach the end of the first quarter of 2022, now might be the perfect time for you to see how this might work for you too.

What is a quarterly life review?

The idea of conducting life reviews was first introduced by pioneering psychiatrist Robert Butler. In his work, Butler was concerned about the rising levels of depression he was diagnosing in aging clients.

Believing a sense of aimlessness and lack of control over past events and how they could marry these into their present was to blame, Butler developed a process called the life review. He saw life reviews as a way for his clients to rediscover the purposes they’d held earlier in their life, to help them affirm their values and purpose in the present.

A life review is an excellent way of reframing past experiences and events in ways that can help you move past them and refocus on what’s important to you. As purpose researcher William Damon advises:

“A life review is for reconstructing the past in a manner that can provide personal benefits that many of us need.”

But we don’t need to wait until we’re older to reap the benefits of a life review.

A quarterly life review takes this initial idea and condenses it down to be used on a more regular basis – every three months – so you can spend some dedicated time exploring:

  • Where you’re spending your energy
  • What events, experiences, or situations you might need to revisit and process
  • What’s giving you purpose

I’ve started expanding my review to also include:

  • What actions and activities are helping me grow
  • What’s barriers (internal or external) are holding me back
  • How I’m actively replenishing my energy reserves in the ways that best support me and my lifestyle

What a Quarterly Life Review Is Not

A quarterly life review should not evaluate where you feel like you might be failing or be used as a comparative tool to measure yourself against others and how they’re living their lives.

The review should focus purely on you and where you’re at. It’s a great way of acknowledging how some experiences may have inadvertently stopped us from progressing.

quarterly planning on laptop in office

4 steps to help you get started

The questions posed above are good starting points. It’s a great idea to book some time in for yourself to conduct your review – but it should also start before you sit down.

Here are some ways I set myself up throughout the months, ready to conduct a quarterly life review:

1. Keep a ‘little wins’ list.

I love how Robin Sharma breaks this down as:

“Five little wins each day equals 150 wins in one month, equals 1800 wins in one year.”

Little wins are the activities and successes throughout the month that give you that little life high. Creating this list throughout the quarter will provide you with a significant amount of data to review and reflect on.

From the list, you might be draw themes that could point you further towards a core purpose you might not yet be tapping into fully. Whether one a day or once a week – keep a note of those little wins.

2. Keep a ‘little mishaps’ list.

Similar to a ‘Little Wins’ list, a ‘Little Mishaps’ list can help you reflect on areas where things may not have entirely gone to plan.

Focus on utilizing a growth mindset with this inclusion, remembering that every small failure, rejection, ‘thing gone wrong,’ or misstep can be beautiful avenues to explore to keep growing and improving.

When reflecting on this list as part of your review, consider why you felt it was a mishap, what was in your control and what wasn’t, and how you might learn from this in the future.

3. Journal through the hard stuff.

The thing I love most about journaling is that it is not about having the answer. It’s a form of processing your experiences, thoughts, and feelings without focusing on the outcome. I like to think of it as an active meditation process – you’re allowing thoughts and emotions to move through you and expelling them onto the page.

While I journal every day, I use a little symbol on the entries where I work through some of the tougher stuff of life. When I conduct a review, I revisit these pages to see what other insights have been gleaned through a bit of distance or if there’s anything I need to unpack further.

4. Make it a ritual.

Ritual has such a vital place in our daily lives and yet so many of us aren’t tapping into this mental superpower.

When I say make it a ritual, I don’t simply mean committing to the review every quarter. Making it a ritual can involve a series of small steps that helps to signify this is an important part of your personal growth. To make it a ritual you might:

  • Find a favorite coffee shop spot to work through your notes and review.
  • Set a calming scene by lighting a favorite candle, and putting on your music of choice.
  • Start and end your review with a short meditation practice.

Rituals can be whatever you make it – it’s a way of establishing this process in your ongoing routine.

Make this quarterly life review your own

And lastly, my biggest tip is to make your quarterly review your own. This is all about you and establishing where you’re going and how you’re getting there. It’s not about passing judgment or beating yourself up about where you think you didn’t measure up in some way.

Butler believed life reviews promote “intellectual and personal growth, and wisdom” throughout our lives.

A quarterly life review can help to draw us back to our center and remind us of what purpose might look like across our various life domains, so we can keep finding the connections and moving forward.

quarterly life review planning session