Your Work Life: Reflecting on the Past Year

Dec 21, 2020

By Deanna Parkton and Ed Hunter 


Ah, the holidays – time to spend time with loved ones, share gifts and unwind from the year that has been, to say the least, unlike any other.

However, this time of year can also feel like a stressful rush to the finish line.  Your to-do list bursts with tasks, both work and personal.  It can be a blur in the best of times.  

And these times ain’t that.

But here’s a gentle reminder. The waning days of 2020 may also provide some moments to do something critical to your career and professional development.  If you are fortunate enough to find just a little time on your hands during the holidays, think about how you might be able to use this time for some meaningful personal and professional reflection

Taking time to reflect on your last year before the new year brings about a variety of benefits. It is a chance to clear your mind and take a step back from the to-do list and minutia of your work. Your day-to-day challenges are fresh in your mind, compared to the post-holiday new year. More importantly, it sets the stage to allow you to tackle the new year with more purpose, learning from the challenges of the year before.

Similar to our personal lives, it is easy to fall back into old patterns in our work lives. This can be related to how we manage our work-life balance, how we structure (or don’t structure) our work days, or how we communicate with our colleagues. Taking time to think through changes we might make to improve our work lives helps us to decrease stress, and be better for ourselves and those around us. 

To get started, set aside an appropriate time for your reflection exercise. True reflection requires you to have a clear mind. Be sure to avoid times that you are feeling particularly stressed or your mind is distracted by your to-do list. Consider a day and time that you have let go of your task list for a bit, such as the end of the work day, or a Friday afternoon when you are transitioning out of the work week. 

If you are having trouble focusing and letting go of work stress, consider doing a brief meditation to ground yourself. Check out Mindful for recommendations of free meditation apps. Here at Life in Progress, our favorite is Insight Timer

First, identify areas for reflection. Aim for 3-5 areas of focus, including but not limited to: 

  • Personal health and wellness, including physical, mental and emotional health 
  • Career satisfaction 
  • Key relationships, both at home and at work 
  • Time and priority management
  • Personal and professional growth and learning


For each area, identify: 

  • What am I doing well, that I would like to keep doing?
  • What am I doing that I would like to change, or stop doing?
  • What were my wins in 2020? What am I proud of?
  • What were my challenges?  Where am I stuck?


Make notes on your reflections, and give this exercise a little time.  By giving appropriate focus to each area, you will begin to see a full picture of the opportunities and challenges which are most present for you.  And this will help you begin to make choices for change, growth, acceptance and celebrate “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it on!”

Our next blog will cover action planning and how to shift from reflection into action. For now, reflect on what you wrote down and identify any patterns you observe.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” George Santayana

By reflecting on your past, you will begin to see the patterns and lessons you need to grow. Your experience is your best asset to create whatever you want to come next.  So take a breath, and a minute, to take a look back.

See you in the new year! 


For more ideas on how you can reflect on your work life and identify growth opportunities, consider working with a career coach. A coach can help you identify strategies to face workplace challenges head on. Check out our executive coaching services and sign up for a free consultation here. 


Deanna Parkton is a writer, career coach and educator with a passion for professional development and work wellness and happiness. With a focus on self-reflection, she works with individuals in their quest to reach their career goals as well as satisfaction in work-life balance. You can find more of her writing at and she can be reached at 

Ed Hunter is a Professional Career and Executive Coach and principal of Life in Progress Coaching. He is certified by the international Coaching Federation as a Professional Certified Coach.. He is also a Certified Executive and Leadership Development Coach.  Ed has coached over a thousand professionals to create authentic careers and balanced work lives, and has a special interest in career development for adults with Autism. To connect with Ed, schedule a free consultation here