Does anyone else enjoy marking the end of one year and the beginning of the next?
Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved calendars and planning, but I find it extremely psychologically satisfying to close the book on one year and open up a fresh page to a new one. I always feel there’s opportunity in the fresh start a new year offers. As this year comes to a close, I’m focusing on connecting with the ones I love, reflecting on the past year, and planning ahead for the new year. Perhaps you might want to try some of my year-end activities?
Resources for Creating Structure, Fun, & Connection
Access downloadable resources, including a PDF and a free chapter of Happy Campers: 9 Summer Camp Secrets for Raising Thriving Kids (Secret #1: Connection Comes First).
Reflection & Connection activities
Over the past three decades, I’ve curated many personal and family activities (many of which I share in my book, Happy Campers). I’m sharing some of my favorites with you here.
100 (Family) Memories
Every December our family makes a list of 100 family memories from the year. This year marks our 13th year of doing this year-end remembrance activity, and we all look forward to it. Now that the majority of the “kids” are adults living away from home, it’s extra fun to hear from everyone what they remember as their own, as well as our family’s collective memories, from the year. We use a notebook or legal pad and usually share scribing duties over the last few weeks of December. Learn more about 100 memories here.
Top Hits Playlist
If you or your kids use any of the music streaming services (Apple, Spotify), you get some kind of automatically generated “year in review” with your favorite genres, songs, and artists. To commemorate the year, why not put together a master playlist with everyone’s top 5 (or 10) songs?
Alternatively, create a personal or family favorite sing-along or dance party playlist. Better yet, create both! Singing and dancing are both fun, connecting activities that improve our moods, too!
Reverse Bucket List
When we look back over a year of our life, it’s easy to focus on regrets, on tasks we intended to do but haven’t done, and on goals that we haven’t met. A surprisingly simple activity that has made me feel less regret and more gratitude is making a reverse bucket list. It’s fantastic way to realize that, although there are still things I’d like to do, mine has already been an amazing life, and I have so much to be grateful for. If you’ve never done this before, first write a Reverse Bucket List of your whole life.
I’ve also used the Reverse Bucket List practice as a monthly or quarterly reflection when I’m feeling overwhelmed or frustrated that I didn’t complete all the projects I wanted to. Stepping back and making a list of what I did get done eases the overwhelm.
Laughing is so good for us and is an excellent stress reliever. Gather your family or some friends together with the instructions to bring a video clip, funny photo, or joke to share with the group. This is a fun 30-minute (or less) activity that everyone will enjoy.
Brainstorm “More Of, Less Of”
What better time than December to reflect on things that make us feel happier and start the next year feeling more positive, grateful, and focused on what’s working (and not working) in our personal and professional lives?
A super quick and easy way to brainstorm what we want more of or less of in our lives is by taking a sheet of paper and drawing a line down the middle. Put “More Of” above one column and “Less Of” above the other. Then go for it. This is a slight tweak to my original More Of, Less Of, Same Of (which is another way to do this same activity).
In the heart of the pandemic lockdown, we held a Zoom puzzle competition with another family. We both had the same puzzle and opened the boxes at the same time. With our entire families scrambling, we raced each other to finish a 500-piece puzzle. This is an activity that can be done in person, too! Just get two of the same puzzle, divide your teams, and go. The number of pieces will determine how long this activity takes, but you’ll be amazed how fast a puzzle goes when you’re competing!
Even just doing a puzzle is a relaxing, fun activity, so it doesn’t need to be a competition. This holiday, I’m just going to have a puzzle out for people to work on when they get the inspiration.
Favorite Movies or TV shows
What a fun way to commemorate your year! Either individually or as a family, record your favorite shows or movies from the year. If you save the list, it will be fun to look back on in years to come to remember what you were watching. You can also include these on your 100 Memories list instead.
Favorite Quote or Song of the Year
This is something that’s fun for a quote-loving, reading, and writing nerd like me! I have a humungous quote board on Pinterest, and I love collecting and sharing inspirational quotes. This month, I’ll spend some time reading through my favorites, then I’ll write down one that best reflects or represents this past year. I’ll also find a quote to guide me for the coming year, one that will remind me how I want to live my best life. I’ll keep it posted prominently as a reminder.
This activity can be used in retrospect: Look back over the past year and pick a quote or song that would be the movie trailer of your year.
Or it can be used in an aspirational way: What song/quote do you want to guide you in the upcoming year? What do you want the soundtrack of your next amazing year to be?
Pick ONE WORD
If a quote or song requires too much bandwidth to select, what about picking just ONE WORD to guide and motivate you in the coming year? I pick a word every year and have my family each pick their word. We reveal our words to each other on New Year’s Eve. Read more about the One Word process and my past word choices here.
Remember Your Favorite Books
Books are a wonderful way to reflect on ideas, insights, and stories. I read a lot, but sometimes I move on to my next book without taking the time to reflect, take notes, and remember what I enjoyed most about the book. I love looking back over what I read over the year (I keep track on Goodreads) and take notes on what I remember and enjoyed most about the books. As an author, I know how important reviews are in helping people find great books, so I’m going to take time this month to make sure I’ve written reviews on all of my favorite books from the year.
I know I’ve already shared 10, but here are three more quick ones:
Gretchen Rubin’s “22 for 22” Activity – She has a download on her resource page and provides some great suggestions of how to create a list of 22 things for the year 2022. I’ve done this activity for the past few years, and it’s a great way to help clarify what you really want to do in the coming year.
“Read, Cook, See, Do”: Make a list for 2022 of one thing you’d like to read, one thing you’d like to cook, one thing you’d like to see, and one thing you’d like to do. This could be a fun sharing activity, too!
A check-in (podcast episode plus worksheet): Ep. 146: How are you doing? A Check-in
Are you going to join me in trying any of these year-end activities? I’d love to hear what you try!
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