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How To: Year End Reflection Retreat

Updated: May 18, 2019

Before you read this post, I want to be very clear: I was NOT always this organized, productive or clear on my goals, vision and mission.

I spent MANY years swimming in ideas, buying and trying planners and being blinded by my burning frustrations because I knew there had to be a better way to organize my thoughts and life, but just didn't know how.

Until I did and then OMG, it started flowing smoothly!

Don't those blended collagen coffees look magical?

Isn't that how it goes though? That when you're ready, the teacher appears?

So a few years ago, when Brandon and I discovered The Conquer Your Year Planner by Natalie Macneil, we were amazed.

Here was a planner that laid out our weeks and days so very simply so that we could TRACK the daily habits, behaviours and things we were grateful for and end each week with a reflection of how things had gone, what we were proud of, any synchronicities that had happened, to do items for the following week, etc.

It's been such a blessing in our organizational life (personal and business), so I encourage you to go check it out if you're reading this! (No, I'm not getting paid to suggest it, although that would be amazing because I support it 100%! So Natalie Macneil, if you're reading this, hit me up!)

Anyways, at the end of the Conquer Your Year Planner, there are a series of year end reflection questions that we always complete (after 3 years of using this planner consecutively now, I'd say it's a winner!)

The questions provide some real reflection and closure on the past year, so I wanted to share them here with you to use:

So, we both use the Conquer Planners to keep track of our "sprints" or 3 month segments throughout the year. This is helpful for when we want to do our retreat and look back on how far we've come.

We can see specific dates, accomplishments, lessons learned, hardships, when vacations were, etc. It's really helpful! So if you're just starting out and don't have "all the data", don't worry! Just do your best to remember and enjoy it for what it is!


Okay, now let's get into the GOODS.

How does one set up an awesome end of year reflection retreat?!

There are a couple basics that you should consider before you do your retreat:

1) Find a quiet, calming place to spend your 1-3 day retreat.

We usually do ours in the rocky mountains at this really cute, secluded little lodge. They don't have wifi or TVs or any distractions there, so we can just GO and BE. We take books, coffee, our journals, and have a blast just chilling out, reflecting, drinking wine, eating luxurious meals at the lodge and walking around the lake!

This year, however, we stayed home for our retreat! SO, we made sure to tell family and friends that we were turning off our phones for the two days and wouldn't be available. This is sacred time, so treat it as such. We ditched social media and work for these two days.

If your house isn't conducive to a relaxing, quiet atmosphere, go stay a night or two at a quiet hotel, airbnb or with a friend who will leave you alone! Make it work for you. The peace and quiet is part of the enchantment.

Also, side note about doing your retreat at home... before your retreat, tidy up your house!! A messy space is indicative of a messy mind, so tidy up, maybe buy yourself a new candle or blanket you're excited about and treat it with the good intentions it deserves. No half-assing on this one! This is YOUR retreat, and how you end your year is going to set you up for how you begin your year.

2) Make sure you have a journal, calendar, pens, comfy clothes, (some blank paper/markers if you'd like) and enough food in the house!

You're going to be doing a bunch of writing in your journal, so get yourself one that you actually like!!

The blank paper and markers are totally optional, but if you think better out loud, it might be a good idea to brain dump ideas on the paper as they come to you or to create a "mind map" on paper so you can get everything from inside your head onto the paper.

Having a calendar available helps so you don't have to use your phone.

Comfy clothes are important because you want to feel comfortable. Obviously.

And make sure you have a few of your favourite pens! I ran out of ink and was so happy I didn't have to run out of the house to buy new pens!

We meal prepped a little bit before our retreat, so that we would have some snacks to enjoy and could spend most of our time on the reflection side of things. If it's not already apparent, we got pretty intense and the journalling/reflecting portion of our retreat takes up most of day one and some of day two!

Once you've chosen your retreat days, you've tidied your space and turned off your phone and you're ready and impatiently waiting to write your little heart out in your journal, you may begin!! Hot tip: starting your retreat day one with a beautiful coffee and breakfast helps!

Here are the categories that we use to reflect on with some notes about each:

1) Answer the reflection questions in the graphic above in your journal. This should get the juices flowing and get you into a good mindset.

2) We then go over our top five "big picture" goals we had set for the year. These are overarching categories like "work" goals, "personal" goals, "financial" goals, etc. We make note of which ones we achieved, which goals we need to push back or get rid of altogether, as well as any that were adjusted, etc.

3) Next, title a page in your journal "things I loved about this year" and proceed to write a stream-of-consciousness style journal entry (mine always ends up being 4-5 pages) of ALL the things you loved about this past year.

I'll give you some of my examples to give you some ideas to start:

Paying off my government loan in full.

Being the guest speaker at our event in January.

Getting my eyebrows micro-bladed.

Collagen blended coffee.

Spending summer mornings on the patio.

Going to Mexico with friends in April.

Margaritas all summer long.

Reading "you are the one" by Kute Blackson.

Crushing 80 Day Obsession and getting great results.

Listening to Harry Potter on Audible.

Getting bacon from bulk cheese warehouse.

Moving to the condo in January.

Our five year anniversary with fondue!

Driving to Edmonton to see Bahamas play.

Popping champagne on my 27th birthday at home.

4) Go over each 3 month block (Jan/Feb/March, April/May/June, etc.) and write down everything you can remember accomplishing and doing in that time period.

5) Title in your journal "lessons learned this year" and proceed to list all the things you've learned this year, big and small.

6) Create a "recipe for happy" (if you're unfamiliar with this, you can read my blog post here about it). Essentially this is a list of habits and things that when you do them consistently, you're your best you.

A few of my items on my recipe for happy include:

Going to bed by 10:30pm.

Sticking to a workout program.

Meditating every morning.

Drinking 100oz of water/day.

Getting outside for a walk daily.

Reading personal development books.

7) Make a list in your journal of "books read this year" and another list of "books I'd like to read next year"

8) Make a list of "things I'd like to do more of this new year" as well as another list of "things I'd like to stop doing/change".

9) Finally, map out your major categories for goals for the next year and list out your new goals! I just bullet point my main goals for each category underneath them in my journal. The categories I usually use are:

1) Work

2) Learning/Growth

3) Wealth/Abundance

4) Spiritual

5) Play/Fun

6) Relationships

7) Trips/Vacations


Okay, whoah. That was a lot, right? But I promise if you do even half of those journal exercises and take a day of reflection to yourself you will FEEL BETTER about everything, heading into the holiday season and a new year!

Hot tip: I usually save the next year goal setting journal activity for the SECOND day! I try to get items #1-#8 journaled out on day one and by that time, I'm tired of writing and ready to relax, so we usually do a workout, shower and then head out for a lovely meal somewhere!

And then on day two, I'm ready to let go of the previous year and start to envision my goals for the upcoming one!

So there you have it! An in-depth look into how we do our annual reflection retreat, from home or away!

I hope this has been helpful and that you'll consider doing your own year end reflection retreat.

There's just something to be said about looking back to learn, but letting go of what no longer serves you in order to enjoy the present moment and get excited about the future!

If you decide to do your own year end reflection retreat, tag me in your post on Instagram (@mariebarkerwellness), so I can celebrate you and see what kind of variations you used for yours!!

There is no one size fits all.

But I promise that everyone can benefit from this annual ritual.

Wishing you nothing but the best as you wrap up your year,



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