The end of the year is always a good time to reflect. What went well? What didn't go so well? What initiatives did you not get to at all?

After a year like 2020, taking even a few minutes to reflect is even more important. With all the chaos of 2020, there's no doubt you will find plenty of initiatives you wanted to achieve that you didn't get to. And there's no doubt you will be able to identify a number of things that didn't go so well. But you will also find a number of things that did go well, especially during the circumstances.

And there's no time like the present to draw a line in the sand and prepare to turn the page on 2020 and begin 2021 with renewed focus. After all, if you can make it through 2020, there's nothing you can't do in a more stable economic environment.

With a little reflection and a willingness to turn the page, there's no doubt you can make next year your best year yet. Here's how to get started.

Block Out One Hour of Uninterrupted Time

In just one hour, you can reflect on an entire year. But that one hour needs to be uninterrupted.

No phone calls. No emails. No television in the background. Just you, a few simple tools (which we will introduce momentarily), and maybe a nice hot cup of coffee.

All you need is one hour of concentration in a calming environment.

Gather Your Data

Before the hour begins, collect whatever data you need to refresh your memory about the year. If possible, avoid using technology during this session. It's too distracting. That means printing out anything you keep on your phone or computer. With that said, here's the data most practice owners need to reflect on the year that passed.

Your goals.

Did you set goals and write them down at the end of last year? Print them out. Don't worry if you didn't hit them. If you always hit your goals, you're likely not setting big enough goals anyhow.

Your numbers.

Print out your monthly financial reports and a year-to-date. We highly recommend monthly reports because that level of detail helps you learn more about your numbers. For example, if you just look at the year-to-date reports at the end of the year, you won't know whether you hit your numbers because of one outlier good month or missed numbers because of one outlier bad month. We want to see the year-to-date and the monthly numbers for this exercise.

Your previous year's numbers.

Print out your monthly and annual reports from the year prior. This will show you year-to-year patterns.

Your calendar.

Yes, print out your calendar. For our purposes, you can get away with just printing out your monthly calendar. You don't need daily or weekly level detail. But your monthly calendar can help you match monthly numbers to any significant scheduled matters, such as vacations or office closures.

Review Each Month's Data

Starting with January, review your monthly numbers in the context of your goals, your calendar, and your previous year. Were you on pace to hit your goals? What went wrong? What went well? Write down any observations you see on a month-by-month basis. Make note of things you would change based on what you observe. Did a change in leadership not work out so well? What can you do differently next year based on what you experienced this year? Did you forget about a successful marketing campaign you conducted in February? Maybe it's a good idea to do it again.

Also note any one-time anomalies that you don't expect to happen again, such as shutdowns, or unexpected one-time benefits, such as being the only office open for emergency dental during shutdowns. Downplay the impact of the one-time anomalies during your evaluation. For example, you are unlikely to experience another shutdown that forces you to close. Thus, missing your numbers because you couldn't be open doesn't say anything about your practice performance. Similarly, if you were the only office that offered emergency dental during the shutdown and experienced two months of double revenue those months, you can't reasonably expect that windfall to repeat itself.

Finally, this is a great time to review your expenses for the year. What are your highest expenses? How can you reduce them? What technology can be improved? What can be upgraded. When many doctors review their expenses, they realize they spend way too much money on outdated technology that doesn't serve their practice well. For example, the dental phone system our partners at Mango Voice built can be one of the best investments you can make in your practice. Not only can it reduce costs but it can make your practice run much smoother and even grow with your practice through over-the-air updates. Look for this and other ways to save money and improve your practice when you review your numbers.

Set SMART Goals for Your Practice.

With all this information and observations, you have everything you need to make next year your best year yet. Take the information you have and set SMART goals for your practice. If you do, all that's left is to set a plan for achieving those goals and take action.