It’s the end of the calendar year and in addition to the self-assessment your organization may have asked you to do, it’s also a time when we take stock of our personal goals – what we’re proud of, what we’re glad we tried, what worked and what didn’t. The act of reflection can help us make sense of where we’ve been and clarify where we want to go. When we’re in our work, we’re generally focused on the individual projects and end of year deadlines and forget that each day of our work year was part of a larger narrative.
This kind of reflection is different than what’s asked of you of on a work assessment. It isn’t about filling out a form listing your work strategies, successes and failures; it’s about you. This is something you’ll do for yourself; no one else is going to see it, no one is going to judge you. So, be honest and take your time. And be open to what you learn about yourself and your work life.
What did I do during this year? Does it feel backwards to make the list of what you did before your consider your goals? If you think about your accomplishments first, you give yourself room to think without judgement. Make a list of everything you did during the year. This is about observation and will be your reference for your reflection. Look back through your calendar and emails to help remind yourself of the year if you need to. It’s easy to lose sight of how much you did – you may be surprised to realize that a project you thought you worked on 2 years ago was actually only 7 months ago. Don’t leave off things that seem ‘small’ or routine. Include activities that you participated in outside of the workplace that benefited your work life as well as any classes you took and seminars you attended. List everything.
What were my goals for the year? Think about how you felt at the start of the year and what you wanted to do. There are no wrong answers. It may be that you wanted a steady job. It may be that you wanted to work with a new team or take on more responsibility. Maybe you wanted to speak more in meetings or get your sales numbers up. Now compare your goals to the list of your accomplishments. Which goals did you achieve? Were they worthwhile for you? If there are goals you didn’t reach, are they still on your radar or have they been replaced with something that was more fulfilling?
What did I do well? Focus what you did well and not on the outcome of the work. What are you most proud of and enjoyed doing, even if it didn’t turn out exactly as you had planned. Don’t be shy with yourself and don’t be modest. Remember, you’re doing this for yourself. It’s easy to downplay the positive, but knowing what you do well is important. You learn as much from your strengths as from your weaknesses. If you’re feeling stuck, think about the feedback that people gave you on projects. Then ask yourself, “Are the things you do well the same things that you are focusing on?” Are they skills you are nurturing and bringing to the forefront of your job? Or are they only a small part of your job and feel like they’re getting lost? And, what went not so well? Keep the focus inward. Is there work you didn’t do your best at even if the outcome was good? Are there skills that you need to work on or something you need to learn to be better at your job? Think about why. Don’t blame yourself, simply note what happened. This will help you see patterns – and creative solutions.
What comes next? Once you’ve spent some time contemplating the details how do you feel about your work year in general? It may be that your goals and what you did align perfectly, but you’re still not feeling satisfied. Or you’re quite happy, even though your goals and your accomplishments didn’t match. Are you thinking that it was a good year? A good-enough year? Or maybe a great year?
This exercise is meant not to end with reflection on the past, but with thoughts of the future. Once you’ve thought about the past year, think forward to the next one. Imagine yourself 12 months from now – what do you want to have accomplished? Where do you want to be? How will you get there?
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