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Taking Stock

- Posted by Matt Nagler, Managing Partner 

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The end of year is a time we often spend taking stock of our personal lives – what we’ve accomplished, things we’re grateful for and what we might want to change. The act of reflecting can help us make sense of where we’ve been and clarify where we want to go.  It’s about linking the individual moments of your year into a bigger picture with a more holistic perspective.

 

So, why aren’t we doing that in our professional lives? We can get so focused on immediate projects and end-of-the-year deadlines, that we often neglect to take some time to look back at our work year; where we’ve been and where we want to go; what we’ve done well; and what we’d like to work to improve.

 

I’m not talking about the kind of reflection that you do in your annual review for work. This isn’t about filling out a form listing your work strategies, successes and failures; it’s about you. No one else will see it. Be honest. Take your time. And be open to what you learn about yourself – you just may be surprised.

 

What did I do?  The first step in taking stock is making a list of everything you did during the year.  This is about observation, not judgment. The list will be your reference for your reflection so try to be thorough. Look back through your calendar and emails to help remind yourself of the year. It’s easy to lose sight of how much you did – sometimes I’m surprised to realize that a project I thought I worked on 2 years ago was actually only 7 months ago. Don’t leave off things that seem ‘small’ or routine. List it all.

 

What were my goals for the year? Once you have a list of what you did, 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? When you think about this question, focus on YOU and not on the outcome of what you did. Think about the work you are the 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?

 

What did I not do well? Like when you’re thinking of what you did well, remember to 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. Try not to be defensive with yourself – there’s no blame, simply note these things. Accepting the not-as-good can help you come up with creative solutions and see patterns you fall into that you might not have noticed before.

 

How do I feel about the year?  Once you’ve spent some time contemplating the particulars, 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?

 

Look Forward

Taking stock is not meant to end with self-reflection, but is intended to help move things forward in the best way possible. 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?