2018 Professional Year in Review
What I Did
In late January of 2018, I started keeping better track of what I was doing. Inspired by a combination of advice from disciplined colleagues and suggestions from the Marlow Daily Challenge I made a note in my favorite note taking app called “2018 Weekly Goals and Reviews.” It comprised of two types of entries: “Three Specific Goals” and “Week in Review”.
Every Monday (sometimes even the Friday before), I wrote my “Three Specific Goals” entry. It’s exactly what it sounds like — I picked out three actionable, concrete goals for the upcoming week, and I typed them with checkboxes in this note so I could clearly see if they had been done or not. Most of the time they were all work related, but if there was something I really needed to get done outside of work, I would include that as well.
Every Friday, I wrote my “Week in Review” entry. Each of these entries has five components, each of which only has about one sentence, which keeps the entry short easy to look back on. The components are:
- Score: Every week gets a whole number score from 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst week possible and 5 being the best week ever.
- High Point: This is the best thing that happened this week. Ideally a professional thing, but if work life was rough this week, it is okay to put a personal win. Try to only have one thing.
- Low Point: This is the worst thing that happened this week. Ideally a professional thing, but sometimes personal things creep in and make work life tough, and that is completely legitimate and worth noting.
- What Could Have Made This Week Better: It is okay to have low points, but it is important for me to think about how the low points could be made better. Here is where I force myself to think about what could have been done, especially by me, to make the week better.
- What Did You Do: This is where I make some bullet points about what I did, so that when it comes for performance review time, I can actually see concretely what I was working on.
- Average week score was 3.56. (Calculated by dividing the sum of all of the weeks/the number of weeks I actually gave ratings)
- I did this exercise 33/52 weeks this year. At first, I was dismayed that I only did this exercise for 63% of the year. 63? That would be an F in school! However, I took 4 weeks off in between jobs (now we’re thinking 48 weeks in a year, that brings me up 33/48, or 68%), I went on vacation over the summer, I attended a number of weddings, and holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving made for some short weeks here and there (let’s say that takes away another 3 weeks, so we’re at 45 weeks, which brings me up to 33/45, or 73.3%). 73 is a passing grade. Not a great one, but it’s still pretty decent!
- I didn’t start using the checkboxes to keep track of my “Three Specific Things” until I was 3 weeks in, but I only completed all three items seven of the thirty weeks that had checkboxes. 7/30? That’s 23% of the time. Now, this could be interpreted as “Leah is bad at getting things done”, which, occasionally is true. We all have our off days. But on the whole, a 23% completion rate does not accurately represent my overall work performance. What it does tell me though, is that I need to improve on what I choose as my “Three Specific Things”, and in general, my goal-setting skills. I wasn’t leaving these items incomplete because I was sitting doing nothing —I was leaving them incomplete because more pressing items came up. A lot of factors affected this — team priorities changed, I changed jobs and am learning to navigate a new landscape, and also, things just come up. I am learning to create goals that help me get my work done, push me to grow and develop, and also anticipate the needs of whatever team and organization I am a part of.
- One week I cheated and gave it a score of zero (the lowest score is supposed to be 1). I remember that week well without consulting my notes, and don’t regret using a zero, because it was awful. There were major layoffs at my work, and a lot of my friends and colleagues lost their jobs. These were folks I looked up to, were friends with, and worked with daily. Even though I was lucky enough to not lose my job, I felt depressed and angry. The work I loved and had been doing for nearly a year was not a priority any more for the company, which completely blindsided me. I temporarily lost my professional sense of purpose, and it took a long time to process my emotions and to channel them into something productive and to learn from the experience. Now that it is over, I cannot say that I would like to repeat the zero week, but there is a part of me that is grateful for it. It served as a catalyst for me to do a lot of personal and professional reflection, which ultimately resulted in me getting a new job.
- Seven of the weeks that I logged had a score of 5! Looking back, I remember them clearly from my notes. They were weeks where I felt focused, I had a sense of direction at work, and ones where I was completing things that had concrete, visible results (e.g. fixing a bug, passing an interview and moving onto the next stage, making a program finally work after hours of trying.)
- Most weeks were in the 3 range, with the occasional 4, which I feel is an accurate reflection of life — pretty good, doesn’t suck, but not AMAAAAAZING. If it were AMAAAAAZING all the time, I think it would be pretty exhausting.
Changes for 2019
I will most definitely be doing this again in 2019! In fact, I’ve already started! In 2019, I hope to increase the percentage of weeks that I log from 73% to 78%. I also hope to increase the completion of all “Three Specific Things” to at least 30%, but ideally more. In 2018, if a more pressing item came up, I did not replace it in my checklist. For 2019, I feel it would be appropriate to replace the occasional item to better reflect priorities, and plan to track how often I do that. Maybe that’s a great idea, maybe it’s not. No way to know but to try!
Overall, this was a huge success, for one big reason: I actually did it. Many of my self-improvement ideas get thrown out the window because they are not sustainable for one reason or another, but this one was perfect. It’s quick, it’s actionable, and the benefits far outweigh any minor inconveniences.