It’s that time of year again when all the advice encourages us as individuals and businesses to review how our year went. For me the word ‘Review’ sounds so cold and impersonal which is why I tend to talk about Reflecting on the Year. After all, we are all human and what we achieve is a result of numerous and varied human interactions.

So, whether your planning at the start of the year was ultra-detailed, on a single piece of paper (my personal favourite) or simply in your head, taking time to reflect on outcomes makes absolute sense. Despite making sense not everyone will put aside that time for personal reflection. While they may take part in an annual performance review (how formal and uninviting does that sound?) everyone has the opportunity for personal reflection, perhaps with their boss or a coach.

So what’s different about Reflecting rather than Reviewing?

For me reviewing implies a rigorous and objective assessment of achievement verses targets. While this is necessary in itself there is the danger that if ‘miss-managed’ it does not in itself take into account the fact that very few people have complete control over their work. Including an element of reflection into an annual review has more of a positive aspect to it as it focuses on how an individual has gone about their tasks and necessarily takes into account the ever-changing environment in which we all work.

Reviewing and Reflecting

If you created SMART objectives at the beginning of the year then these are what you will be looking at. Even if your targets were based on rough estimates they were what you were striving to achieve. Perhaps your goals for the year were less objective or just harder to quantify. Even then, you ought to be able to answer the review questions ‘did I meet objective 3?’ and ‘to what extent did I meet objective 3?’.

When reflecting on those same objectives you would ask yourself

  • ‘how did I go about achieving the objective’,
  • ‘what strategies did I use to achieve the objective’ and
  • ‘how did I work with others to achieve the objective’.

The reflective questions have a very different emphasis to the review ones but when combined they deliver a more complete picture of the year and enable a discussion around how things might be different in the future.

How did you respond to opportunities?

Whether it’s your own individual and very personal goals, formalized project objectives or business operations there will have been aspects that came to light that you hadn’t anticipated. Often these are considered as risks, distractions or completely irrelevant but did you actually consider them at the time as an opportunity to adjust your goals, project or business activities at all? Reflect back on significant events and judge how effective you were in dealing with these.

What’s your gut feeling?

Reviewing and reflecting on past performance can be a very logical, objective exercise and almost a tick-box exercise to some. The danger is that after all the boxes have been ticked and a judgment is made on how successful the year has been there can always be that nagging feeling that something is missing or something isn’t right. Reflect on the totality of all goals/objectives/tasks together and determine for yourself just how successful or not it’s been. Your own gut feeling will give you the true answer and this should be pretty close to your combined reflection and review.

Whatever the outcome of your reflection and review of the year make sure you use it to inform your plan for the year ahead.

© Paul Slater and Reflect & Lead, 2013.

Categories: Personal Reflection

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