Review habit


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Review activity is an important part of most of our professional work. It is visible in small chunks of work, for example, code, documentation or whatever has been produced reviews. It is also present within project structure, quite often on different project levels. Scrum methodology has its sprint review and sprint retrospective meetings. Prince2 defines a continued business justification principle and good practice contains milestones concept.  In fact, every well managed and leaded project will be constantly checked for current progress and adjusted to reality.

What about your life goals, desires and dreams? If you have not written them down, you should definitely do it. To convince yourself, read this post, Write down your goals or this article on Forbes called Why You Should Be Writing Down Your Goals. This the first step! If you have them written down, it is time to do something about it. And if you do, are you in fact moving in the right direction? What is the pace? We are asking those questions quite often and have only vague answers. Isn’t it demotivating?

To remedy the situation consider a regular review of your recent activities in the context of your goals. For example, spend half an hour every week thinking about your last 7 days and ask questions:

  • Did I make any progress towards my goals?
  • What should I do next week to make progress?
  • Do I have enough motivation? If not, do I want to accomplish the goals I have written down?

To make it even more robust, define measurements (or benchmarks) for what you want to achieve during the week. They can be simple and based on self-justification. Just remember to write them down so you have a history of your progress.

To give you a simple and common example of review habit impact, consider the last book you read about self development. You had this enlightened feeling during the lecture and were envisioning a better you. However, a month later you have not remembered much. To make sure that you have embedded learned concepts into your life, write down the most important thoughts. Then, every week, make a sincere justification of yourself for each category. Write it down as well so you can see how you are progressing. While your self assessment might be not very accurate, your gains from the book will multiply for sure!

Reviewing and benchmarking (measuring your progress) are self complementary. With both being implemented they give you several gains:

  • knowledge of where you are standing,
  • being up to date with reality,
  • awareness about exactly what you want to achieve and what you are doing about it,
  • envisioning your success during every review,
  • possibility to adjust your goals or methods on a regular basis,
  • remembering the big picture,
  • and motivation! Every week you can get a motivation pill crafted especially for you.

Just don’t forget about benchmarks and don’t be afraid to start with vague ones.

How exactly might the review system look like? Here is an overview of a system quite similar to one which I am using. At the top, there are major goals for the current year. Some are less and some are more concrete. Each of them have several points assigned:

  • list of specific, smaller goals related to the major one,
  • actions to be taken to achieve them,
  • required regular activities,
  • specific, measurable benchmarks with expected growth and target value,
  • vague benchmarks (for example soft skills) based on self justification,
  • any other stuff worth going through during reviews.

I prefer to use an Excel spreadsheet or a Google spreadsheet for it. Having the above content allows you to have the following reviews:

  • every week – spend half an hour writing down benchmark values. This includes deep reflection on what has been done in the current week and on behavior. An important part is to sincerely judge the value of benchmarks that cannot be obtained from external sources. A short glance at all major goals and their details. Envisioning them.
  • every month – getting an average of your benchmark values from the last few weeks. Deep reflection on goals, their details and if the current planned regular activities and actions are aligned with them. Identifying if the current approach will lead to you achieving your goals. Deciding, whether to adjust your goals or approach
  • every quarter – similar to every month but much deeper. Major reflection on where you would like to be in the future and what you would like to be doing. Haven’t your goals changed a little bit after all you have experienced in the last 3 months? Aren’t there any new opportunities and ideas worth committing to instead of the current ones? If not, just wonder about your place in the universe.

Getting into the review habit is very important. It motivates you, pushes you forward and encourages you to take responsibility for yourself. It makes sure that you are moving with your goals, dreams and desires. It allows you to align your actions to them. Properly implemented benchmarks help to measure the pace. After some time they will let you know if you will achieve what you want in your desired timeframe. Don’t be afraid of vague, self justified benchmarks in the beginning – better them than none at all. If you have only two take aways from this article, let it be:

  • write down your goals in whatever form,
  • setup a weekly review, even if it would be only about getting through your goals.

You will gain momentum after some time and skyrocket. Try it!

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