Self-imposed performance reviews are increasingly becoming a part of the corporate world, to allow bosses to see how you’ve been doing without keeping tabs on you, and to keep you mindful of your progress. But these reviews shouldn’t only be necessary in your working life; they should be a weekly standard. It is all well and good to have targets and deadlines for work, but you should have personal goals that you’ve set yourself.
It can be intimidating to evaluate yourself and how you’ve performed recently, but it’s a fear you need to get over if you want to achieve your goals. Goal setting needs both the projection period of settling where you want to be in the future and the reflection period of evaluating how well you’ve met your goals. Today I’m going to focus on reflection. Soon I will deal with projection. Say your long-term goal is to run a marathon. A shorter-term goal would be to run a 10k. The most immediate, if you aren’t a runner, is to go on a certain amount of weekly runs and build from that.
- Work in objective measures to your achievements. It’s a good idea to work in how you felt about your goals and how well you thought you did in meeting them, but objective data does better at lasting the tests of time. The Nike+ app records how long you ran for, your distance, your pace, the route, the weather, the running conditions and how you felt about the run. This is a good mixture of objective and subjective recording. When the endorphin rush has worn off and a few days have passed, you might not remember how far you ran, so you need to rely on hard data. But noting how you felt about the run might give you hints about which routes give you the best pace, or make you enjoy the run the most.
- Don’t be modest. The only person who is going to be reading this is probably yourself. Likewise, if you’ve performed terribly, don’t try to sugarcoat it. Accurate recording requires a bit of truth from the recorder. It might be hard to accept your failings (or your successes), but acknowledging them will help you build towards a more realistic view of how well you’ve done.
- Don’t agonise about grammar, spelling or ‘flow’. This might be something to worry about if writing for somebody else, but this is for you. You’ll understand your own written nonsense, so there’s no need to pretty it up.
- Think about areas you can improve upon. Have you been doing certain things that have proven to be ineffective? Try different methods. Have you been lacking motivation? Search for ways to improve efficiency.
- Keep at it. Reviewing your performance is only effective if you repeatedly do it. It can be disheartening if you repeatedly fail your self-imposed goals. All that tells you is that you’re being unrealistic with your assumptions and need to go slower. The ‘reality gap’ between the results you want and the legwork it takes you to get there is the leading cause of failing goals. In other words, your desires and your pleasures contradict each other. While you may desire something (say, a fitter body) you’re unable to see the pleasure in the actions you need to get there (running three times a week). Looking back at your progress shows you how far you’ve come towards your goal and can give you the pleasure in your own achievements that you would not have realised had you carried on without direction.
Next, projecting future desires, a.k.a. goal-setting.