As I was completing my accounts the other day, it occurred to me that even though it feels like a chore, it was actually a really useful process. The gathering up of long forgotten transactions and faintly remembered income gave me a clear overview of my year. I suddenly had 20/20 hindsight over what had and hadn’t worked.
Some advertising I’d invested in had been a complete waste of money, however the lunch I’d forked out for with the friend of a colleague, had led to a few lucrative bookings.
I dug a bit deeper, and looked at other work I’d had, where my travel and time, substantially ate into my week, and realised that this was effecting my availability for other work - all really useful information.
If doing accounts was this useful, it occurred to me that this is an ideal trigger for running a broader review of the year, a sort of super charged annual review! So, what are the other rich sources we can trawl through I hear you ask?
There are a few easily accessible places where you routinely park useful aide memoires for yourself, without even realising it. Going through them doesn’t even have to be a chore. Just pick one, grab a notepad, and browse. I say grab a notepad for three good reasons:
1. First off you want to take this opportunity to note down all your achievements throughout the year. What were your most successful pieces of work? What new work did you win? Who was delighted with what you produced? What did you really enjoy? What was most profitable?
It’s so easy to let these melt into the background of everything else that is happening, but it’s vital that you capture them. If you don’t already have an achievement file, start one. It’s great to be able to look through this file when you are producing a CV, drafting marketing materials, or for giving yourself a lift if you’ve had a bad day.
2. Note down anything that really didn’t work or things you don’t want to do exactly in that form again. You want to capture these so you can take the opportunity to learn from them. Usually we gain our best lessons from what went wrong, so don’t lose this opportunity by refusing to ‘go there’. We don’t do this to dwell or feel bad, just to see what we can learn, decide what we would do differently in future and capture anything that is useful about that experience. Then forget all about it.
3. Finally look out for any loose ends, or forgotten experiences that could come in handy. It always amazes me how much we are able to forget, just because we are busy. When you are browsing, you may be reminded that you mastered a tricky new skill that you could use again. Or perhaps you met someone who said to give them a call, but you’ve been too busy? These are all great things you can capture here.
Where will you find this information?
Your diary has to be one of the richest sources of information about your year. Even if you only use your diary for the barest mention of appointments or bookings, it will still prompt memories of other things you were doing at that time.
The more detail you have in your diary, the more you will be prompted to recall events and occurrences from the year.
If you are required to fill in time sheets for a client, this can be a great source of information about tasks you have undertaken over the year. You may find you undertook work, which are out of the ordinary for you, but because you didn’t repeat it, you forgot you’d learned new skills in order to do it. This may include skills or abilities you could use to sell yourself elsewhere.
Your e-mail account is another rich source of information. A good way to do this is to review your in box, and out boxes by name order, rather than date. Then you can quickly spot any exchanges that took up a lot of time and effort. You don’t have to read them all, but the odd e-mail heading will remind you of any forgotten gems.
Remind yourself who you contacted, who got back to you, what was effective, and what didn’t work? All with the added bonus that you can tidy and file your e-mails as you go if you feel so inclined, though if combining these tasks make it too big a job, forget that bit!
Once you’ve got your lists, you are ready to start planning how you are going to use all this great information.
Gathering all this information together is a great way to see if there are any similarities. Perhaps it will show that there is an area where you have been doing the same thing repeatedly, and getting the same unsuccessful results. If this is the case, this may well jump out at you from your lists.
How many of your ‘never again’ items could have been avoided if you had recognised that you had a particular blind spot and needed training, or help, or just the ability to say no thanks to that type of work!
Take some time to enjoy the high points, the achievements, and the great feedback you’ve had over the year. Consider if you have been following up on those achievements, to get more work in that area, or with that employer.
See if you can identify any calls you need to make, people you need to catch up with or events you need to attend to repeat or build on the successes you have had. Get those scheduled into your current diary to make sure that you not only do them, but when you do this review next year, it will prompt you to do the same then!
In our next blog we will talk more about making plans for the coming year.