(I was going to call this a ‘self audit’ but the word ‘audit’ seems to make people nervous and think of taxes!)
I think I can safely say all of us what to have the best life possible. But what we are all liable to do is coast, phone it in, or otherwise, not try to be better as individuals. And by be better, I’m not talking about necessarily losing weight or making more money (though those are fun). I’m talking about setting and regularly evaluating goals.
We’re all good at setting goals. It’s the evaluating part that we have to make ourselves do.
On the most basic level, we can all think of making New Year’s resolutions as an example of us striving to be better. Why don’t they work often? Because we aren’t evaluating ourselves. When was the last time you revisited your new years resolutions, found out why they were or weren’t working, and set new goals?
Businesses are regularly audited financially or otherwise. Employees are regularly evaluated by bosses. Students and professionals in some fields are asked to regularly take tests. Why don’t we evaluate ourselves personally? We should, right?
I’ve read several great resources if you are actually interested in doing this:
- How To Conduct Your Own Annual Review (by Chris Guillebeau)
- The Happiness Project’s Resolution Chart (by Gretchen Rubin)
- Your Best Year Yet! book (by Jinny Ditzler- purchased for me by Matt Baya)
Now the thing these three resources have in common is you can do them yourself (other great evaluation tools involve having a team of people or accountability partner you regularly consult with). I don’t want not having someone in mind to stop you from doing this.
They all have a few things all these self evaluations have in common:
A somewhat time consuming initial brainstorming and narrowing process.
The Best Year Ever book has a whole chapter about basically conducting a 3-4 hour goal setting/evaluation workshop with yourself.
Point is, if you think you are going to get out of this in 20 minutes you are wrong. The brainstorming, narrowing, and evaluating are all necessary.
If you are a busy person, this is the step you’ll most want to skip over (myself included here-I have a hard time with anything I perceive as touchy feely and sucking up too many hours) but take the time for the brainstorming, ranking, and personal reflection necessary. You are setting yourself up for success here so let yourself do that!
Personal and business goals are involved.
Whether you are self employed or not, some of your vocational goals intersect with your personal life goals and vice versa. I was surprised to find how many personal things I do, from how I dress to who my friends are, effect my business life. So when you sit down to do this, be prepared to think of your life in a more holistic way than you would in a job evaluation and you’ll get a lot more out of it!
Establishing a way to measure progress that is a) regularly done and b) works for you.
Gretchen Rubin’s chart involves you checking in with your goal daily and simply giving yourself a checkmark (I did this) or not (I did not do this) for each resolution on each day. You might be more numbers oriented (scoring yourself 1 out of 10), you might more list/narrative orientated with a journal. (I work more this way and I have been noticing the months I haven’t written my notes in my little Google Doc on my goals are the months I have slacked.)
Regular check in and actually writing things down is key. So pick a time (daily, weekly, or monthly), find a format that works for you, and schedule it in.
Revisiting, re-evaluating, and preparing for year 2.
If you go into this thinking it’s ever going to be over, it’s probably best not to start. Every piece of literature detailing this personal evaluation process involves following up to the review/evaluation and moving forward (ie the equivalent of the big chunk of time you put in at the beginning being at the end as well, like neat little bookends).
One of my resolutions was to write personalized thank you notes every month to friends and clients as a way to more genuinely keep in touch than simply ‘liking’ their Facebook status. I have found handwriting notes a chore (and if you’ve ever seen my handwriting, you’ll know I struggle to do it neatly) so I have decided instead to stop liking statuses and instead leave engaging comments on peoples’ status updates. It takes more time but it is somewhere between the more thoughtful personal note step and the chore I perceive as writing letters.
Think of this larger evaluation as a very indepth check in and reworking (ie next year’s personal evaluation!)
Dwelling somewhat on the negative.
Most processes involve acknowledging what didn’t go well and why. Among the questions for the self evaluation portion of ‘Your Best Year Yet’ are “How do I limit myself and how can I stop?” and “What were my biggest disappointments?” This is the WORST part because who likes being wrong or negative? But unless I visit what I failed at, I can’t get better I suppose.
Also these are literally 20% of the whole evaluation process at a maximum so the pain is relatively short lived. Don’t let it stop you!
Do I recommend a self evaluation? I absolutely do. Will you be more accountable to a self appointed board of directors, accountability partner, membership website or some other third party you check in with? I’m sure you will. But a self evaluation is a start of the conversation and can help you decide who to enlist for help, what next project to work on and lots of other things. Now that the whole wedding thing is behind me and we get ready to move into our slower season of work, I plan on doing this process in the next month to get ready for 2015 (doing it around Thanksgiving/Christmas is too chaotic for me- going to get a jump start!)