This is the seventh chapter of nine included in my free, full version program, Goals! An Interactive Guide. The other chapters will be added in blog entries for future use.
Goals! An Interactive Guide Chapters:
Chapter One: Why Set Goals?
Chapter Two: Decide Exactly What You Want
Chapter Three: Create an Unstoppable Drive
Chapter Four: Get Organized
Chapter Five: Stay Flexible
Chapter Six: Overcoming Obstacles
Chapter Seven: Review Your Progress
Chapter Eight: Velocity-Based Goal Setting
Chapter Nine: Operate From the Highest Level
Being able to feel yourself progressing and moving towards your goal is an incredible motivator. Seeing your progress also allows improves your ability to predict the deadlines you will need to set and how much work will be required. A careful review can also uncover potential mistakes that you have made, allowing you to improve more rapidly. Although your plan should look to the future, by looking to the past, your review can give you insights into the progress that you have already made.
Reviewing is not a difficult practice but it does take a little time. In the hectic pace to move forward, reviewing is a practice that can very easily be disregarded. “I’ll do it when I have time,” seems to be a common response to the idea of reviewing. Unfortunately, without review, you are wasting far more time then you would without it. Reviews give you insight into your own progress and greatly improve your ability to plan. The value of doing a review is far greater then the time or energy to conduct one.
I have experimented with many different systems of review, finding a system that works very well for me. I place emphasis on an extensive, weekly review, with smaller daily reviews. Other systems focus more on daily review periods. I found it harder to get a really in-depth analysis in a shorter daily review period. However, I encourage you to find your own reviewing system that will work with your lifestyle.
How was the last seven days? Did you accomplish everything you set out to do? What mistakes did you make and what lessons did you learn? What achievements did you have and how did you reward yourself for them? How can you ensure that the next week improves upon your successes from the week before?
The weekly review is my favorite practice for measuring and viewing our progress. This review period can take a fair bit of time, but it is well worth the effort. I find the between one and three hours is a suitable time to conduct a weekly review. Such an extensive review may seem like overkill, but the creative benefits it yields greatly surpass the time cost. A few hours a week is hardly an expensive price to be able to double or triple your productivity in the week ahead.
To conduct a weekly review, get out a pad of paper or a word processor document on your computer. In this entry you are going to analyze all of the progress towards your goals and your areas of growth. By looking at the progress you’ve made towards your goals and personal growth already, as well as looking at areas you can improve for the future, you greatly increase the effectiveness of your weeks ahead. I’ve tried various formats to do this writing exercise, but they all break down into the same three basic steps. These steps are perceive, analyze and solve.
The first step of a successful review is to perceive the past week. Look back at the week and just write about all the incidents that you believe hold some significance. Failures, successes and even thinking points, should all be chronicled. At this point you are not trying to do a lot of analysis and thought, this is just the point where all of your ideas and thoughts are spewed out. The only constraint to your writing is that it should be focused on the period you are trying to review.
Don’t just look at your mistakes, but look at your successes as well. Although your mistakes have indicators that actions need to be changed, without recognizing the success you are already experiencing, you cannot feel the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with progress. Even neutral events that hold weight against your goals, but are not specifically positive or negative deserve to be listed. You are trying to get a list of all of your thoughts about the last week onto paper.
If you keep a daily journal, you might want to take this journal out and look back at it for reminders of what happened in the past week. Make sure you are actively writing your perception of the past week and not just reading your journal. Reading doesn’t form the same quality of connection with a past experience that writing does. Don’t judge or analyze, just perceive.
By now you should have a bunch of notes on your perceptions of the past week. Already your mind should be thinking about what these things mean. Analysis takes this process to the next step. With analysis, you are going to write out what you feel are your major points for the past week. You are going to write out these points in the form of successes or problems for you to handle.
Your analysis isn’t to solve or work on the problems you have identified, just to organize it. If you perceived several similar incidents, you may want to group them under a single problem or success in your analysis. For example, if you had trouble getting out of bed on the sound of your alarm clock several days in a row, you might phrase your problem in terms of having trouble waking up in the morning. You may generalize your problems or successes even further by saying that the problem is being low on energy.
From your original perceptions of the past week, you should now have an itemized list of all of your successes and problems from the past week. At this stage you should start brainstorming solutions to your problems. You should also brainstorm ways you can reward yourself for your successes.
Looking at problems may allow you to see whether this problem is recurring week after week and needs further attention or whether it was an isolated incident. Chronic lateness to work is a problem that needs assessment and is recurring. Being late to an appointment when you are normally very punctual would be an isolated incident. Depending on the severity of the consequences of being late to that appointment, you might decide that the situation was unique and would not likely reoccur. Recurring problems need to be assessed and solutions need to be implemented.
Don’t forget to reward your successes. Although this step seems optional, it is crucial to your motivation and progress. Without recognizing your successes, every week seems like a failure from retrospect. Small rewards to your successes help reinforce the commitment you have to your goals and they associate positive emotions with the actions required to produce results. If you noticed that you were very productive this week, giving yourself a reward ensures that you associate positive emotions with being productive.
When can you find time to do a weekly review? As I identified in my earlier chapter on flexibility, taking a day off each week from your goals is an excellent way to maintain balance and gain perspective. This day off is the ideal time to do your review because you it won’t feel rushed. It is very easy to rush a weekly review. Your objective is not efficiency but effectiveness. A comprehensive review that takes three hours is worth far more than a quick and shallow review that took twenty minutes.
In our rapidly changing world, one week can often be too long to make a review and adjustments. By doing a daily review you can ensure that you can act on opportunities and correct errors quickly. Due to the pace of our lives, daily reviews need to be abbreviated considerably from a weekly review, but they hold value, nonetheless.
To conduct a daily review, you need to use the exact same process described in the weekly review. Perceive, analyze and solve. As my major review period is at the end of the week, I do the first two steps mentally, only writing the last step out onto paper. Usually my daily review book has a list of goals or to-do items for the day. As I scan this list I begin to mentally make notes of my progress throughout the day. After scanning the list I check off the items that were successfully completed and put an “x” beside those that were not.
At this point I analyze my findings. Were my failures the result of something outside my control or did they display a lack of focus on my part. By addressing these concerns, I can ensure the my actions are always consistent with the best job I could have done. A quick analysis can also identify problems. If you notice a recurring theme in a failed to-do item, that could use some greater depth and study. After doing my quick analysis, I go to the last step, solve. In this stage I add any items that need to be done and set any daily goals for the next stage.
As you can see, my daily review period is greatly abbreviated from the longer, in-depth weekly review. Experiment to find what works best for you. If you find a small chunk of time each day is more effective then a comprehensive, weekly review then go with that. I find that once I start uncovering problems and solutions I like to continue digging deeper and deeper. This personal style requires me to allocate a lot more time to a review than I can afford each day. Doing any form of review is vastly superior to doing nothing, so even if my strategy isn’t ideal for you, try it out to see if it makes a difference.
The success of our future depends on us recognizing the mistakes and successes in our past. Reviews can allow you to utilize what happened before you to help you guide your future. Reviews also allow you to appreciate the struggles you have already overcome. I think if you look back at the things you have overcome in your life already you can find the fuel that will allow you to overcome the problems you will face in your future.