In the last part of our series, let’s look at how you can assess your progress and easily determine what future goals should be. To recap, in part 1 we created goals. In part 2, we put action items to those goals and established a system for accountability. For part 3, we started looking critically and creatively at our workdays and our workday schedule to shove as much learning in there as possible. Now, how the heck do we know if we’re actually learning and doing a good job?! And how do we decide when we assess our goals if we should move on, add something new, or replace a current goal?
There are many ways to think about your progress as well as continually jot down things you want to learn more about which can help lead to easily figuring out future goals. This does involved blocking out a small bit of time to reflect but you can do this by leveraging the meetings you currently have to do this. At the end of every sprint, look at the stories you’ve completed or the pull requests you’ve reviewed. Determine what you learned during the past sprint. Jot down these items in a separate tab. If you have time, do a little reading about each item in spare moments. If it’s not a specific goal, you might not absorb every detail but you’ll get a slightly better understanding, and if there is a recurring theme, you can think about making that subject a future goal. If you don’t work in sprints, make time to do this every 2 weeks or so. If you remember, you can also do this adhoc… every time you come up against something new, jot it into a note (or whatever system you’re using) to read more about it later. I have a running “Things I want to read more about” section with a note for each week and I add topics to it each week. Then when I have a chance, I’ll go to that list, start from the top, read a bit and jot down notes in that same file. Do I do this every week? Nope. But it’s there and I try to do it at least every couple of weeks without being too hard on myself if this part slips (as long as I’m still accomplishing my larger goals).
You can also use retrospectives to think about you personally. In addition to a team retro, at the end of every week, I take 20-ish minutes to do a personal retro. I learned this technique from a colleague a few years ago. It’s simple and to the point. I take out a piece of paper (or a digital note since I like to keep these documented) and I write three sections… Liked, Learned, and Lacked. And then I spend 20 minutes filling it out. I note the things that were great, the things that were not so great, and the things that I learned. I also don’t keep this focused on work. Sometimes life is life and sometimes my work week is affected by what’s going on in my world. I make note of these things as well because a personal retro for me isn’t just a personal work retro, it’s a retrospective and chance to reflect on my week as a whole person.
And keep a work notebook. My work notebook is a mix of above, it’s my personal retros plus the notes I take on the things I want to learn more about. When I look at the end of every quarter at all of the retro notes and all of my notes on things I’ve learned, it really helps me assess if a goal fell by the wayside or if I was able to make good progress.
Figure out what tools work best for you. I personally use OneNote or Evernote (you can see more on this in my how I organize post). I have 1 note listing all my goals and then additional notes whenever I learn things or take notes. I’ll also go old school often and just write things down in notebooks. You can also use alternatives like Trello, ToDoist, Wunderlist, etc. Whatever you use, just use something so that you can look at your goals and action steps frequently.
Reflect at least every six months. I prefer to reflect at the end/beginning of every quarter to determine if I need to change goals, focus on a specific goal more, or just maintain my current course of action. It’s important to set a date and put it in your calendar or on your goals list so you don’t forget. If you never look at your goals or never update them, then it’s just like you don’t have any at all.
Finally, most of the examples I’ve used in this series focus on technical learnings and challenges, but you can use this same technique for soft skills. For example, if you want to get better at communicating or pairing or giving positive feedback, you can use these same tips and techniques to discover opportunities to practice and evaluate during the work day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and you have a new excitement towards learning and getting the most out of your work day.