My company’s fiscal year starts July 1, which always brings changes (some small, some bigger). With this change comes an opportunity to reflect on my goals, habits, and what I want to change.
It’s not the only time I think about this, but it’s an important one. Although I have a high degree of confidence that my destination won’t change too much, this is a time where the route may need to change.
Rather than being frustrated about this, I can use the opportunity to ask myself a few questions:
- What’s working (and what’s not)?
- What do I like out of the things I’m doing (and how can I do more of the things I like and fewer of those I don’t)?
- What might I be doing because it feels required (but I might be wrong in that assumption)?
- Am I still getting a good deal (or do I need to make a change)?
- What has changed in life outside of work (and how might that change my approach to work)?
I think about these both leading up to the new year, then shortly into the new year as new information comes my way (guidance on role changes, customer alignment, team dynamics, etc.). Through that time I keep an ongoing list of thoughts, then put those thoughts into something useful.
Organizing scattered thoughts into a plan
So at this point I gather my notes/thoughts, as well as any relevant updated resources like role guidance and company direction, and bring those resources into a single document (a slide deck). I’ll reference these to put together a succinct(-ish) plan that I can communicate to others.
This is intended to be a living document, but I’m looking for something that is baked enough that it allows me to:
- Present it to my manager and get their feedback, then ultimately their buy-in
- Evaluate side projects that will come up through the year, then determine if they align with my plan
- Check in on how I’m tracking to that plan as I progress through the year
- Be aware of what I think I should be doing and what my lived reality is (hopefully it’s pretty close)
That first item in this list is crucial, because it helps lay down a foundation that we can use to discuss progress, success, and opportunities to grow. It takes it from being a potentially squishy discussion, to something more tangible.
A few additional thoughts
I can’t stress enough how important it is in the initial review process (the questions in the first section above) to answer honestly. It takes practice and thoughtfulness to do this, which can result in challenging revelations when done correctly. This is a good thing!
When I go through the review and planning, I think in terms of both measurables and gut feeling. Both are important to the process. As much as I like to measure things, my willingness to listen to my gut has been exceedingly valuable. Numbers are important, but they don’t tell the whole story. Balance of these is key.
I mentioned above that the plan I assemble is a living document. This means a few different things, but in the context of this post, one key is that I revisit my plan at least quarterly, making changes as I learn more. The crucial thing here is that the plan doesn’t need to be perfect. In fact, it won’t be, but I’ll be better off making some plan and adapting once I know more.
One thing I’ll leave you with: this is an example of using Planning Horizons, which I’ve talked about on my limited-series podcast Mostly Productive. Feel free to check it out.
- Note: If there’s interest, I could put something together on the components of this plan and the process that goes into it…let me know via the form below. ↩︎