What is a personal retrospective
Personal retrospectives are technique that you can use to examine what happened in the past year to identify what habits you should do in the year coming up.
The key is, instead of making resolutions that you’re going to break anyway, decide what habits you should adopt.
When to do a personal retrospective
Most people get reflective at the start of a new year, so once a year around New Year’s is always a good time to do a personal retrospective.
Of course there’s value in pausing to reflect on a little bit more regular basis, so you may choose to do a stripped down version of this approach every quarter or every month.
You can also reflect on how you are doing with the habits you identified on a weekly basis.
For the record, I typically do the personal retrospective once a year, and am trying to figure out a good way to incorporate the results in my weekly planning (if I were to consistently do weekly planning).
Why do a personal retrospective
Taking some time to intentionally look at the past year and reflect on whether those events (and possibly people) were positive or negative gives you a better perspective on what you should do in the following year and may expose some blind spots you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Also, by identifying the outcomes you seek for the next year and identify habits to start, stop, and continue you stand a better chance of accomplishing those outcomes rather than relying on resolutions that we’re all almost guaranteed to not keep
How to do a personal retrospective
So that’s what I did. I took bits and pieces of the practices Shane, Tim, Joanna, Chris and others mentioned, and explored the following questions, in this order, in my journal.
- Look through your calendar for the year. What things happened that had a positive effect on you? Note those on a page labeled positive. You should find a way to do more of these types of things.
- While looking through your calendar, note those things that had a negative effect on you. Note those on a page labeled negative. You should find ways to do less of these things.
- As you reflect on the positive and negative things decide what outcomes you seek in the next year, and in the next five years.
- Considering Steps 1, 2, and 3 Identify what habits you are going to Start Doing, Continue Doing, and Stop Doing. To avoid falling into the trap of trying to do too much allocate a fourth of the page for the start doing list, a fourth of the page for the continue doing list, and half a page for the stop doing list.
- Finish up by noting your general thoughts – what did you learn from going through this exercise? How would you summarize the past year.
I’ve put together a worksheet that will help you walk through a personal retrospective. You can get it from the Free Member Content Library.
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Caveats and Considerations
If you’re doing a second personal retrospective or you’ve done a similar activity before, it’s helpful to review your notes from the previous exercise and reflect on what you did and did not do from that activity.
The personal retrospective is truly effective when you review the outcomes and habits on a regular basis.
The Future Self: A lightweight way to create a development plan for PMs
Once you’ve figured out what your next big development topic is, you should come up with something Petra Wille calls a development plan. Something that helps you commit to small actions that get you closer to the competent product management personality you want to become. Petra shared the Future Self template and explained how she uses it to build development plans.
Guide to End of Year Reflections in Your Journal
The end of year brings about an opportunity for us to reflect on the past year and use that for the year ahead. Jawwad Siddiqui put together this guide goes over the practice of yearly reflection using your journal so that you become aware of the past and effectively plan for the year ahead.
How to Conduct Your Own Annual Review by Chris Guillebeau
Tim Ferriss on Why Past-Year Reviews Are More Effective Than Goal Setting By Samira Far on Inc Magazine
Making a Change: One Small Step by Shane Parris on Farnam Street Blog
How to Develop Better Habits in 2019 By Ryan Holiday
Forget resolutions—these simple, proven methods can make lasting changes in your life
Questions to ask yourself from Farnam Street Blog
In his December 30, 2018 Brainfood Newsletter, Shane Parrish suggested you ask yourself the following questions when reflecting on the past year and the life you’re living.
- What did you do a lot of this year that you want to do less of next year?
- Did you spend your time in a way that was meaningful and conscious or were you ruled by habits and defaults?
- Did you invest in the right relationships?
- Are you living deliberately and consciously?
- Did you go after what you want or did you hope it would come to you?