The ending of a year encourages people to take a look back at the year that was. The last couple of days you couldn’t help but run into countless The Top Ten… of 2017 lists.
The start of a new year encourages people to look ahead with predictions and prognostications.
My own echo chamber happened to be filled with posts and email newsletters about New Year’s Resolutions, how worthless they are, and some possible alternatives.
Shane Parrish described his alternative to New Years resolutions in his Brain Food newsletter.
Tim Ferriss described his Past Year Review approach in a recent issue of his Five Bullet Friday newsletter.
Chris Guillebeau described his annual review process on an extended cut episode of his Side Hustle School podcast.
A common theme from all of these approaches to looking back to look forward – personal retrospectives really – is that you should examine what happened in the past year to identify what 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. 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 won’t share all the gory details of my exercise, except to say the outcomes for 2018 include (but are not limited to): helping product people learn things just in time instead of just in case, and publishing the decision making book.
My intent is to review the Start, Continue, Stop list during my weekly planning to see how I’m doing with my habits.
How Do You Look Back to Move Forward?
Do you have a personal retrospective practice that you find effective? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
I called the practice I described above a personal retrospective because it reminded me of one of the retrospective practice that teams can use to realize ongoing improvement. Here are some resources on how to put retrospectives to good use for yourself, your team, and your product.
Still Think You Want to Do New Year’s Resolutions?
While I prefer to adopt new habits, you may feel like you can be one of the 8% of people who actually manage to keep their New Year’s Resolutions. If so, you may find The Ultimate Guide to Setting and Keeping Better New Year’s Resolutions from Alida Miranda-Wolff helpful. She even shares the details behind Tim’s Past Year Review that I mentioned above.
Personal Retrospective with Sticky Notes
Rosemary King with Mind the Product shared her framework for introspection back in December. She uses this approach to help her establish her career goals, but noted it works for both personal and professional. And it uses sticky notes. What could be better?
How to generate action items from your retrospectives
Action focused retrospectives are a way for your team to reflect on your past cycle of work, discuss what you’ve learned, identify specific action items to pursue, and follow through on those action items.
Always Be Learning about your Product
Product leaders should always be learning. Learning about market problems, customers and prospects, sales and promotion challenges, and new methods. Steve Johnson suggests a yearly retrospective to help that learning process.
Getting (your product) in Shape for 2018
Can you believe it’s already 2018? Did last year’s product roadmap deliver value? Did you meet all your goals? How does your backlog look? As we begin the new year, now is the best time to take a step back and do some strategic thinking about this year’s goals and priorities. Dana Solomon from Product Plan shared highlights of a webinar that focused on some important activities to jumpstart the planning process for 2018.
Thanks again for subscribing to Inside Product Management.
If you have any comments or questions about the newsletter, or there’s anything you’d like me to cover, just reply to this email.
Plus if you think someone else would get some value out of the newsletter, let them know they can sign up and get a free copy of Product Ownership in the Wild.
Talk to you next week,
Kent J. McDonald