When the to-do’s come fast and furious, it’s easy to rush and finish things so you can push them from your brain to focus on the next task. The downside here is that it’s easy to lose track of what you’ve done, and use that knowledge to make yourself better.
There was once a time, especially if you worked for a sizable company, when you could expect a healthy helping of company-sponsored training and regular feedback sessions with your boss – who was very likely to be located in the same office. A generation’s worth of downsizing, rightsizing, and outsourcing has laid that foundation to waste. Now we employees are on our own to assess our performance, decide what new skills we need to develop and track our progress toward goals.
Which is great news (really!). The good old days weren’t all that good. Company training was limited to what the company thought you needed to know(“Excellent! Another class on security and confidentiality!”). Your boss’s feedback focused on what would make him look good to his own boss. Your career plan tracked along prescribed company lines.
You are now free (in fact, expected) to manage your own career, your own skills development, your own progress. To do this, use Little Data.
Talk about Big Data is everywhere these days. But for managing your development, Little Data is much more useful. Little Data is data about you. Using a Fitbit or Nike Fuel Band, for example, lets you measure your exercise performance, sleep patterns, even vital signs, and track these over time. People have reported significant benefits from this sort of tracking.
Your emotional life can be similarly quantified. Have you made progress this week, this month, or this year? How many days have you felt encouraged as opposed to frustrated? What mistakes have you made and do they fall into a pattern? Harvard Business School Professor and 99u speaker Teresa Amabile calls this “inner work life.” While it can’t be measured by a bracelet around your wrist (at least, not yet) it is easy to track.
Once you’ve tracked it, all the benefits of self-awareness, mindfulness and personal insight can be unleashed. And this insight forms the raw data needed in order to make your own judgments about your performance and development needs. Most importantly, when someone asks you about your accomplishments, say, at an annual performance review with a raise on the line, you’ll be able to easily answer.
Accomplish this in three steps:
Your yearly reflection will provide you the insight needed to make clear, data-driven decisions on your career. What skills do you need to build? How do you need to alter your work environment to increase your satisfaction? What types of accomplishments are most gratifying to you, and which setbacks suck out a little of your soul?
Log daily. Reflect quarterly. Plan yearly. This simple model can provide the data and structure you need to take control of your career and personal development. It takes very little time, and will pay dividends to you for the rest of your career. What are you waiting for?
Do you keep a work journal?
John Caddell is the author of “The Mistake Bank” and contributed to the most recent 99u book. His latest project is 3-Minute Journal. John also organizes the New Tech Meetup of Central PA. You can reach him at mistakebank.com or @jmcaddell on Twitter.