Kick-start your year with a personal retrospective

Over the holiday season, traveling vast distances to reconnect with family, friends, and colleagues, there seemed to be one question that everyone asked: “So, how’d your year go?”

While it was an exciting year, I commonly answered, “It was a year full of blood, sweat, and tears – both of joy and otherwise.” This got me to thinking. When and why did I sweat? What made me shed tears of happiness? What brought me to the brink of madness? Was there really blood sacrifice involved?

As I watch many of the New Years resolutions stories on the news, I started to reflect inwards and thought about a practice I did regularly, but let slide towards the end of last year: the Personal Retrospective.

As many Scrum teams know, at the end of every sprint, during a Retrospective, they take time to reflect on what was working, what wasn’t, and how they can make changes to improve the team, process, and perhaps tools. They look backwards in order to identify and commit to step-wise changes for the future.

I adapted this practice to my own personal and professional growth. In a similar manner to how I’ve coached and led Retrospectives, I would:

  • Perform this personal retrospective exercise faithfully once per month – no excuses
  • Write it down and post it on my wall – make it visible
  • Identify one or two areas I wanted to improve and focus – don’t try to boil the ocean
  • Hold myself accountable – could I look myself in the mirror at the end of the month and say I accomplished the intent of my goal?

Find the approach that works best for you. For me, the act of writing by hand is very personal and forces me to think more versus typing it. I also ask colleagues for feedback. It takes courage to do so, and you may not like the results. But, opening yourself up is a great first step to check your perceptions, especially if you might be overly critical of your own performance.

So, did I violate the first rule – perform this faithfully every month? I’m ashamed to admit it, but yes – I did towards the end of the year. This definitely gives me something to think about for my first personal retrospective this year…and hence the inspiration for this blog post…

Ask me next month how I did.

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