Annual Reviews Overview

Annual Reviews: A chance to reflect & plan

Ah, annual reviews. If you’ve ever worked for an organization, you’re probably familiar with one form they take. Maybe you know them as performance reviews, or employee evaluations. Whatever you call them, annual reviews are important for your job, your career and your peace of mind.

During my research for this piece, I found that most articles focus on career and professional growth. As a self-employed person and small-business entrepreneur, that’s definitely one of the reasons I do an annual review. It’s essential, for sure.

It can be difficult

“An annual review isn’t easy. When you commit to taking an honest look at your year – your highs, your lows, your actions, your mindset – you shift your life’s trajectory,” writes Eva Keiffenheim MSc in her article “How To Do Your Personal Annual Review and Get the Most from 2021” on The Ascent. “That’s what will help you live the life of your dreams.” Keiffenheim is right – annual reviews aren’t easy. They’re time consuming and, often, force you to acknowledge your flaws as well as your virtues. This isn’t a pleasant experience for anyone.

“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”

John Dewer, Psychologist & educational scientist

It’s all about reflection

Reflection is the key here. In fact, several articles mentioned that a large percentage of successful persons, be they CEOs, billionaires, artists or what-have-you, set aside time each year for annual reviews. This reflection is, most likely, the key to their success.

The Harvard study “Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning” (Giada Di Stefano et al.) hypothesized (and proved) that reflection – aka deliberate learning – improves performance. The study looked at two types of learning:

  1. Accumulating experience, where study participants practice or actively ‘do’ the task to learn; or
  2. Reflection, where study participants spent time after practice and action to assess their skill level, progress and knowledge.

Most people prefer doing – aka, accumulating experience. However, the study results “also suggest that this is a sub-optimal strategy: participants who chose to reflect outperformed those who chose additional experience.”

The full study results are an interesting read (providing you can wrap your head around the science-y language). The takeaway though is that reflection makes what we’ve learned stick. It helps us perform better, and even makes us more confident in our abilities.

Make it personal

Now, that’s all well and good for the career/professional aspect of life. But what about the personal? Well, when you take time to reflect, you’re really looking at what you do each day. Your habits, goals and future visions. And, you’ll be able to stop “reacting” to problems and start proactively keeping your life organized.

Annual reviews help you grow in every aspect of your life, not just your career. Everyone should do one. Especially since it’ll help you see your life as it has been and chart a clear path for your future.

Later this week, I’ll tell you how to do an annual review.

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