Pause and reflect - a time to learn

Sara Batts, our guest contributor, stresses the importance of reflection

Christmas is fast approaching and we are probably all swept up in the
busy-ness of late December. If you can find a moment, though it can be a
good time to pause and reflect on the past twelve months. This article
will look at some ideas for guiding that reflection, and then in the new
year, we'll look at how we can make the most of the annual round of

So what purpose is there for a personal review of the year? You may or
may not have a formal appraisal. If you do, that appraisal system will
probably be related to the criteria your current role encompasses. Your
own review and self-reflection can help you judge your progress on your
other goals you may have, other metrics and performances reflect you as
an all-round professional, someone thinking about their next move or how
to enhance their role, rather than just your current circumstances.
For example, as part of my PhD progress reports, I need to log the
related training I have done and record which skills I practised. Many
instances are pulled from my workplace experiences and re-examined
against a formal skills matrix. In a world where we are faced with
efficiency savings, different working practices and change being the
'new normal' an end of year review can be a great way to acknowledge to
yourself what you have learned and gained. What would your 'skills
matrix' look like?

 Sometimes key learning points come from the things that don't go quite
so well. If you can bear it, then, revist some of the difficult moments.
We're not talking about raking over past failures: but thinking honestly
about what might have been done differently. What assumptions were
incorrect? What circumstances changed that we weren't expecting? Of
course it's always nicer to focus on the successes we have had; even if
they are comparatively minor - a new connection made; an interesting
event attended; a technical skill learned. 

A second thing that makes a standard end-of-year task is the Christmas
holiday desk tidy-up. In the slightly quieter days it's great to be able
to sift through our inboxes, the filed papers and weed out those which
we no longer need. In fact, the recent announcement of the possible
closure of Delicious means many have an opportunity to have another look
at the collections of links we've gathered and to remove those no longer
current or relevant. Clearing physical space is a good precursor to
clearing our mental space, allowing us to think about priorities for the
coming year. Recently I set myself a week of 'complete it or delete it'
for all those little tasks that hadn't been attended to. I focused just
on either finishing off the job or moving it from my active to-do list.
It was a hard week, dealing with many small and varied things, but it
was really rather worth it and felt like I had cleared the decks, giving
me more space to think about different projects... including what new
resolutions I might set myself.