Getting things right without feedback is really hard, so getting frequent and meaningful feedback is important. I do this by asking others for feedback and by looking back at how past work has gone.
Giving good feedback is hard. When I ask for feedback I try to make it easier by making it clear what I want feedback on, and by being as specific as possible. So feedback on specific projects or interactions is often better than feedback on “my job in general”.
For the same reason I try to communicate that there’s a good chance that I’ll change what I do because of feedback, and that I’m grateful for the feedback.
Feedback is usually worth listening to and considering. One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that not all feedback should be acted on. Sometimes the other person tried to give good feedback but was missing key information, or valued different things. Anonymous feedback is often this way.
The purpose of looking back is to find systematic trends in my life over time, and to identify course corrections as early as possible.
At the start of each week I write a prospective. This is a five minute exercise that answers three questions:
- What deadlines do I have this week?
- What tasks do I want to complete this week?
- What might get in the way of my doing this?
The purpose of these questions is to provide something I can look back at. At the end of each week I write an evaluation of how the week went relative to my prospective. This is a ten minute exercise that answers four questions:
- What fraction of my habits did I complete?
- What fraction of my tasks from the perspective did I complete?
- What tasks are incomplete? Why?
- What else did I do that wasn’t in my prospective?
The first question is there to make sure that I’m not losing track of my habits (e.g. exercise). The second and third explicitly track tasks that appeared in my prospective. The last question is there to acknowledge that sometimes a week doesn’t go as planned, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I do the same thing each quarter, but focus the questions more on goals and on how I might achieve them.
The ten-minute prospective questions are:
- What are my personal goals for this quarter? How will I achieve them?
- What are my professional goals for this quarter? How will I achieve them?
- What might get in the way of my achieving my personal goals?
- What might get in the way of my achieving my professional goals?
The fifteen-minute evaluation questions are:
- Which of my personal goals did I achieve this quarter? How?
- Which of my personal goals did I not achieve this quarter? Why?
- How will I achieve more of my personal goals this quarter?
- Which of my professional goals did I achieve this quarter? How?
- Which of my professional goals did I not achieve this quarter? Why?
- How will I achieve more of my professional goals this quarter?