So, another year is starting up, and we’re just now starting to unpack ourselves from the holiday break that so many of us take time to enjoy with our families and friends. The best thing about a new year is that the future really is a blank slate, 365 days to make of them what we will. Sure, there’s carry over from last year, but there’s far more to look forward to than to look back on. It’s the perfect time to stop for a moment and take stock of what happened last year, what you want to do this year, and how you’re going to make 2018 more successful than 2017!
Reflecting on Last Year
It’s silly to think that we can start off a new year without at least giving some thought to what went on last year. But we don’t want to dwell on the things that didn’t go so well, nor do we want to rest on the laurels of the things that did go well. Rather, we should approach our review of the year past like we would a retrospective for our Scrum teams — what went well, what didn’t, and what should we improve. Quick, concise, and focused analysis keeps us from spending too much time criticizing the past or feeling like we were the most awesome Product Managers ever. The most important part of this, of course, is figuring out what we can and should improve on. Those are the single most important things that we can identify, so that we can then build a plan against them!
Targeting the New Year
It’s far more important to spend time thinking through how we’re going to approach the new year — while we certainly have company goals that we need to factor in, we should also make sure that we’re working in product, team, and personal goals. It’s really not enough to just make sure that we’re helping the company hit its marks — we are individuals who need to grow and advance ourselves, just like the company does. And we have teams that we work with who deserve the opportunity to expand their horizons and to grow so that they can do better and expand their own options both inside and outside the company. And don’t limit yourself to just the things that you do inside the office — what other things can you do? Are there mentorship opportunities that you can take advantage of — either giving assistance or getting it? Are there organizations that you can volunteer with (like the Pacific Northwest Product Management Community)? Speaking opportunities? Teaching opportunities? Just general volunteer opportunities? What kinds of weaknesses do you think that you have — do you need to expand your public speaking skills, your technical skills, your business knowledge? Figure out what you want to do in 2018 so that you leave this year in a better position than you entered it!
Start Setting & Tracking Goals Now
We all know how easy it is to lose track of those things that we want to achieve and accomplish — other things creep in that are more important and urgent at the time, which means our focus shifts from the long-term to the short-term. So, to keep our eyes on the ball that we have set before us, we need to make sure that we set some specific goals for the length of the year, as well as milestones between now and then to ensure that we’re making progress. And we need to make sure that we set aside time on a regular basis to double-check our progress toward those goals. It’s no good to set goals unless you’re measuring progress — and making adjustments as we find out new information as we go along! Remember, we value responding to change over following a plan — and this goes for development as well as for product management!