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The Shift: #29

How to do your own performance review

In December, I do my annual review and create a roadmap for the year ahead. I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but I find this process helpful for planning and setting goals. When you’re freelance, you don’t have a linear career, pay rises and performance reviews (they don’t work anyway) so this is a good habit to get into. It’s more fun and will make you feel excited, energised, and in charge of your career.

Given the year we’ve had it feels more relevant now than ever – and it’s an opportunity to build on all the good habits you’ve created during the pandemic and beyond…

You will need: A hot drink, notebook and pen, 3-4 hours’ peace. You can do it by yourself or with friends. Think about all areas of your life – work, money, health, relationships, spiritual… What do you want in ‘21? Aim high and think big. Then add specific, measurable goals to help you get there. What skills do you need to learn? Who can help you?

I’ve found some great resources. Squiggly Careers/AmazingIf – 20 questions to ask yourself. And this free booklet by YearCompass – am sending everyone a copy for Xmas. If you prefer to do it online check out Chris Guillebeau’s spreadsheet template here.

Two questions to get you started

• What went well this year and what didn’t?

• How was your time best spent or wasted?

Here are my answers. 

What went well 

• I finished my book project, The Science of Growing Up Happy. 8-months intense work and had its challenges, but I enjoyed the process, teamwork and have an end product. I want to work on more projects like this next year.

• I had my best financial year of self-employment.

• Joined Peloton – daily exercise helps with everything else.

• Started this newsletter and learning/tweaking as I go.

• Did some mentoring and enjoyed it – want to do something more formal.

• New meds have improved my RA. I’m less tired and have more energy.

• I found a good therapist.

What didn’t go well

• Precarity – Being at the whim of agencies who want you to be set up in a certain way, i.e. limited company and now PAYE/umbrella for clients. I wasn’t eligible for government support this year. So, I’ll simplify my set up, do more on the #FairDeal4Freelances campaign to protect freelancers, and develop other income streams for quieter periods.

• I’ve isolated myself working at home. I was shielding at the start, so not my fault, but I can make more of an effort to network online. I’d love to do some experiential/immersive events so will use Eventbrite to find things. I want to broaden my social circle and mix with people of all ages. As they say, you’re a by-product of the five people you spend your time with. Who inspires and energises you? Who do you want to spend more time with next year?

• I signed up for a language learning app and haven’t started it. Ditto for other courses. This is a pattern – I try to do too many things at once then feel overwhelmed.

• Scrolling and swiping. Bits and bobs. It can fill a day and you’re not sure what you’ve done at the end of it. Less time on social media. I also love the idea (thanks Squiggly!) of a Goal-den Hour – one hour of deep work a day with no distractions.

• I read tons of articles but haven’t read that many books lately – and when I do, they’re usually business books. So, to read more widely and for pleasure again – not just for work, like I used to do as a kid.

I’m not travelling to see the fam for Xmas this year – too far to go for a short period of time and I don’t fancy being on packed trains. It’s a bad idea! So, I’ll have plenty of time for this.

Once it’s done, keep it somewhere you can see and review it regularly. Your priorities will change, and things will drop off. Every quarter I treat myself to an away day – book a hotel/spa break and give myself time to think. You can also email it to your future self via Futureme.org to review this time next year… 

“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

Andy Warhol

Things to do

💪  What’s your curiosity profile? Harvard Business Review. I’m an unconventional thinker. I question authority and have an independent thinking style. Intellectually hungry, like to learn, seek new experiences and relationships.

🤨 Are you an extrovert, introvert or ambivert? Ted. I’m an ambivert – an excellent place to be. I know when to talk and when to listen.

🎧  20 career questions from AmazingIf – episodes #114 and #115.

✍️  YearCompass – The booklet that helps close your year and plan the next.

📹  Grit: The power of passion and perseverance Ted – Angela Lee Duckworth’s theory of ‘grit’ as a predictor of success.

🙇🏻‍♀️  24 Big Ideas that will change our world in 2021 – LinkedIn’s annual review. Lots of food for thought here to help you shape your work and ideas in ’21. Share your thoughts with #BigIdeas2021.


My Bookshop

📚 I’ve set up my shop on Bookshop.org, an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops and authors. Great to have an alternative to Amazon – please support it! Bookshops connect communities and help keep our high streets shining – we need them more than ever right now. I’ll be posting my recommended reads here


Thanks for reading!

👋 Hi, I’m Nicci – a journalist and writer based in the UK. I write The Shift, a newsletter on work culture, creativity + tech trends. If you like this and want to read more, please consider becoming a paid subscriber here. Or if you prefer, you can buy me a coffee here. Find me online @niccitalbot.

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