End of year process: Taking stock of your achievements

Now that December has arrived, it’s a natural time to reflect on the past 12 months.

The year is ending, we get some time off and a change of routine, which allows us all to step outside of the day to day distractions. A bit of distance from work allows more objectivity, and indeed honesty, about what you’ve achieved this year and what more you want to do. The Christmas party season is a reminder to us to appreciate and evaluate what has gone by, and what is to come.

Lawyers in particular can sometimes be too hard on themselves and focus on what hasn’t gone to plan, seeing it as failure. It’s probably a legacy of focussing on fine detail, and looking out for potential problems that can colour their outlook.  Even more reason then to consciously celebrate the wider achievements; so a once-yearly opportunity to do that should be seized. We all have the desire to do better and be better in all aspects of our lives; we want to be happier and make others happier too. Taking stock of your achievements and progress is all about authenticity. A positive way of doing this is to embrace a ‘growth’ mind set, a name given by psychologist Carol Dweck to the idea that intelligence can develop, and that effort leads to success. It’s important to remember that the new SRA Continuing Competency framework recognises the need to reflect on what you need to do in your professional life and to build a plan to support yourself in achieving these goals.

Rather than looking backwards in a critical way, it is more helpful to look back over the cases and projects that have been completed – look at what you have achieved. You will of course recall the things that didn’t go to plan, but there will be so much more that you can appreciate. Focus on your strengths, what characteristics that are unique to you and how you can use them in all spheres of your life. Taking stock gives you that moment of confidence, to objectively focus on your performance and take those conclusions with you on the next step of your journey. Here are some steps you might like to follow when taking stock of your year…

Write from start to finish

Look at where you started the year, where you hoped it might lead and what happened. If you had to sum up the year in a paragraph, what would you write? What was the theme or story of your year? Is there anything you wish had not occurred or had played out differently? Would you like to maintain that, or see it change completely in 2017?

Key tangible achievements

This can range from wins and awards, to client satisfaction, securing repeat work, solving a particular problem in your life, or making something right. It’s much easier to remember what went wrong, so compiling a list of both small and large achievements will provide balance and remind you what you managed to resolve and do better.

Personal milestones and progress

Other positives may not feel like achievements as such (maybe not yet) but are steps in the right direction, or important milestones to be marked. It can include things you do better now than the previous year, and things you hope to do better going forward. Look at where you might have stumbled, you carried on and didn’t give up, that is an achievement in itself – you just need to do the things to ensure that won’t happen again.

Opportunities that now present themselves

Even if certain things haven’t taken off as you would have hoped, the way things have played out may present a clearer or even different path to follow into 2017. You may find that you have learned more about yourself and you may have a new perspective on success, career goals and priorities in your life that you are now going to focus on.

Unfinished business

Call them resolutions if you like. Assess your immediate and long term aims: pick up on things that you wanted to do this year but didn’t get to, what you want to take further and overall what sort of year you want the next to be compared to this one. Keep the list as a fairly broad set of goals and don’t give yourself unnecessarily restrictive deadlines to avoid them becoming an extra point of stress in 2017.

Give thanks

The best way to end the year on a high note is to share the joy and good feeling with those who have played a role. Take time to send wishes to those who have been pivotal in your life and show how much you appreciate them and look forward to spending more time with in the future.