When you’re signing off on the day, there are several steps to take. You’ll want to check your inbox and respond to any important emails you’ve left (if you can, try to get that inbox down to zero!). You’ll probably touch base with your manager, too. Maybe you’ll get a head start on the next day by jotting down a quick to-do list.
This is not just an exercise. It’s a practice that won’t only allow you to assess your productivity, but also prove critical to your growth as a professional.
Reflecting on your progress is two-fold. You should, of course, celebrate your successes—your wins for the day. But you should also consider which areas require improvement for the future.
Did you make headway on an important project today? Did you come up with a great idea for initiative? Or, maybe you led a productive meeting. However big or small, these are all successes, and you should put them solidly on your “wins” list.
These don’t have to be life-changing successes. They can even be clearing out your inbox or checking off every item on your to-do list.
They can also come from other people. Your boss could praise you for your great work, or a colleague might thank you for your help on a project or solving a problem. These, too, are examples of successes that you should certainly celebrate.
Reflection doesn’t end with self-congratulations. While it’s important to celebrate your victories and feel proud of your accomplishments, you should also take a moment to acknowledge the areas that could use improvement.
Start with the tasks you wanted to finish be weren’t able to. What went wrong? How can you ensure you’ll be able to tackle them tomorrow? What work do you have left to do?
Consider, too, how you can make even more progress in the coming days. This is not to berate yourself or make yourself feel bad about what you didn’t do. It’s about keeping yourself on track and making progress toward your goals. Ultimately, it’s critical to assess yourself with a balanced perspective, taking into account both the positive and the negative.
This shouldn’t detract from your successes. They are extremely important to your growth as well. But taking a nuanced approach will allow you to evolve into the professional you want to be.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.