I spent a good chunk of my summer in remote locales. Travel is a way for me to gain a fresh perspective, cultivate ideas, and reevaluate my personal and professional goals in the context of these new discoveries. Sounds like a lot of work for a vacation, right? Well, once an overachiever, always an overachiever. And, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. During my family vacation last month, my mom produced a box of personal items that she wanted me to review. We added this task to our vacation "to do" list and went through the contents.
It turned out to be a set of my old high school trophies. While I hadn't forgotten about their existence, I was surprised to see that I had placed better than I remembered. This got me thinking. Why is it that we don't take the time to honor our accomplishments the same way we obsess over our shortcomings? I'd recommend that project managers institute a process for accomplishment review so that this activity is sure to become a fait accompli:
Assess your accomplishments as part of a weekly or monthly review. Chances are that, if you're a project manager worth their salt, you have an established frequency for reviewing something on your project, whether that's your risk register, communications plan, schedule, etc. As part of this review process, take some time to record your project accomplishments for the past week or month (depending on the frequency with which you hold your review.)
Analyze your accomplishments to benefit your current project. If recording your past victories seems like a waste of time, don't confine this to an exercise. Each accomplishment contains at least one lesson learned, even if that lesson learned is to do things the way you did it the first time. Document these lessons learned and share them with your team as another aspect of your monthly review. Brainstorm what processes your team can implement to mitigate the risk of making the same mistake twice.
Use your accomplishments. Developing a list of accomplishments and lessons learned is a great practice, but already overloaded PMs may despair of ever carving out the time to do this. The benefits accrued to the project or team may not be worth the risk of neglecting something else on their already full plates. If this sounds like you, think about reframing the exercise to benefit yourself. Take each accomplishment on your list and figure out how you can put it to practical use. For each item you identify, turn it into an action for your career (or, if that feels too selfish to you, your network.) Yes, these actions will be more time-consuming than simply listing what you have done well. But, they are also critical to keeping your skills current in an increasingly competitive job market. Some ideas for "using" your accomplishments include:
Drafting a short write-up for an internal or external communication (e.g., project update, company newsletter, social media post)
Updating your LinkedIn profile/resume
Asking your team member to prepare a presentation with you and submitting it to an upcoming conference or internal seminar
Connecting with someone who could benefit from your knowledge.
Celebrate what you have done. After you've made a list, analyzed that list, and created a set of next actions associated with your most recent successes, pause to celebrate! Maybe you leave work a little early to focus on a personal project that's important to you. Maybe you buy yourself a little something that you've been saving for. Even if it's small, don't neglect the opportunity to honor yourself.
Revisit the list when you need a pick-me-up. The next time you're in the middle of chaos and your project seems to be going up in smoke, spend two minutes to dig out your list and look back on everything you've done well. Changing your inner monologue may be your inspiration for resolving a future issue.