Do you remember the last time you had to rewrite your résumé or create a new cover letter?
If your experience is like most people’s, you end up sitting in front of a blank document with the cursor blinking all by itself. What do I say about myself and why does it matter? How do I even begin to put this together?
Let’s rewind a bit. You likely spend around 40 hours a week at your “traditional” job. Since you’re an optimal employee (winky face) we know you do great work–on a daily basis. So, why, when it comes to putting together a tight résumé or an illustrative cover letter do we draw blanks?
Often, it’s because we let work go by. We come in Monday, keep our heads down, and we take care of business. Before we know it, another year has passed–and we ask ourselves, “Where did the last year go? What even happened in 2017? 2018? 2019?”
In short, we need to slow down for a minute. Here’s our challenge to you: Before hightailing it to your next weekend full of hikes, Netflix, and yoga–take a minute to reflect on the week you completed.
Practice weekly mindfulness (it’s just five minutes)
We know, mindfulness is a buzzy word, but it is meaningful. As people, we rarely slow down enough to take in our accomplishments.
While we never forget our blunders, we need a reminder to celebrate our wins.
It’s our hope that, by taking five minutes on a Friday, you can create and maintain a dedicated time to really look at the week behind you. Take this time to count your wins, your losses, and where you’d like to improve.
So, take out your timer and set it to 60 seconds. Here’s an easy 5-step way to summarize your week:
Step one: celebrate your wins (60 seconds)
This is the most important step, especially when–down the line–you will need to revamp your résumé or LinkedIn profile. Get those wins on paper–or else you will forget about them. This isn’t Fight Club, so the rules are reversed. The first rule about a great win is talking about a great win.
Noticing your wins is the first step to actually realizing them. Rather than saying “Well, it is my job” or “It’s not that big of a deal,” take the moment to revel in it. You set a goal and you achieved it.
In addition to documenting your win, insert details about it. If you have a specific number you hit, document that. If you built a specific team to overcome an obstacle, include those details and the names of the players involved. If you deployed a brand-new strategy, write down the dirty details of how you did it.
Once you have gathered a few weeks of wins, you will look back. Even if you’re not job searching, this practice is extremely helpful in recognizing patterns that lead to success.
Step two: address your losses or weaknesses (60 seconds)
Just like celebrating wins, recognizing losses or missed targets is important. As painful as they may be, we learn so much from our losses–sometimes we learn more from a single failure than we do from a dozen successes.
Creating this list is like ripping off a bandage, so let’s do it quick. Create two columns:
- The loss
- How I will remedy it going forward
Did you make a spelling error in an important email to a client? Next time, take those extra two minutes to spellcheck that email. Did you forget to follow up with a coworker about a project? Set daily reminders for check-ins on certain projects. Did you oversleep and come in late on a Tuesday? Make sure you’re getting enough sleep–and maybe skip that third glass of wine over dinner.
If you made it through the week with perfect grammar, exemplary communication, and eight+ hours of sleep a night, you can still spend some time on this section. Instead of communicating a hard loss, spend these 60 seconds on what you’d like to work on–professionally and personally. Maybe it’s your innate fear of public speaking. Maybe it’s working up the confidence to ask for a raise (in which case, maybe you want to spend 120 seconds on step one), or maybe it’s a skill set you want to pick up over the next few weeks.
If you don’t see any hard losses, that’s awesome–use this section as a wish list for overcoming any weaknesses you might see.
Step three: Note your “coulda, woulda, shoulda” tasks (60 seconds)
Here’s a little in-between area to explore.
These are the bullet points from your to-do list that got bumped to the bottom of the list, didn’t get completely fulfilled, or were ignored entirely. These are usually jobs that are a pain to complete, that take you away from your more important work, or that you just hate completing. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important to tackle. After all, there’s a reason they showed up on your to-do list in the first place.
There are lots of questions to be asked of these “coulda, woulda, shouldas.” Are these tasks you neglected to the detriment of your week? Or are they tasks better suited for someone else in your department? Did you knowingly neglect to complete this work? Do you regularly put this work off?
For this list, create three columns:
- The first column will annotate the task itself
- The second column will list the problem or reason the task was not completed
- The third will list a solution for making sure it gets addressed in the coming week
With some of our more annoying tasks at work, sometimes it is best to tackle them first. Everybody has those pesky things they don’t want to do. Once you recognize your “coulda woulda, shoulda” tasks, consider giving them the priority space at the top of your list in the weeks to come.
Step four: create goals for next week (60 seconds)
We’re biased–because we love creating goals–but this is the fun part.
Let’s set the stage. It’s around 3:30 p.m. on a Friday. You’re itching to get out of work, but you have a few loose ends to tie up and a couple of emails you’re waiting on to close out your week. This really is the perfect time to set some goals.
Here’s the thing about goals. If you don’t set them, you might be lucky to happen upon some success. However, simply by recognizing and setting a goal, you are so much closer to actually achieving it–with purpose. How amazing is that?
Another cool perk about setting goals? You can check back with yourself next week. Did you achieve those goals or did you make progress toward them? What could you continue to do to chase those goals down?
Step five: summarize it all in one sentence (60 seconds)
Remember how we started out by saying this is all a bit of practice for developing the perfect résumé, LinkedIn profile, or cover letter? Well, here is the part where you practice being concise.
Wrap up all your learnings into one or two sentences that can summarize your week. Think of this section as “tweet-length”–and summarize your week in 280 characters or less. Once you’ve homed in on what’s really important, your “weekly tweet” will convey the most crucial takeaways–whether they are positive outcomes or learnings from negative “failures.”
Maybe some of this sounds pretty obvious. Sure, we agree. But, just like anything, it’s helpful to implement healthy habits around recognition and cognizance at work. By implementing a weekly self-evaluation, you are keeping an important paper trail of your own habits, strengths, weaknesses, and–let’s face it–your own workplace superpowers. Take the five minutes and try it out. Your entire career will thank you.