Even if you’re a stellar employee, performance reviews can be a surprisingly draining process. Whether you’re sitting across from your manager panicking about all those times you came in a little (or a lot) after 9 AM or filling out a self appraisal form, going over everything you’ve done in the past year and then topping it off with goals for the next is all just a bit overwhelming.
But turns out, there are a couple things you can do throughout the year to make this process a whole lot less stressful. Starting today, add these simple tips to your daily routine, and you’ll be totally prepared for a fantastic meeting.
1. Track Your Job Responsibilities
Look over your job description and create a spreadsheet of all your current responsibilities. Set aside time once a week (or month) to fill in each time you go above and beyond under the appropriate responsibility.
Don’t be picky. For example, if you went out of your way to meet with one additional stakeholder for a particular project, write it down. It’s hard to know what examples will prove most useful come review time.
2. Pay Attention to the Extras
Of course, it’s just as important to track the accomplishments that don’t fall within your job description. Whether you add an extra column in your spreadsheet or create a separate list, write down those extra things you do that make the office run more smoothly.
Did you help out with a search committee for a new position? Lead the charge on your department’s volunteer day? These contributions definitely impact the office, but might be easy for you to forget, especially if they’re just second nature to you. Either record them separately or be fastidious about putting them in your calendar to keep some sort of record.
If you’re not sure how to approach tracking your accomplishments, try out this handy worksheet.
3. Create a Brag Folder
If lists and calendars aren’t your thing, one super simple way to keep track of things you’ve done well is to create a brag folder in your inbox. Anytime you get a note complimenting you on a job well done or a thank you note from a grateful client, pop it in that folder—and when review time comes, it’ll be easy to comb through the accolades and find the best ones.
Set Goals for Next Year
Another common component of performance reviews is coming up with your professional goals for next year. Aside from making sure your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound), you can prioritize by making sure to...
4. Track Those “Want-to-Dos”
You know those projects you want to tackle, but never have time to? It might be streamlining a particularly annoying process or reaching out more regularly to your less pushy clients. If you take an extra second to write them down every time one occurs to you, you’ll have a list of appropriate and useful goals to choose from when the time comes for you to think about objectives for next year.
5. Look Toward the Future
Think ahead to the future roles or responsibilities you’re interested in. Try former Muse editor Erin Greenawald’s career management strategy of checking out other jobs throughout the year (even if you love the one you have) just to see what’s out there that might interest you and what the necessary skill sets are.
Once you get a sense of what positions pique your interest and what qualifications you want to beef up, you can start to set your goals for next year. For example, if most of the positions you’re interested in require management experience, one of your goals might be to supervise the summer intern.
6. Tackle Your Blind Spots
To successfully propel your career forward, you also want to make sure nothing is holding you back. Keeping track of areas that challenged you this year (maybe in that spreadsheet you’re going to create with job responsibilities) can help you set goals that address a professional weakness or a gap in your knowledge—before they become a problem when you’re being evaluated for a promotion.
These goals can be more professional development oriented—such as learning a new technology or gaining experience public speaking—or focused on soft skills, like getting better at delegation. Just make sure to connect your own development back to how it benefits the office.
Armed with a list of accomplishments and a strategy for creating new goals for the upcoming year, you’ll be totally ready for performance review season. Good luck!
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author