Reflection, Einar Storsul @ Unsplash

A reflection on 2020 (so far)

It is time for an honest mark-to-market on 2020. A moment to look back and analyse what we have achieved vs. our plans. Yes, a lot may have been de-railed on the back of Covid-19. But goals don’t need to be completely de-railed by this crisis. They may get revised, they may get postponed, or they may be absolutely fine to exist in this pandemic. Make no assumptions, ask yourself the questions. In your personal life, career, or business, a mark-to-market is the most effective way to set yourself up for the rest of the year. Take a moment for reflection.

What a Year

This has been a long year. I am convinced H1’2020 had more than 6 months, but that is yet to be proven. There was January, where most of us were just getting started on our new year resolutions. There was half of February where we were probably going strong and excited at the prospects for the year. If you still made it to half-term holidays (like I did), those are now a distant memory and you are (as I am) absolutely convinced they happened in a different year.

By the way, if you are looking for a full year reflection, see it here. This article was written in July!

Then, Covid-19 hit, and all became a bit of a blur. Hopefully, you were not hit by Covid-19 itself, but if you were the blur is just even foggier. I admit, I barely remember March. The first memories I have of it are probably the end of March for my daughter’s birthday. Through Houseparty. Since then we moved through the crisis, lockdown, not so much lockdown, prospects of opening, and then some places starting to be shaky again. Immunity theory broken, 2nd wave perhaps on the horizon, and do we want to be the first ones to test the vaccines. Who can even remember all that happened? How does reflection work if you can barely remember part of the year?

What to ask yourself?

It is time to ask yourself some hard questions. It is easier done if you have worked on your goal-setting earlier this year. Or if at least if you have some sort of goals on “paper” that you can reflect on. If you missed the goal setting template I put out you can still get it as it helps frame the concepts. But if you don’t have it, don’t fret. Think of your goals and get straight to business. My advice? One by one, pen and paper. It is reflection time.

Step 1: Reality Check

Where am I today?

How can you define where you are today? Start right at the beginning. What did you want to achieve each quarter (or if you are detailed) each month and how did you do? Did you have specific milestones you defined for you or your business?

As an example, I had for 2020 a Goal of Health. My key milestones included my target weight, being pain-free for 60 days, and being cold/ flu free for 60 days. I get an F for the outcome.

However, knowing that being healthy is much more than just these outcomes, I established myself a set of healthy actions. To do daily yoga, to sleep 7 hours on average, to do core exercises once a week, to drink 2 bottles of water per day, to increase the number of veggie meals, the list goes on. When I look at the actions, I am so glad I defined them. Or I would be feeling rather unaccomplished right now. I actually did quite a few. Perhaps I am not there on the 7 hours of sleep or the bottles of water, but I increased my yoga, started running, and definitely eat veggie 3x or more per week.

In business, perhaps you defined to launch a new product. But your suppliers shut down their factories, your raw materials never arrived, and the certification product got stalled. If you heard this before perhaps you are remembering Episode 2 of the podcast with Martina Cusano. Worth a listen if you find yourself in the same place.

Try to be as specific as you can. How far along the line did you make it?

What worked along the way?

In times of crisis, it is easy to get dragged in negative talk. But amidst all crises, there are pockets of opportunity, growth, or just calm between the storm that you can identify. Your customers may not be buying right now, but perhaps their level of engagement with you and your brand has increased exponentially. You may not have launched a new product but you have used the time wisely to re-define part of the product launch and ensure an even more effective way to bring it to market. Or you may not have been the best teacher your kids wanted to have but hey, you kept them fed, sane, and kind of on track while keeping some of your patience.

If you live in a place like London, you were stuck at home with the expectation that you would go out once a day in what was the best Spring of the last 16 years (or probably ever). You would not have gone out for such walks were you spending 14 hours a day in the office.

What derailed me along the way?

Duh. Obvious question? Well, don’t stay at Covid-19 to answer this question. What was it about Covid-19 that de-railed you? Was it the supply chain? Or was it a dry-up in the client base? Was it that your team could not function the same way remotely? Or rather it was it home-schooling 3 children under the age of 10 and fighting for wi-fi connectivity? Whatever it is, be clear about it. This does not need to be a self-beating exercise, but the clearer you are the better you can address it.

In fact, you may not be able to control your customer base entirely, but you may be able to keep an engagement or even launch different products that will remain competitive in the current environment. You may not control your supply chain but you can make adjustments to avoid being subject to the same limitations going forward. And if your team did not function well remotely, use the summertime to re-evaluate processes and how you can improve. I know I am jumping ahead to step 3, but I just can’t resist it.

Step 2: Reflect

Does this goal still make sense?

I have mentioned before that your goals are best aligned with your values. When that is the case, the answer to this question even in a year of turmoil is generally yes. However, it may not be an absolute truth and in fact, so much has changed in your business that you need to shift it. Or it may also be the case that your goals were not really aligned with your deeper values in the first case. I am finding a lot of people are connecting with their inner values through this experience of increased reflection time, heightened uncertainty, and some sense of isolation (even when in lockdown as a family).

If there is one advice I don’t stop giving (even to those that don’t ask me), is that this is a golden opportunity to reflect. For whatever reason Covid-19 is here with us forcing us to do something we haven’t done in centuries or multiples of that. Stay at home, isolate ourselves from others, remain in our core, find shelter in place. It comes with a price but also with a valuable yield. If no one is there to watch you, ask yourself with no shame – does this goal even make any sense? Do I know why I want this? If you did not write your why in the goal-setting earlier in the year, maybe this is why…

If yes, what can I realistically achieve?

When you are fortunate to have set yourself goals that survive the storm, then it is time to lick the wounds and figure out how to get back on track. Right, I am assuming that you are not on track. But if you have read this far, I have a suspicion at least a few pieces of your life got somewhat derailed. So it is time to do a mark to market comparing where you are vs. where you expected you would be and identify the necessary steps to get from A to B.

Yes, I am meddling with Step 3 again, but indeed all the steps (logically) lead there. To take action you need a good amount of reflection. What are the opportunities out there for you? Are there new actions that will help you move towards your goals? Do you need actions that go slower than planned? Or the opposite, can you find ways to accelerate. This is one of the key parts where you need that piece of paper – be specific and commit by putting it on paper.

If no, what is a better goal?

If you are back to square one, be sure to set yourself a goal using a few principles. You can refer to a few articles from the beginning of the year about how to set your goals or even get the goal setting template. As you set yourself a new goal, ask why as many times as you can so you get to your true north. You have to exhaust asking yourself why when setting a new goal. Then, It will be a better goal

Step 3: Action Plan

Define actions and milestones

If you have completed step 2 successfully, your gap analysis will help you establish what actions you need to take and what milestones to reach in order to continue navigating. Remember that the devil is in the detail. Add a timeline and a number as much as possible to each action. I don’t just say “drink more water”, I say “drink 2 bottles of water per day”. Or start a core muscle activity, but rather start doing it in 1x week.

Same thing with the milestones. Ideally, think of a few that can happen sequentially as you get closer to your goal. What needs to happen first and how do you get there? Where will that lead you?

Work on your Weaknesses

Part of step 1 reflection is to allow you to identify where your business (or you) had weaknesses in order to address them upfront. As I often tell Little Girl C, the problem is not to make a mistake, but rather to make that mistake repeated times. The only way we will truly learn from mistakes is by running a ruthless post mortem on what went wrong and where WE have problems (as opposed to they had problems). Problems need to be owned in the first person so that their owner can act on them. This is what you need to do here. With the list of areas that did not go so well in step 1, identify the actions that can help each of them be better.

Double down on your strengths

Pick up the bits that went well and ensure you keep those going or doubling. Did your customer engagement spike despite the crisis? Then do more of it and make sure you keep listening to your customers? Did your team suddenly developed new processes to work remotely and found a new passion by working from home? Consider establishing routine work from home processes post Covid-19, but this time like you mean it. Look at your numbers and make sure you know what they tell you. If something has gone smoothly through Covid-19, it is likely to be an area where you have a competitive advantage. With the list in hand, devise a plan just as detailed as you did for your weaknesses, but this time to double down on your strengths.

Where does this mark to market lead you? Did you find any new avenues? Blindspots? Are you optimistic about you can achieve and do you know what it takes to get there?

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Photo by Einar Storsul on Unsplash

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