How can you systematically improve your performance? Create your own feedback system. The key is to focus on the quality of your work and the quality of your thinking. Another key is to use qualitative feedback over quantitative feedback. In Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance, John Eliot, Ph.D., writes about how to use qualitative feedback to improve your performance.
Shift from Quantitative to Qualitative
Eliot writes that you should shift to qualitative feedback:
It is difficult to find a mathematical description of attitude. While we have a sense of what it means to be passionate or fully committed, how do you score an emotion? To gauge the process of a performance requires qualitative evaluation, not a quantitative one.
Identify What You Want to Improve
Eliot writes that you need to decide what you want to improve:
Decide what factors you want to keep an eye on over time -- commitment, the Trusting Mindset, playing in the present, for example -- and then design your own log or feedback system.
Use Images and Words
Eliot suggests using the language of the mind, images and words, over numbers:
Ideally, you want to build an evaluation strategy that helps you interview yourself about the quality of your work and the quality of your thinking. As you get comfortable with evaluating effectively, move from digital information to to analyze, from stat sheets to language. After all, the operating data of the mind is comprised not of numbers but of images and words.
Instead of putting numbers on aspects of your performance, use words and images to describe each factor before and during performance. If, for example, you are evaluating the level of your commitment to a project or job, don't count the hours you've put in. That's quantitative thinking. Analyze where you put your eyes, how sustained your vision and enthusiasm were, how well you kept track of the real reason you were performing and what obstacles or setbacks affected your effort, and how.
Journal Your Results
Eliot suggests writing your results down:
Set up your journal according to a given day or specific performances, breaking down each in as much detail as you can. In baseball, I like hitters to break ti down according to each pitch -- what was their confidence, did they correctly make note of the situation, did they see the ball well and trust their hands, and so on.
Separate Evaluation from Performance
Eliot writes that you should factor your evaluation from your performance:
Most important, since it's crucial to separate evaluation from performance and to keep yourself from being an assessment junkie, pre set a time block or day, at regular intervals, when you will look back at your performance -- every Friday after lunch for two hours, for example. If you are working on different projects, you should be interviewing yourself on how you think you did on each.
Use Your Log for Insights
Eliot writes about how to use your log to find what improves your performance and what bogs you down:
At the end of the quarter, you can compile your periodic evaluation. Look for patterns. You might see stretches where you put in a lot of time, but your evaluation continually said, "My mind wanders to how the marketing department will perceive this new product." Your boss might have been impressed with your late nights at the office, but you noted, "I was just grinding away, banging my head into the wall over and over." When you described yourself as "focused" or "on fire," what was it about those days or projects that caused that feeling. The log should tell you.
Working Feedback Over Scores
Eliot writes that your feedback is part of a continuous improvement process:
Notice that you are not just filling in a chart or checking boxes on the typical self-improvement questionnaire. A qualitative valuation is not another thing on your to-do list. You don't want to find yourself saying, "I must be performing well because I checked all the boxes on my evaluation sheet." An effective assessment provides working feedback rather than scores. It is really part of the work execution process, server as a starting point for how you set up your mind for the next performance.
Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:
- Use qualitative feedback to evaluate the quality of your work and your mind. As simple as this sounds, I think it's an important and healthy shift. It's all too easy to throw hours at a problem. That's not the same as being fully engaged and performing your best. Your qualitative feedback will tell you where you mind really was, your level of effort, your passion, ... etc.
- Identify key areas of your performance that you want to improve. Work backwards from a state of your peak performance. When you are performing your best, what are you thinking? what is your energy level like? what is your confidence? ... etc.
- Break your feedback down. Break it up into specific, discreet parts of your performance. This will help you get precision during specific activities. This will help you see patterns.
- Use words and images. Words and images have a deeper meaning for your mind. Use them to get precision in areas that you want to improve.
- Keep a journal. Writing down your results will give you a way to see your personal success patterns and areas that you need to improve.
- Schedule your reflection time. Don't continuously second-guess yourself during your performance. Instead, give your all during your performance, and when you have your evaluation, then you can assess how you did.
- Use your feedback to improve your next performance. Your feedback is your tool for iterative and incremental improvement. Your last results are input into your next performance.
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