As 2013 comes to a close, many folks will reflect on work-related successes and challenges of this past year and set business goals for 2014. For many of us, looking at product quality and net earnings (or losses) is primary, whether we are theatre teachers having to make do with a smaller budget but wanting to increase performance and production values or we are independent contractors looking to streamline process without compromising quality.

For a change of pace, why not do a ‘year in review’ as a performance assessment on yourself as your own boss and employee? Most of my readers are in charge of their own work, whether as educators, project leaders, or writers/artists, and don’t have the opportunity to have structured feedback. Here’s a few quick questions to take a different look at how your work year went. May 2014 bring you and your business some peace and prosperity!

Are You a Good Boss to Yourself?

1) Set Reasonable Goals

We know when someone else is being unrealistic about what can be accomplished in a work day. We are also able to skulls of overwhelmingnesstell when we will have to give up personal/family time to accomplish the extra tasks and (hopefully) are politely vocal about negotiating through that experience. BUT how many of us use the same standards of ‘reasonableness’ for ourselves? Too often, you awesome people who fit this blog’s demographic keep adding to the list of “What MUST Be Done Today” at the expense of what would typically be personal and family time (or even sleep and eat time). Sure, everyone puts in overtime sometimes, and many people work 60 hours in a week because they need to have two jobs. Having too many days that are 18-20 hours of work or too many 80+ hour work-weeks means not enough time-investment into all of the other things that make a life. I am NOTORIOUS for doing this, and have had to actually clock myself in and out, schedule friend and family time (as in “put it on the work calendar”) and have my computer be the one projecting a movie (so I can’t go on it and work) to help myself be a better boss. PLUS, a new study shows increased downtime actually INCREASES productivity!

2) Outline Clear Expectations

Vagueness about what the task/goal is and the steps involved prompts us to grumble about laziness and lack of preparation/foresight when someone else is the boss. But when we are our own boss, we too often skimp on that step, hoping to save time by smushing it into the manifestation stage. After all, it’s all in our own brain, right? We know what we mean. Why waste the time? Yee-ah, except it doesn’t work that way. We actually save overall time when we “front load” the project by taking the time to think it out clearly, even when we are the only person involved. The Mayo Clinic suggests planning also helps reduce stress (click here to see their suggestions).

3) Be Nice

Treat yourself the way the Best Boss Ever would treat you!

Are You a Good Employee for Yourself?

1) Put in a Real Work Week

Zoe on Computer   Many of you work way too hard. BUT some of you perhaps only feel like you are putting in a real 40 hours of work time. I know freelancers who spend hours on a computer…but much of it is playing games or going on facebook. I am by no means saying thinking/brainstorming activities are not work—I am saying games, facebook, and the like are not thinking/brainstorming activities. Create job categories that are right for you (marketing, drafting, practicing, prep, etc), do an actual clock-in/clock-out for two weeks, and see how you spend your time. No matter what turns up, it will give you a clearer idea of how your time is spent and if you’re a freelancer, perhaps that will help you better price your product (I know artists that forget to count time spent buying supplies and re-imaging failed versions of product). You might also find that checking in this way increases productivity. It’s not something to do all the time, because yes, it is annoying. But when used every once in a while, it’s a useful tool!

2) Create a Road Map for Achieving Specific Goals

So ‘your boss’ has laid out some long term, short term, and immediate goals for you, written down some suggestions, and left it to you. How do you take the right steps to achieving those goals? Personally, I find it helpful to work idea mapbackwards from the desired outcome (and be as specific as possible about exactly what success looks like) as though someone else were doing it. There are certain things I hate doing or avoid and other things I enjoy, and if I subconsciously

imagine myself as the person doing all the steps, I tend to leave the horrible ones out, OR put them in and feel increasingly depressed to the point where it seems impossible. By imagining someone else doing the steps, I don’t miss any. I tend to write these down on a big sheet of paper, leaving spaces between. If you are a computer-note-taker, here’s an article on the top 5 idea-mapping software apps.

Then, I try to figure out details of accomplishing each bit (in a different color), including how to ACTUALLY have someone else do the heinous bits or ways to make them less heinous for myself. Sometimes a task-swap is the way to go, or sharing the cost of, say, an outreach campaign with another project leader by finding a way to link the businesses.

3) Be Nice!

As odd as it sounds, saying things like, “That is actually really well thought out” when you pick up the plan you made for yourself last week or yesterday really makes a difference. When ‘your boss’ has done a good job, say so, out loud, even if it’s under your breath. Believe it or not, the ‘out loud’ part makes a huge impact.

Wishing you all the best for 2014!!

P.S. All the photos but the mindmap are my own (thanks to Thomas Hoebbel Video-Photo), and the mind map image is a free download.