Do you have a plan for how you’ll be closing out 2020 as an Instructional Designer? I know we’re all in a hurry to ring in 2021, but first, you must check out these tips for reflecting on your year in instructional design.
6 Tips for Reflecting on your Year in Instructional Design
Check out these six easy steps you can take to close out this crazy year productively and reflectively and start 2021 like a boss!
Tip #1: Celebrate Your Successes
Finally! This year may have felt like a decade, but you’ve made it through, hitting milestones and knocking out goals despite the obstacles.
When reflecting on your year in instructional design, we’ve got to start with the successes this time around. You faced more challenges than ever this year. Now, it’s time to celebrate!
Celebrate meeting your goals and progress towards your BHAGs (more on those here) but don’t forget about your other achievements.
Did you have a project that you were stuck on and seemed impossible to get through? Or a client that you finally signed after what seemed like a never-ending courtship? Think about the times during the year where you struggled but worked tirelessly to push through, and now here you are!
What are your small wins? Did you put together a make-shift workspace at the last minute so you could Zoom with a client while your kids were remote-learning a room away? Did you pull off a project or land a new job despite this new remote environment? Let’s take all the wins we can this year!
Commemorate your year’s successes in some way, even if it’s just by having a relaxing, work-free evening to yourself. Next year, when you’re up to your neck in work or up against a deadline, remember this feeling and keep pushing onwards!
Tip #2: Refresh Your Practices
You can’t start fresh in 2021 without first reflecting on your year in instructional design. Now’s the best time to evaluate your business processes and clean house.
Now, we all know 2020 turned into a hot mess! But let’s put that aside for now and focus on the systems you put in place to make it all work. Whether you had to navigate working remotely (or managing a remote team). Maybe you had to dive into using some new tools or new ways of running meetings.
Did your processes for conducting your analysis, working with SMEs, or seeking new clients change in this remote environment? What worked and what didn’t?
What needs to be revamped or refreshed? Are there places in your design process where you keep stalling? Identify any problems and implement the solutions in January so you can power through your process without any obstacles.
Now is also a great time to look at the tools you’re using to manage your time, organize your work, and create great training content. What do you love and want to keep using for another year? Which one can you streamline so you don’t feel like you have to toggle between apps to keep track of your work? Can you cancel a subscription to save some money?
Tip #3: Review Your Development Plan
The most effective instructional designers and learning experience designers stay on the cutting edge by constantly learning. Be in the know about things like “What’s trending in learning design right now? What’s happening with AI and AR? What are the newest authoring tools or features? How are the learners in your organization consuming education? What’s a learning ecosystem?”
As a designer and builder of learning experiences, it’s important that you are constantly growing along with the changes that are taking place in your field. Reflecting on your year in instructional design includes reflecting on how you developed professionally. How did you keep up to date on best practices, new trends, and emerging research?
Need some ideas to help you brainstorm? Ask yourself if you did any of the following things in 2020:
Read a great book on leadership or business practices
Followed IDs who inspire you or joined instructional design groups on social media
Attended a virtual conference like ATD or DevLearn
Watched a webinar that strengthened your skills in a certain area
Worked with a mentor or coach who helped you to grow in some way
Watched a YouTube video to finally learn how to use a feature in Photoshop or Articulate that’s always stumped you
These are all activities that you can count as professional development. If your list is shorter than you’d like, keep this in mind when you set your goals for 2021!
Tip #4: Manage Your Quarterly Rocks
Your short-term goals (or Quarterly Rocks) help you gain momentum towards your annual goals and your big, long-term goals. At the end of this month, you should evaluate your Q4 goals and whether or not you achieved them in addition to your annual goals.
Ask yourself: “How did I do?” If you met or exceeded your goals: congratulations! You put in the work and it paid off, you deserve to celebrate! But before you bust out the champagne or sparkling cider, take a minute to review the factors that contributed to your success.
Maybe you worked with an amazing team or developed a first-class system for managing your projects. Take note of whomever or whatever helped you get here so you can use the same or similar strategies to achieve future goals.
If you fell short of your goal, don’t be too hard on yourself, it happens. Just make it a learning experience by identifying the reasons for not fulfilling your goals. Maybe you set your sights too high with an unrealistic goal or maybe you found an area where you could strengthen your skills so you can crush those goals in the next quarter.
If you haven’t been reflecting on your goal progress quarterly, Q1 of 2021 is a great time to start. Use some of the helpful tools I shared to get started. I would also recommend checking out the 12 Week Year by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington. And, if you feel like the book isn’t enough, they even have a Field Guide to walk you through the 12-week planning process.
Tip #5: Check-in On Your BHAGs
Every new year, I encourage you to set BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) based on an idea from Jim Collin’s book, Built to Last.
Now that we’ve made it to the end of another year, it’s time to check up on those BHAGs! These are serious, long-term goals don’t expect to have achieved them in just one year, that would be crazy. Especially in a year like this one.
Instead, track your progress towards that goal. If you’re a planner like me, you probably made yourself a list of smaller, actionable steps for each quarter designed to help bring you closer to your BHAG. Now, that you are about to wrap up Q4 and the year, you get to look back at that list one more time this year and make some more satisfying checkmarks.
Or, maybe you didn’t have any concrete plans, just a big dream (and that’s okay). Think back over the last 12 months and write down everything you did (no matter how small) to bring your big hairy audacious goal closer to realization.
2021 is right around the corner and it’s got to be better than 2020! Before too long I’ll be checking back in to help you plan your next year. That will include working on your BHAGs, so stay tuned!
Tip #6: Plan for 2021
Reflecting on your year in instructional design is one thing, using that reflection to improve is another! Did you think I was going to let you go without talking plans? The key to closing out 2020 and setting yourself up for success in 2021 is having a fool-proof plan.
We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of goal-setting in the new year, so keep that in the back of your mind for now. All those successes and setbacks you reflected on earlier? Keep that list handy because those are ideas that you can use to better yourself and your business in 2021!