How I did my annual review

Many of my friends love doing yearly review of their learning. Ever since the end of last year and till this Chinese New Year, their reviews have been coming out one by one. I also did a yearly review during the holidays of Chinese New Year. Since I have been using my online notebook for my learning, this yearly review is also done on that notebook. Although it is a bit late now, I would like to share with you how I did my yearly review with this online notebook.

First of all, there was a total of 3,176 notes in my notebook last year, with 2,007 snippets, 647 bookmarks, 515 scraps, and 7 knowledge frames. It also counts the most frequently used tags of the year, the new tags for the year, and so on. For this statistical page, another article will be written on it.

Through the statistic over the year, I can have a quick review of the year’s learning. And then with the notebook, I can only display the notes of the last year. By quick browsing through, I can identify several big topics for this year, such as management, software management, product management, and tech (including topics like git, python, shell, database), osl work, notebook design and development. Then for each topic I can use combination of tags to review the relevant notes.

The whole process is to first determine the topic, then quickly gain the big amount of experiences, fact and data I have accumulated on this topic, dive into details, try to build up understanding and knowledge of the whole. Lastly, run through a checklist of what need to be done and have a complete review and enhancement on the notes and knowledge.

Within these topics, for management, because I have been summarizing it up during the year, and knowledge has been formed already, and several blog essays have been written from it. Whole knowledge and deeper understanding have been achieved. Here is the Chinese blog for reading these essays:

In tech, a lot of piratical experiences and small pieces of important info need to be collected (such as those tagged with cheatsheet and tip) before the complete review can be done in order to form understanding understanding of the whole. For example, I did a review of git, and were able to come up with a whole understanding of it. Also from those drops of experiences and facts on shell, the systemic knowledge of shell also comes into being.

For big topics such as OSL or notebook’s design and development, various sets of tags need to be used to review different aspects of the topic, to summarize what have been learned and to plan the next stage of working and learning. Smaller topics such as product design, software design and travel have also been reviewed and comprehended.

The experiences and thoughts during this yearly review process were also noted down as snippets, with yearly review tag, for the future reference and review.

Using notebook to review those Significant Experiences accumulated over a long period of time is really a very effective learning method.

First, you can notice those often appearing things over a long period of time, and they reflected something important for that period, and thus provide a foundation for self-reflection. Secondly, you can notice certain things you were not aware during that period and can re-evaluate it more objectively. Thirdly you can compare different environment during different periods, and you might have some interesting discovery.

Last, because notes are used to capture the exact experience at the moment, and to write it down objectively, you don’t have to rely on your fuzzy memory at the end of the year to do the yearly review. And all experiences have become text displayed visually in front of you, it lessens the burden on your mind and brain, so you don’t have to recall memory buried deep in your brain and do the analysis and comprehending at the same time.

Below I am going to give some cases for each of the above 4 points.

For the first one, for those repeating over and over again over a long period of time, I discovered that I wrote often in my notes that my attitudes on life should be as brave and optimistic as when I was young. The frequency of these notes is high, so I realize that it is because I am approaching mid-age, and thus there is some change in my mind.

Another example, when I was reviewing my experiences in management, I realize one common reason for many different problems: the organization becoming too large is the root of all difficulties. The solution? One is to split the company into smaller ones, and restore the free market mechanism; Another solution is to use internet to make the company small again.

For the second point, through comparison in different companies, I can see each company has its own problems. So I can be more open minded, and no need to complain too much of the current environment.

For the third point, I compared the three companies I used to work. I filtered notes by the date range of each period. These companies belong to different industries, and thus their organizational culture and software environment are all different. Also their sizes differed. The first is the smallest, only around 30 people. The second has around 100. The third is huge, with over 160,000 people. The first is pure internet company, founded by returnees from Sillicon Valley and has some reputation in the industry. The second and the third are relatively traditional companies, so I viewed working there as an effort to evangelize and spread internet. Putting all the experiences in these different periods together is really a very interesting discovery process.

For example, when I was browsing through the notes, I realized suddenly that the management of the first and that of the second companies are two extremes. The first company’s culture is very much like American ones. It puts emphasis on equality and openness in its culture. Employees, department heads and boss call each other by plain names. The boss even doze off and snore by the desk at the noons. The companies registration files and accounting files are all open in the closet without lock. So it is a quite open culture. But I feel no any hierarchy (when things get complicated, at least some hierarchy is needed, otherwise there will be hidden ones) based on trust is built up, which can be an issue. There is not much frequent conversations and discussions among the department heads. And all issues start with open discussion in the whole company level. For the second and the third company, there are the traditional hierarchy, and they like to add ‘zong’ (meaning “in charge”) to the last name when calling each other, and there are heavy cultures of tasting and flattering. But the professional hierarchy is very rigid and locked, there is no hierarchy based on trust (in term of professional skills and qualities).

When I was browsing my management experiences in the first two companies, compared with the last, it made me feel deeply the difference that comes from the companies’ sizes. For example, in a small company, it is easy to feel the sense of responsibility because everything is visible in front of you. In a big company, even for those who previously have a strong sense of responsibility, it can be hard because the company is so big that you only see a very small part of it. In a small company, you can feel everything, and thus have very concrete feelings of management. It is hard to have such kinds of feelings in a big company. Of course, after you realize this, you can bring the sense of responsibility you have in a small company to the large company, and also try to turn the big company into a small one by using the power of internet, making everything happens under the same roof. These comparisons help me to bring my experiences of management in small companies to the big companies.

So by comparing different periods, you can discover the real opportunities in your career, and your growth in each period, and thus have a clear idea of how you want to develop your career. Each environment gives you something different. If you aim high, you should accumulate rich experiences in various environments.

After review, I will give a score for each aspect in each period, and compute the sum, then I can evaluate the growth in each period. For example, the snippet below:

2013,2014 achievement: tech 3; paas 3; inner source 3; profession of digitizing 3; travel 3; management:11; media and publishing industry: 1; translation industry:2; commerce: 4; medical 3; big company culture 2; SUM: 38.

So by filtering via time range or tags, you can focus on a time period or a certain aspect. It is highly effective to do review this way. Actually I do annual review often in the past. It is because I discovered that a notebook can make the review process more efficient I developed the notebook.

Memory is not reliable, especially for things a long time ago. Normally you can remember well things within a week. Beyond that it can become a bit blurry. During this review with the notebook, I am able to find memories that are not quite correct. So lucky for me I found back the right memory.

Further, the life decisions you have made a long time ago, you must have a lot of considerations to reach them. After that long time passed, and you also have passed through the long journey, do you still remember your choices at the time? For example, in recent two years, I especially want to have more experiences in business and product management, and also in team management and company management. Now I look back, I have achieved them. I now have the confidence that I can build a very strong team, can manage a company that is in a few hundreds. Now what I need is to be more focused on technologies, go deeper and broader and fulfills my self-expectation when I started. When you remember how you started and know clearly how you have grown, you know clearly where you are going next.

I share this article with my friends who love learning. We are all self-learners! Let’s make self-learning easier!

Another article will be posted to introduce the learning statistic features.

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One Response to How I did my annual review

  1. admin says:

    The features of learning stat are introduced here:

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