Our career is a vital piece of our life. Not only do we spend most of our waking hours at work, but our work also dramatically influences our lives. For example, it is not uncommon for a medical doctor to have more doctor friends; cops are more closely associated with others cops in the same line of profession. It is essential for each of us to love what we do, so we can continue to thrive and grow in our careers.

One of the ways to enjoy what you do is to be good at it and to become good at what you do; you must be able to show improvements in how you do things; that is, you should be better this year than you were in the last. And to accomplish such improvement and reach the expert status you desire, you should perform regular assessments of your performance.

Performance assessment requires you to evaluate your skills and knowledge against some benchmark.

For example, if you are a student, a performance assessment for you will focus on your ability to pass an exam. If in an exam, the passing score is 80%. If you score above the 80% mark, you have performed well since you met the benchmark. On the other hand, if your grade was below the passing score, then your performance has not met expectations. For career professionals, you were hired to use your skills, expertise, and experience to deliver specific results. Your boss/manager will assess your performance based on metrics and your assigned deliverable.

To be a top performer, you must ensure that you constantly exceed those expectations, plus more. You need to be an outside-the-box thinker; you are not just delivering to meet some expectations; they want you to do much more.

I started a practice some years ago and found this very helpful in my career. I call it “My strategy section” I block out my calendar for about 20 minutes each week. All I do during this time is assess my job and explore ways to improve my current work or brainstorm ideas to solve a big problem. I may simplify an existing process, introduce a new one, or do anything to make the business more efficient. That practice helps me stay ahead of my peers, making me relevant at work.

So, in terms of performance assessment, I know it’s a new year, and depending on your organization, you may have done your performance appraisal already or are just about getting ready for it.

I want you to start tracking your performance so that when it is time to go to your manager, you will have good records and stories to share with your manager about what you accomplish for the organization. I want you to do this regularly, maybe every two weeks or monthly, depending on the nature of your work. My message is, don’t wait till the end of the year or the one time in a year to receive your manager’s opinion about your performance. Start tracking your performance yourself; you can tell positive stories about your work to anyone reviewing you.

Journal your work

This is about keeping records of what you do daily at work. My wife works in an agile organization with a scrum project management philosophy. They have visual dashboards that they fill out regularly to document their progress on the job. My wife has notebooks with beautiful highlighters of different colors that she uses to track her progress. I found that really inspiring in terms of keeping records. My work does not require that many details, but I do pick out the most important activity that I work on and not only that, the result that I got and how it benefitted my company.

I would suggest that you find a way to also document and track your accomplishments, make sure it’s quantifiable, meaningful, and aligns with your organization’s objective.

Measure your progress

By tracking your performance, you can quickly see whether or not you are close to your goals. If you are not making progress according to plans, you can quickly course correct and ensure you get back on track.

Develop an improvement plan

During your assessment, you may discover areas where you are struggling or need to acquire more skills or learn something new; you can use this to create improvement plans to help you achieve your goals.

Craft your story

There is no better way to excel during your performance appraisal than to be ready before the time. And being prepared with stories of the exact thing you accomplished, how you did it, and what specific results — cost saving, productivity boost, more revenue you delivered to the organization, will help your appraisal be more impactful.

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