Conduct a Personal ‘After-Action Review’ to Improve Your Productivity


Planning out what you’re going to do is huge for productivity, which is why SMART goals (and their alternatives) are so popular throughout the working world. Another important—but perhaps more overlooked—element of the productivity process is the assessment, however. Reviewing what you did is just as integral as planning how you’ll do it—in reviewing, you get a chance to plan better (and improve!) for next time.

What is an after-action review? 

An after-action review, or AAR, is a way to measure the results of your performance and improve on your processes. It was first introduced by the U.S. Army to give units feedback after they had collective training exercises. The Army has actually released a ton of literature on it, but what you need to know is that when done right, it’s standardized, done the same way every time, and useful for building a framework that can enhance future work. 

You’ll notice that it was designed for units or teams and is typically conducted by a facilitator who encourages members to discuss each part of the effort with the group. It can be useful for individuals, too, since the process of completing an AAR is so standardized and easy to follow. Build time into your schedule to conduct your own personal AAR after major projects, like those you have to do at work (or even cleaning your house!). You can do it at the end of the week or the completion of the project, but you should make sure you’re writing everything down, whether in your planner or in a document you can add to a larger file about the project, like a single source of truth (SSOT).

What goes into an AAR? 

There are four questions you’ll ask yourself when conducting your AAR and they’ll always be the same: 

  1. What did I intend to accomplish?

  2. What did I do?

  3. Why did it happen the way it did?

  4. What will I do to change my strategy or execution for a better outcome next time OR how can I duplicate my success?

Essentially, consider what you wanted to get done, what you really got done, what impacted the outcome, and what you can take away for future attempts. Even running over this checklist in your head is a good practice, but writing it down is best, so you can refer back to it next time you’re in the planning stages on a new project. 

For instance, say you want to clean your kitchen. That’s the answer to the first question. What you really did, whether it was clean the kitchen, avoid the task, or only give it a half-effort, is the answer to the second. The third question is where you get really introspective. If you did clean the kitchen, was it because you had company coming over and felt a sense of urgency? Maybe it was because you needed to feel a sense of accomplishment after an otherwise unproductive week. If you didn’t clean it, was it because you felt overwhelmed? Did you get too busy? Did you lack the right tools for the job? Once you’ve established your reasons, you can build them into the answer to the fourth question, writing something like, “I will clean my kitchen weekly to make sure I’m always ready for unexpected company,” “I will follow a regimented cleaning method to avoid feeling overwhelmed,” or, “I will invest in better cleaning tools to make the next attempt go smoother.” 

When cleaning time rolls around again, you’ll pre-plan your actions as normal, scheduling out time for the activity and setting goals. Refer back to your AAR to refresh your memory on what went right and what went wrong the last time you tried to do the task. Eventually, you’ll smooth out the issues that are preventing you from being most efficient and get more results. 

Source

Leave a Comment