Feb 11, 2024 - 4 minute read - leadership

Self Retros

I’ve done various forms of retros over the years, one of which I blogged about too. Following Cian Synnot’s example, I had done Four L’s. I also had done a quarterly “plate spinning” check to make sure I’m not spreading myself too thin, and also had a quarterly calendar audit (I’m in a lot of meetings) to make sure I was spending time in the right places. But as much as I had done, I realized that I wanted for something more regular (monthly, rather than quarterly or yearly) and more concrete, as for me, a retro like Four L’s is too nonspecific.

So taking ingredients from the above, I figured to come up with my own set of things I wanted to make sure to check in on. Below is the result.

Is my personal information organization system meeting my needs?

Is it letting me know what I need to know when I need to know them? Am I missing meetings or events that I didn’t mean to?

Does it feel like it’s under control? Or does it feel like some part is accumulating or getting “uncomfortable”, or otherwise out of control?

Am I able to find what I’m looking for? Did I hunt for something and wasn’t able to find it? For things I need frequently, can I find them easily? For things I don’t need often, can I find them at all? Did I even record it in the first place?

Am I spending too much time collecting things that don’t matter?

Am I not recording things I ought to be; even if it’s speculative, or don’t need them very often at all?

How much effort do I spend maintaining the things I do collect? Is it well spent?

What am I working on?

How many plates am I spinning? Is it 4 or less?

What should I consider handing off because it doesn’t need me to do it?

Do I know my priorities? Does it line up with what I’m working on?

Do a calendar audit if Jan, Apr, Jul, or Oct (quarterly)

Did I make the changes my previous calendar audit results indicated I should make?

Did they have the desired effect?

When doing my audit, do the results reflect my priorities?

What’s going well? What’s not going as well as I want? What’s slowing me down?

Technical? Organizational? Personal?

Have I asked for help? Do I need to?

Do I need to learn something? What can I do to learn faster?

Have I done anything to improve them? Have any efforts I’ve made to remedy them paid off?

How am I doing mood-wise? Is my negative emotion inventory complete?

  • Frustration/Anger
  • Worry/Concern/Anxiety
  • Disappointment/Grief/Shame/Regret/Depression

Do these indicate any larger issues? What are the root causes? What are things I can do something about? What are things I can’t?

Of my work, what’s bringing me joy? What’s bringing me misery? What brings me energy vs. draining it?

Include smalls of both. At least misery is multiplicative, and the paper cuts can compound into that really crappy “everything sucks!” feeling without a some single big thing to attack. Or, it can compound when a bigger thing that otherwise I might have been ok-enough with turns into huge issue. I don’t have a mathematical model of the mitigating effects of joy. Deal with the small things even though they’re tempting to ignore/gloss-over.

Am I feeling pressure?

From whom is it coming? From me, or someone else?

Is the internal pressure in line with reality?

Based on all of the above, what action items are needed to make things better?

For persistent/with-inertia changes, record them in a Decision Record, and next retro evaluate the results of the changes. Including changes to this retro.

I’ve chosen X for Y reason(s) – do the original reasons still apply?

This can be any kind of ongoing behavior based on a decision you made in the past; technical, career, personal, etc. For example a tool or system you use, a person you hang out with, habits, hobbies, ways of working, etc. The status quo has inertia, but just because you do a certain thing today doesn’t mean you should continue doing it. Even things I didn’t put in the decision record. If it comes to mind and wasn’t in the DR, add it, especially if you change things.

Is it time to reconsider anything?

If you changed a behavior, did it have the desired effect?