At this time of year, I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about me. My performance appraisal, all the events of the year gone by and of course, my New Year resolutions. If Christmas is a time for thinking of others, New Year is definitely a time to reflect and think about self-improvement. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that January isn’t a good time to embark upon new regimes. It’s the BEST time. Especially if you work in a school! We’ve had a term, we’ve settled in, we’ve rolled up our sleeves, now it’s time to attack the job!
We’ve all heard of a SWOT analysis and how it helps an organisation strategically plan a competitive edge in its marketplace. I love a good acronym to focus the mind on productive thinking. This is especially important after a few festive days off work when all I can think about is whether I should force down the leftover green bars in the Quality Street tin!
So, maybe I’ve been overthinking this but I’ve come up with an easy New Year reflection acronym to help me. SWAP. Strengths, Weaknesses, Ambition and Pathways.
What have been my strengths over the year and have I used them effectively? Where have I found my practice to be weak and have I done anything to improve it? What do I want to do next year and how am I going to get myself there? My SWAP analysis doesn’t have to only be work related (and actually it is better if I take a holistic view) but it does need to be honest. Here is a snippet of what I’ve got so far;
Strengths – I’ve been brave and proactive this year, trying new things, putting myself outside my comfort zone and looking for opportunities to improve my own practice. I’ve been resilient when things haven’t gone as well as hoped and, probably most importantly, I’ve been happy.
Weaknesses - I’ve been very focused on my work life and I’m not sure I’ve got the balance right. I’m beginning to wonder if a good gauge of balance might actually be my kitchen. If it looks like nuclear war broke out three weeks ago, I probably need to pull back a bit!
Ambition – Ambition is not just for the young. I find I’ve reached a stage in my life when I am excited by challenge and have an unprecedented enthusiasm for life and work. There will be lots of opportunities presenting themselves next year. Which ones do I want to embrace and which ones am I going to have to decline in order to maintain balance? I’d like to travel further afield to promote collaboration in schools and I’d like to seek out opportunities to speak to larger audiences about the role of the School Business Leader.
Pathways – This is the most difficult section to express but it is all about strategy, something we do every day in our school but rarely do for ourselves. How can I use what I take on next year to build my career even further? I like to look at my choices as building blocks, each one leading to the next course of the structure that is my career. It is good to have some understanding of where my choices are leading, so that I can add in relevant training or ask for direction at the right time.
I find SWAP can apply to many areas of life; whether you want to run a marathon next year or just live more healthily; whether you want to travel widely or just socialise more; whether you want to be more organised, focus on a hobby, become more qualified or experienced at work, or even just spend more time with your family. Take a look at what you are good at (and not so good at), decide where you want to go and plan how you’re going to get there. In other words…SWAP.