Employee evaluations are commonplace in the professional world. Employers conduct regular evaluations in order to gauge growth, reward strengths and successes, and initiate positive changes. But the workplace isn’t the only arena in which evaluations are useful, and employers aren’t the only ones that should be conducting them. Today, we are going over 3 questions you can use for a monthly self-evaluation.
A self-evaluation is just what it sounds like: an evaluation of yourself. Like an employee evaluation, your self-evaluation should consider your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth. But unlike an evaluation done in a professional setting, a self-evaluation puts you in the driver’s seat and helps you claim even more control over your life.
Why is monthly self-evaluation important?
We all lead busy lives. Sometimes it seems like we’re all “go go going” from sunup to sundown, week after week, month after month. So is a self-evaluation really so important that you should make it a requirement every single month, adding to your already long to-do list?
Short answer: yes. Here’s why.
It helps you focus on the positive as well as the negative.
The unhealthy thinking pattern of negative focus is extremely harmful and extremely prevalent. It is all too easy to look at our lives and focus on what is going wrong while ignoring (or at least downplaying) all that is going right.
A self-evaluation, if done correctly, won’t allow you to just focus on the bad things in your life. It will push you to see the good along with the bad, your strengths along with your weaknesses, and your victories along with your losses.
It’s vitally important to create space for acknowledging and celebrating the positive things in your life.
It helps you learn from your experiences.
Life is all about learning. Learning opportunities are everywhere—but they’re also really easy to miss. In fact, I would say that unless we are deliberately looking for these learning opportunities, they are going to pass us by. We’re never going to see them and thus, we’re never going to benefit from them.
A monthly self-evaluation forces you to think about potential learning experiences that have come up in the last month. When you identify them and reflect on them, you’re more likely to actually learn the lesson to be learned, rather than allowing it to escape undetected.
It will help you be happier.
Beyond anything else, regular self-evaluation can make you happier. It requires self-reflection and introspection, something that will allow you to get to know yourself better. It asks you to recognize your opportunities for growth (and to make a plan to capitalize on those opportunities). Plus, it gives you time to be grateful, identify shame, recognize unhealthy thinking patterns, and decide what needs to change in your life. In short, it gives you the opportunity to put everything you learn about self-improvement and creating happiness into action.
Real quick, I want to touch on why I recommend doing a self-evaluation every month.
Basically, what it boils down to is this: it’s important to conduct self-evaluations regularly, and monthly creates the perfect balance between realistic and helpful.
If you hold self-evaluations too frequently (say, weekly), you may become burned out on them. They may create too much of a demand on your schedule. And you may not have enough useful data to work with. Once a month is realistic.
However, if you hold self-evaluations too infrequently (quarterly or yearly), you risk not being able to remember meaningful experiences. Plus, you miss out on the benefits that self-evaluation brings. In other words, once a month maximizes the helpfulness of the process.
3 questions for a monthly self-evaluation
How do you conduct a monthly self-evaluation? There isn’t really a universal answer to that question. Some people may enjoy a multi-hour process with in-depth questions, journaling, and goal sheets. Others would much rather just take a few quiet moments to think, along with a few notes to document the highlights.
As for me—I like to take about an hour at the end of each month to think about the 3 self-evaluation questions I’ll share below. I like to write down my responses so that I can more easily track my progress.
Wherever you end up, you have to start somewhere. The 3 questions I’m introducing today are a great starting point for anyone who is interested in the idea of a self-evaluation. They cover the basics of an evaluation, while allowing enough room for you to expand on your ideas if you want.
So block off some time, get comfortable, grab a pen and notebook, and let’s go.
1. “What went right and what went wrong?”
This is the part in the process when you reflect back on your month and think about the high and low points.
Start by writing down anything that jumps out at you immediately (i.e. a clear high point or clear low point). Most likely, you’ll be able to come up with a short list. Star, underline, or highlight these things so you can remember that they are what came to you first.
From there, ask yourself some followup questions to help you expand your list of high and low points from the month. I recommend the following questions, but feel free to add to the list if you think of something that would help you.
- Who did I spend time with that made me feel good (or bad)?
- Did I accomplish anything I’m proud of this month?
- What habits did I make, break, or maintain?
- When did I feel most/least like myself?
- When did I have the most/least energy?
- What projects did I work on that I was excited about?
- What places did I find myself gravitating towards?
- Which to-do list items were on my list at the beginning of the month…and are still there?
- Did I make progress on any big goals?
Questions like these will help you build an extensive list of positives and negatives from the month. (If you want more question ideas, check out this post.)
As you answer these questions, try not to judge yourself. Your monthly self-evaluation isn’t about sending yourself on a guilt trip or into a shame spiral. All you’re trying to do is get an objective view of how your month went and what brought you joy throughout the month. That is the data that is going to drive you toward a happier future—not your feelings of guilt around what you did or didn’t do.
2. What can I do differently?
The next big question you need to ask yourself is: what can I do differently going forward?
The data you collected by answering the first question is just that—data. It may be interesting, and it might give you some valuable insights about yourself, but the most important thing is that you use it to your benefit as you try to do better next month and create a happier future.
Look at your lists of what went right and what went wrong in the previous month. Then answer the following questions:
- How can I get more of the good? Looking at your list of positives, how can you get more of those good moments, experiences, or interactions in the coming month?
- How can I get less of the bad? Conversely, how can you cut out or minimize the things that brought you down?
- How can I change the bad into good? Some of the things on your negatives list can be changed into positives. Identify those things and think about how you can make that shift.
The goal in answering these questions is to come up with deliberate and specific plans to maximize good moments while minimizing bad ones. As you make and follow these plans, you will feel happier, month after month.
3. What are my top 3 priorities for the coming month?
Setting new goals every month can feel intimidating and overwhelming. You’re free to set as many monthly goals as you want, of course, but I would recommend also setting your top priorities for each month.
These priorities can look like specific goals (e.g. land a new client, finish a project, save (x) amount of dollars), or they can look like abstract concepts that you want to focus on (e.g. family, creativity, health, etc.).
Whatever you choose to prioritize, make sure you:
- Tie them into your previous answers. Align your priorities with the discoveries and plans you made when answering the first two questions. Think about the things that could bring you joy in the next month. How can you prioritize them?
- Limit yourself. 3 is a great number for me, but you can do more or less, as long as the number you end up with is realistic for you.
- Remind yourself of them. Keep your priorities in the forefront of your mind by setting reminders on your phone, hanging a sign on your bathroom mirror, etc. It could also be helpful to ask a friend or partner to have weekly check ins with you about your priorities.
These 3 questions for your monthly self-evaluation will help you follow a process that is streamlined, organized, and effective.
You deserve to have each month be better than the last. Build on your successes, learn from your missteps, and prioritize what’s most important to you. If you can do that, you’ll create a happy life for yourself, month by month.
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