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I had a PDR today. For those of you outside whatever sectors this particular acronym has infiltrated, that stands for ‘Performance and Development Review’. It’s basically a big yearly appraisal, where you get to talk about what you’ve done over the past year, triumphs and disasters, and hopes for the future.

You get a nice (actually, fairly horrible) form to fill in, that prompts you to reflect on various things from over the last year. Want to guess what I did? Headed straight for the ‘what didn’t go well?’ section, scribbled away for a few minutes, then dried up. It’s a good job I have a very nice line manager, who found entries such as ‘I can’t remember what I did before this!’ and ‘Aarrgh!’ mildly amusing, and not a reason to have me dragged off to occupational health tout suite for a sanity check.

While I found it difficult to remember what I’d done, I could trawl through previous calendar entries and old to-do lists to jog my memory. The real challenge came when I tried to reflect on what I’d learned – or even how I felt. I simply couldn’t recapture my response to things. It came down to ‘My talk at ILI went well and I was pleased’. I bet you’re all astounded by that insightful bit of reflection, eh?

I think what’s at the root of this is that I haven’t been reflecting. I’ve been busy, and I’ve let various demands on my time tip me over from ‘reflective practitioner’ to ‘full-on panic-mode zombie’, who just deals with the next crisis to cross her desk, and then immediately forgets about it when she’s done. Who, in fact, purposefully puts some things out of her mind – ‘Phew! that’s over with, don’t have to think about it any more. Next!’

This is, of course, entirely the wrong way to work. I can tell you much more about what I did, what I learned and how I developed professionally in 2009 than I can for the last 6 months. Why? Because I was preparing my Chartership portfolio in 2009, which forced me to reflect. I kept up some of my reflective work after it, but with no demands and no deadline, nothing I feel I can legitimately put on my to-do list, it fell by the wayside and was forgotten.

Which means most of my learning has been forgotten too. I’ve had an especially busy 6 months, which should be keeping me in professional development material for years! Instead, by not stopping to reflect I’ve effectively wasted most of what I’ve done. What should have been a fantastic time for my PPD is instead a flatline.

And it shows in so many areas! I’ve been sadly neglecting my blogging. I’m not connecting with Twitter in the same way I used to – rather than being part of the community, and involved in Biddy Fisher’s lovely notion of ‘professional generosity’, I’ve been swooping in, asking for help, and then swooping away again. Not matter how busy I am, that’s not really on. I need to make time to develop myself, and I need to remember that one of the all-round best ways of doing this is through helping to develop the community.

So I’m starting to look at CILIP Revalidation. You can’t revalidate until you’ve been chartered for 3 years, but I’m hoping you can sign-up during those 3 years, and commit to start gathering evidence. I won’t be revalidating to prove anything to CILIP or the community. I won’t be doing it as a step on the road to Fellowship. I’ll be doing it because it seems that I need a structure in place to help me manage my PPD, and Revalidation supplies that.

Doing this will require extra time, which I don’t feel that I have to spare! But I think it will make me a more effective worker – five minutes of reflection can save me hours, by stopping me making the same mistake twice! It may be painful at first (I do feel like I’m skimping things rather, which is one reason I’m not so keen to dwell on them), but it needs to be done. And who knows, I may decide I’m not doing so badly after all 🙂

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