5 Tips for Writing Performance Reviews

Updated: Dec 22, 2021



It’s that time of the year again!


PSC, Reflections, Performance Reviews, whatever they call it you gotta do it. It feels like a waste of time to write down all the impact you’ve made in the last period when you could be doing your job BUT you can turn it into a quick, meaningful, and painless process.


Here are some tips for you to minimize the time you spend on it and maximize your writing quality.


Stage 1: Pre-Writing


Colorful post-its strewn on the board.
Post-its, scrap paper or digitally; whatever works best for you!

Most people jump right into writing but split their time flipping through documents and searching for information. This serves as a distraction and will actually slow you down.


Brainstorm, gather your data, and outline before you write to make the next stage easier.


Time Management


Give yourself a time limit. By allocating time will help you split a daunting task into ones that are less intimidating. Feeling good about checking off these smaller tasks will motivate you to finish faster. Consequently, you’ll also avoid spending too much time and end up resenting performance reviews altogether.


  1. Estimate how much time you want to give yourself.

  2. Split it up amongst all the steps to getting a finished product.

Here is an example split if you don’t have summaries or metrics of successful projects all in one place.


Pre-writing self reviews 20%, writing self reviews 30%, editing self reviews 20%, Peer feedback 20%
Recommended split for time management.

Clear Purpose


Understand that the performance review is not used to fire people. Instead, it is a chance for you to reflect on your work thus far. Additionally, you’ll identify the direction you’d like to go in then summarize your performance for your manager.


They already know what you’ve been doing (hopefully) and this is just a formal process that will help them document justifying your promotion.

  • The goal of the document is to justify your promotion.

  • Organize your document as such if you don’t have a template.

  • Use the vocabulary from evaluation metrics.

  • Clearly label the metrics you have fulfilled.

  • Look to metrics of the next level to see if you’ve met any of those.

  • Highlight any improvements you’ve made since the mid-cycle feedback or since your last performance review.


Stage 2: Writing


Pen tip writing on paper.
Time to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

Impact


How have you helped the business? Always link the projects/tasks you complete to the business or team’s goals. By linking to the bigger picture, it shows your value. Bonus if you can throw in a specific example.



Held weekly team meetings to keep people up to date. 


This is a weak statement because it doesn’t show the value of your work.



Held weekly team meetings to keep stakeholders up to date, align the team’s vision and identify problematic edge cases early. 

An example of this was in the Project A Marketing request where Angela, our engineer, raised concerns about the API compatibility. 

We got a head start and were able to save about 2 weeks of delays while giving accurate estimates to the Marketing team. 

The impact of your work hasn’t been felt yet because it’s not launched or you are still waiting to see how successful it was? Give estimates of what will be measured in the next cycle.


Scoped and executed Project B end to end. Testing was completed with 4.5% increase in outreach metrics. Launch estimated for Q1 of 2022 with comparable increase expected.

The hardest to write about is if your job is to prevent fires. If you do your job well, they won’t notice you at all. By explaining the obstacles and challenges, you’ll illustrate the effort that you’ve made.



Minimized the back and forth by creating a template after consulting multiple stakeholders. There were 4 prototypes before we settled on the final version that has satisfied the needs of all stakeholders while taking into consideration the time spent in filling it out. The final version is partially automated which took collaboration with engineering team. 

Stage 3: Editing


Woman highlighting through book.
Reread and rewrite.

Unconfident Language

  1. Reduce inaccurate words like ‘some’ & ‘sometimes’ and replace them with a specific number or frequency. It can be approximate.

  2. Avoid using ‘tried to [insert thing you did]’; you did it. Too often we soften our message to help others feel more comfortable. Moreover, being direct and honest increases confidence that you are a trustworthy writer.

Keep it Short

  1. Remember our goal is to make the manager’s job as easy as possible. If you write a 10-page essay, you’ll more likely depress rather than impress your manager.

  2. Shortening your review does not mean you did less, it means that you are concise. So eliminate details that your manager does not need to know. Also, shorten longer phrases using more accurate words.


Conclusion


Do yourself a favor for the next round. Keep track of your work and progress regularly through the week to minimize the pre-writing section.


Download the Google Sheet for free to track your work regularly.

Project Tracking
.xlsx
Download XLSX • 107KB

Google sheet with 6 columns
Easy to use AND a time saver.


If you are looking for self-guided help, I’ve written an in-depth book on the process that has detailed examples of good and bad performance reviews of each section.




If you are looking for personalized guidance, check out the performance review course I have. 4 sessions and my book to get you a polished review as well as the tools and confidence to do it on your own next time.


Lastly, if you are stuck and know you have a section that needs help in re-writing, send it over. If it’s featured in a post, I’ll break it down and build it back up to give you a polished version.