Have You Done Your Personal SWOT Analysis for 2024?

jan 2024 newsletter

By now your function or group at work has probably finished its strategic plan and 2024 forecast.

What about your own future?

How far out are you thinking about your life, trends in your industry, and what might be around the corner?

The Institute For The Future found that more than a quarter of Americans say that they rarely or never think about what might happen three to five years into the future, and I have to admit, I have been guilty of that myself. It’s easy to get buried in worries about the present or near future without jumping ahead to think about where you want to be three to five years from now.

For this reason, I make sure to carve out time for a personal SWOT analysis during the vacation we always take with the family during the holidays at the end of the year.  I use the time to reflect on myself, on my business as well as on who I want to be in the years ahead.

I highly recommend that you book yourself 30-60 minutes this January.

I call it my personal strategic planning analysis.

Try it for yourself and if it’s helpful, focus it on your department or span of control at work too.

Here is My 7 Part Personal Strategic Review:

1. What Happened This Year: Think about the facts of the year: What happened to your income, your investments, promotions at work, completed projects (and failures to launch), successful hires, people let go or who moved on? Record just the facts with an eye towards objectivity and not self-recrimination. Do make sure to focus primarily on your accomplishments though (see Strengths below – we tend to move on too fast from the good.)

2. Strengths: Often the hardest part for most people. Our minds focus on what’s NOT working instead of what is. That’s the nature of our brain’s evolution but that doesn’t mean we can’t combat our go-to pattern by spending time on what we want to continue doing well. A question I added on this year, in addition to listing my strengths, is “How have my strengths helped me succeed this year?”

3. Weaknesses: Typically the easiest list (for me, at least) to come up with. We can often see the things we wish we did better and that ideally, we would like to change about ourselves. Try hard to do this list through an analytical lens only, no shame – we’re all constantly learning and growing to be better. No one has a blank weakness list.

4. What You Learned: If I’m honest, this is my favorite part of the strategic review. I love reflecting on my successes, my failures, my strengths and weaknesses and seeing what I truly learned about them, and myself, as I went through the past year.

5. Opportunities: These become the starting list for new business projects, new personal projects, and dare I say, New Year’s resolutions. I have fun with this section when I challenge myself to think not only about the opportunities within easy reach for me but also the opportunities that I see when I widen my time span and look even further out in the future. If there’s an opportunity five years from now, what would be the first stepping-stone opportunity towards it in the next year or two? This is my wish list of everything I would love to become more expansive in my business, and in my life.

6. Threats: I don’t spend much time in my personal SWOT analysis on external threats I can’t control (the stock market plunges, presidential elections). A great variation I discovered this year is focusing on what are the inner threats or limiting mindsets I’ve absorbed that undermine me. Some of these are easy to identify since I’ve spent much of my adult life working to counteract these inner critics. Some of them surfaced after a couple of rounds of 5 Whys to do some root cause analysis. (Why do I believe that? Because of X. Well, why do I believe X? Because of Y. . . and so forth) It’s wise after this section to return to the previous section and see if tackling any of these internal fears presents new potential opportunities.

Finally, I move to the most helpful section of this strategic review:

7. Game Changers: This is when I go back through the list of opportunities circling the ones that could be game changers, for me personally, and for my business. If executed well, which of my earlier ideas would most likely bring about exponential positive change for me? Once I’ve circled the first round of possibilities, I can go back through the list, first alone, and then strategizing with a close colleague, to narrow down the three biggest needle movers I want to focus on in the coming year.

Only then do I begin plotting my weekly and monthly tactics, what I need to learn next, and coming up with my personal dashboard metrics to track my progress over the coming year.

Make it a priority to complete this full strategic step-back and review, your personal SWOT analysis. Although it’s hard to predict, not every opportunity is a game changer. But by taking the time to identify and execute on the ones you believe are, it will significantly improve this coming year, and the next three to five years after that. . .almost guaranteed!

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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