Don't Lose Track of Lessons Learned

One of the greatest ways to learn is to fail.  Failures are failures if you fail to learn from them.  If you do learn from a failure, it’s no longer a failure in the fullest sense of the word, it’s a learning opportunity.

It’s a “lesson learned.”

For the last several years, I’ve been keeping track of “lessons learned.”  I don’t want to lose track of these.  You don’t either.

Which means you need a system.

You need a system for recording these, you need a system for revisiting them, reflecting upon them, adding to them, expanding upon them, etc.

Here’s How I Do It 
Evernote is the tool of choice for me when it comes to just about everything.  In my Evernote, I have a notebook called “Lessons Learned.”  Within that notebook, I have a note for each month of the year.  I also have topical notes in there.  

Here is a sampling of my notes in my “Lessons Learned” notebook:

  • September
  • October
  • November
  • Day Retreats
  • Funerals
  • Q&A Panels

The process, then is quite simple.  Once a month (or as need arises for topical issues), I sit down and reflect on the prior month.  Was there anything specific to the month that I learned?  If so, I record it.  I also do this “on the fly” throughout the month.

Additionally, then, once a month I carve out time to review my lessons learned.  Today, for example, is October 8th.  When I sit down in October for a time of recalibration, what I will do is review my lessons learned notes for September, October, November (and probably December since it’s Christmas and I’m a pastor).

This process helps me to avoid making the same mistakes I made last year at this time—it allows me to learn from my failures.

Viewing examples is one of the best ways to learn.  Below is my current note for October as well as my current note for November.  

2013 - Get Advent series graphics rolling no later than the end of this month.

2014 - Make plans for LPS Fall Break (Oct 13-14 this year) - going to Mahoney State Park Cabin Sunday night - Tuesday morning.

2014 - Plan a Creative Team Meeting in early October for Advent


2012 - Christmas and Christmas Eve are coming - think through promotions, service days and times, stage/lobby decor, etc.  Helpful checklist: (private link removed)

2012 - Need to get the ball rolling on Christmas Eve promo (Website billboard, City post shared to Plaza, FB, Twitter, Sunday morning slide for pre/post service).

2013 - ran out of gas by late October, early November this year.  November felt like running on fumes.  Make solitude/retreat days a HIGH priority in October, November and December.  Do not skip these.  You need them for refreshment.

2013 - Get a good start on annual budget planning using "Master Budget Plan" spreadsheet in Google Docs.  Work through this with elders, propose it to FT in December and lock it in.  This was the first year we did it, and it was a great exercise for us.

Learn From Yourself
In the above examples, there are things listed there that I’ve learned through failure.  There are also things recorded there from looking back and thinking “you know what we should have done….”  Whenever you find yourself thinking along those lines, add it to your lessons learned.

Lastly, every once in a while you’ll do something right!  When that happens you want to make sure you do it again.  That too is a lesson learned to be recorded.