A 3-step review to upgrade your whole damn life
For decades, I've used the After Action Review to do everything better
This edition is sponsored by Chipotle’s new limited-edition Carne Asada Wholesome Bowl, which could easily be part of your “what could go better tomorrow” plan,
My son moved to a new school this year. It starts a full hour earlier than his last school, and it’s 10-15 minutes farther away, depending on traffic and construction.
This has thrown our mornings into a major tizzy. For the last four years, I’ve had a leisurely 2 hours to get in a workout, make his lunch, and get myself ready while he reads, listens to podcasts, and plays Roblox before breakfast. Now, we have 45 minutes between wake-up and walking out the door, and all of us are feeling rushed.
On Friday, I let him bring his iPad upstairs while he ate breakfast. I don’t usually do this (we play card games at breakfast), but even after skipping my workout, I still needed a little extra time to get myself ready.
When it was time for him to put the iPad away and go get dressed, he got cranky. He stalled for a good five minutes, got totally distracted (“where is my football?”) and went back downstairs three times because he forgot socks/wanted his other shoes/remembered where his football was. By this point, we were leaving 10 minutes later than intended, and I was cranky too.
We got in the car and I started to do that mom-angry-under-her-breath thing: “We are never doing that again, this is not the way I wanted this morning to go.” Then I realized that wasn’t helping, and I didn’t want to send my son off to school with that energy. So I stopped, took a deep breath, and said to him, “This morning felt stressful, and I don’t like that. Let’s do an After Action Review.”
The After Action Review (AAR) is something I learned in business school, and have successfully employed at work, in my own personal growth, and to better manage my days. The format I use is simple:
What went well?
What could have gone better?
What will I do differently next time?
The beauty is in the simplicity, and in the neutrality. (It’s not “what did I do well” or “what did you do to make it a dumpster fire.”) It’s also tactical that “what went well” comes first, helping you see that it wasn’t all a dumpster fire.
Carne Asada is BACK at Chipotle!
The limited-edition Carne Asada Whole30 Salad Bowl was one of 2020's brightest spots. I still dream about those hand-cut, tender slices of perfectly seasoned beef… Today, I’m excited to say it's back on the grill at Chipotle, just in time for the September Whole30!
Now you have two delicious ways to stick to your Whole30 or Food Freedom plan with no meal prep, cooking, or dishes. Order the original Wholesome Bowl with Adobo Chicken, or try the new limited-edition Carne Asada Wholesome Bowl, available only through the Lifestyle Bowls section of their app or website. Both bowls feature a fresh Supergreens blend, fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, and Chipotle’s famous guac, and you can order with confidence knowing both of these bowls have the official Whole30 thumbs-up.
From now through October 1st, get $0 delivery fee* when you order a Carne Asada Wholesome Bowl via the Chipotle App or website. I know what I’m having for lunch—how ‘bout you?
What went well?
In the car, we first talked about what did go well that morning. We packed a really good lunch with extra stuff for his friend who always forgets. He found his football, so now he can play at recess. And it looked like he wasn’t going to be late after all, as traffic was light that day. We agreed that the morning wasn’t all bad.
What could have gone better?
Again, the neutrality of this statement helps you to evaluate without assigning blame, feeling guilty, or spiraling into negative self-talk. That morning, we agreed that we were both really stressed, which didn’t feel good. (He said I made him more stressed. Fair.) He also doesn’t want to be late for school, so we agreed we left too late for comfort. Finally, I said that having his iPad at breakfast didn’t work for me—there isn’t enough time in the morning to start and finish a game, and he gets cranky when he has to end a game early. (He reluctantly acknowledged this point.)
What will you do differently next time?
This question helps you apply the learnings from the last two questions, and turn them into an actionable plan for next time. It also helps to relieve stress, because the brain loves a plan. We decided we’d do more the night before (making lunch, packing his bag, choosing his clothes) to make the morning less rushed. I instituted a new “no video games before school” rule that he hated, but I knew would make the morning smoother. And we decided we’d leave no later than 7:20 AM (me, knowing it’ll probably be closer to 7:25, still feeling good about an extra five minutes).
The AAR results
By the time I dropped him off, our moods were lighter, he WAS on time, and I felt 100% better knowing we had a good plan for Monday morning. (I’m still trying to figure out when to get my workout in, but that’s another AAR in the making.)
You can apply this framework real fast, on the fly, to any situation. You can use it to make your next day, your next meal, or your next hour better! (Hint—if your’e doing the September Whole30, an AAR process is GOLD at the end of the day.) Or you can dig deep, spending hours walking through the details of each point and finalizing your next steps. This can be done for your business, with your team, or with your clients.
It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s easy to employ. Where could you use the AAR right now to make your next ___________ better? Leave your thoughts in comments.
*Higher menu prices and additional service fees apply for delivery. $10 min/$200 max, excl tax and fees. Valid 9/14-10/1/2023. Chipotle.com or Chipotle app only; purchase of Carne Asada entrée req’d. Additional terms & conditions.