How To Use After-Action Review Method (AAR) For Productivity?

After-Action Review Method (AAR)

Why use a Navy Seal framework like After-Action Review Method (AAR)?

After 4 years of working on a wide range of interesting projects in my previous research job, I found myself working independently with the same momentum on various new projects without bringing any of them to full fruition. Clearly, working by yourself can be very challenging. Hence, when I read about how the US Navy Seals train without leaving anything to chance from the planning and execution of a mission to the debriefings, I became very interested in the After-Action Review Method (AAR).

The AAR was developed to help the military to learn from both their mistakes and achievements. Working as an employee in a full-time job can inhibit some areas of your thinking as you are deeply focused on what is important for your employer while relying on your supervisors or managers to handle a lot of subtle but crucial elements important to your work.

I was guided by a mental utility function focused on intellectually challenging novel tasks due to years of research and academic work. But I should rather be guided by a utility function in line with most people. i.e. Launch a successful business, Get a great job, Make more money, Have better relationships, Have a comfortable life, etc. 

In order to accomplish goals outside my domain of expertise and experience, I needed a simple framework that brings discipline and helps me get things done. The After-Action Review Framework involves a set of 4 questions that not just help in identifying lessons learned, but also in putting those lessons in action ahead so to further the learning for future action and success.

The 4 questions in the After-Action Review Method (AAR) Framework:

  1. What did I intend to accomplish? 
  2. What happened? 
  3. Why did it happen that way? What was the Root cause?
  4. What will I do next time for a better outcome (or to repeat my success)?

By analyzing what actually happened and by comparing it with your intent and actions, you ask questions to understand what were the root causes of both the successes and misses. You plan what are the strategies and actions required ahead, what help you may need etc, so as to ensure that nothing is left to chance.

In order to demonstrate the After-Action Review Method (AAR), I have decided to implement it on a set of goals below that are important to me.

What did I intend to accomplish? 

  1. Make a successful blog with a large number of visitors
  2. Learn a foreign language like German to pass the B1 exam
  3. Get the perfect job
  4. Build and launch Web3 apps
  5. Get rid of bad habits and adopt good habits
    • Get rid of bad habits and keep negativity away: Quit drinking, smoking, and wasting time
    • Adopt good habits and attract positivity: Exercise, eat well, make good friends
  6. Make a huge investment portfolio that gives me enough passive income to be self-sufficient
  7. Trying to do all of the above without distractions

What happened? 

  1. I did not publish enough blog posts 
  2. After some initial effort, I began to procrastinate due to other obligations like Ph.D. studies
  3. After doing a few relevant interviews, I began to interview for different positions in new technologies less related to my past experience 
  4. I began work on several apps in different technologies which are all incomplete
  5. I successfully got rid of a lot of bad habits in the past years and also adopted many good habits.
  6. I successfully made a huge investment portfolio, but it could have been much bigger and has to grow more
  7. I thought I should do one thing at once, but I realized that I should aim to do it all at once

Why did it happen that way? What was the Root cause?

  1. I thought I would wait to make big progress in my web development before blogging
  2. Even after investing some time studying German, I stopped doing it regularly and focused on other goals
  3. I began applying for jobs I would like to learn to do i.e. Web Development instead of jobs involving my core competencies i.e. Finance
  4. As I began working on various tasks, small bugs in my code took more time to fix and made developing a longer process
  5. The root cause of my bad habits was stress about too many incomplete unsuccessful projects and confusion in mind to tackle them one at a time while forgetting the others
  6. I spent only my new income while saving small amounts over 6 years
  7. Trying to accomplish all of my above goals at once felt impossible so I focused on one at a time without planning for the others

What will I do next time for a better outcome (or to repeat my success)?

  1. Keep blogging whatever I plan or strategize, this way blogging is a byproduct of my primary work
  2. After spending some time studying German every day, I feel more confident and familiar now that a lot of it is in my subconscious memory. Make the best of this momentum and study 1-2 hours daily. 
  3. Apply for the best jobs, fix my CV, and blog about my job application strategies 
  4. Focus on 1 app, simple tech
  5. Stress less about failures and lack of outcomes
  6. I will save and invest a bigger percent of my income
  7. Do holistically step by step
    • Write a blog about a plan
    • Study one chapter of the German book nicely
    • Apply for 10-20 jobs
    • Work on both apps:
    • Exercise
    • Repeat with the new blog plan! 

Conclusion: Why use the After-Action Review method?

The After-Action Review method is promising. Writing down my thoughts has always helped bring clarity. Hence, I began blogging. But following the AAR framework that aims at continuous improvement should immensely help in amplifying my efforts.

Hi, I’m Vineeth Naik

Liberal part time Blogger and full time Researcher with a broad range of experience, professionally and personally in Austria, Italy, UAE & India. Loves Finance, Business & Technology. Cares about society.

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