Self reviews are somehow simultaneously the easiest and hardest type of review. What makes them so, and how can you average those two sides out to find a happy medium?
It’s common for newer judges to not even realize that writing a self review is a thing that they can do. With your first exposure to reviews likely being your L1 Advancement Review, it’s easy to get locked into the mindset that reviews are a peer-to-peer tool. But there’s a subtle hint in the review submission form; every review starts out with your name as the default for the “Reviewer” and the “Subject.” It’s staring you right in the face that you can use this to form to review yourself.
But even after discovering that self reviews are a thing that you can do, their use is low: I would guess than less than 5% of reviews written. This suggests that are other barriers in place besides knowledge, because on the surface of it self reviews should be the easiest reviews to write. After all, you know you, you know what you did, and you know why you did it.
The simplest reason I’ve heard is that self reviews don’t get written because there’s no urgency to do so. There’s a degree of peer pressure when you are writing a review for another judge, sometimes subtle (“I promised them I would write a review”), other times explicit (“Hey, where’s that review you promised me?”), and at times community driven (“Everyone should write more reviews”).
This pressure dissipates when you try to translate it to self reviews because you’re only accountable to yourself and you don’t get that euphoric payoff when you finish, that feeling that you helped someone else get better, a payoff that is often reinforced by private or public thanks. It feels good when someone makes that Facebook post thanking you for a review.
As the days and weeks pass since the event in question, it becomes harder and harder to build that momentum back up to write a self review. Procrastination becomes easy when there’s no pressure of accountability. So what do you do? Create accountability. Get a buddy. Post your goal to the Review Revue and follow up on it.
But what’s the value of writing a self review? Isn’t this an exercise in redundancy to write about yourself? Human memory is faulty and fleeting. I can’t remember details of judge calls from a month ago, let alone 10 years ago. Just as reviews from other judges provide you with a permanent record, so do self reviews, and you can write far more details about more of your calls because you were there for all of them. This does highlight the importance of editing because writing the details of all of your judge calls would get tedious. There’s only so many times you can record the details of a Spell Queller stack question. But this type of editing–of finding the most important interactions of your day–can be an important skill to cultivate for your reviews of others.
When you write a review of another judge, it’s easier to decide to cut minor details (and you should make cuts). You know that your subject will only have so much bandwidth to process your feedback. That’s not as readily apparent when you are writing a self review. There’s a temptation to record everything, and that can lead to a review that is both too long and less helpful to yourself.
There’s also an important distinction between recording what happened and reflecting upon what happened. When judges think of self reviews, they primarily think of the former. This is where the attitude of “I was there. I don’t need to write this down.” comes from.
When you write reviews of other judges, you force yourself to think more deeply than just “You were good.” You have to examine the specific evidence that supports their goodness, and rate their goodness on a scale of “good” to “super good.” This type of reflection is an important part of developing your feedback for your subject. It’s what provides the meat of feedback.
This is the core problem with not writing self reviews. You can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat. You don’t have to write a self review in order to reflect upon on event, but you should take time to reflect on the event before you write a self review, much like you would with a tournament report.
Ah. Tournament reports. In the modern era of the Judge Program, there’s a clear intersection between self reviews and tournament reports, and many feel that this obsoletes the self review. My thoughts are that they should complement each other because they have different audiences (others vs. self) and goals (storytelling vs. goal-tracking and accountability). You don’t necessarily want to duplicate all of the writing. I would recommend linking to your tournament report in your self review and using it as a guide to your day. That will allow you to more readily bullet point ideas and cut through the narrative.
In a perfect world, a self review from an event should build off of a tournament report, and go more in depth on the things that matter more to you, and might make for a boring read to an outside audience.
This is the first of a four-part series that will explore the ins and outs of self reviews. The second part will be a deeper exploration of how to use self reviews to improve your judging, ramping up to the meaty topic of the Self Review (capital letters) that one must write as part of the Level 3 Advancement Process, which I will cover over the course of two posts. Join me again next month for part two.