Five lessons from doing a portfolio


I am writing this post in a break while working on a portfolio that I must submit for a module in the Post-Graduate Certificate in Higher Education that I am enrolled for. However having spent good time on the portfolio lately I have come to the some realization (again).  Here I am going to tell you what I did, and what I think I’ve learned over the years…
What did I do?

1. Made sure I understood what I must do.
2. Figured out how I should structure the portfolio.
3. Collected all information I had in one place.
4. Figured out what else I need, concentrating on the obvious stuff.
5. Collected the stuff identified in step 4.
6. Started writing and producing the portfolio.
7. At a point when there were lots and lots in place, I printed the document, neatly bound it as a kind of milestone version.
8. At this point I had some questions, and went to ask the relevant lecturer some questions.
9. I also reflected on exactly what else (bit more detail) I needed and collected it as far as possible.
10.  I took some time, sat in a coffee shop and set up an to-do list for the portfolio in excruciating detail. (That was Thursday)
11.  Today, Saturday, I started working through the to-do list, item by item…
The other steps is to come, but will be…
12. Basically repeat steps 7 – 11 as needed.
13. Review final draft and do some editing.
14. Hand the portfolio in.

Yeah right boring… I know, but more importantly is my reflection on this process. (that has been refined over the years, lets face it, it is not my first attempt!)

What were the lessons learned?

1. Don’t start without planning.  Or, in other words, start by planning. Figure out what is involved. Clearly there is a difference between a 6 page report and a 60 page portfolio, or a 200 page thesis…
2. Start as soon as you can. This may seem contradictory with lesson 1, but not really.  Do not wait till you have everything in place: that may be never… Get pen to paper, or today, finger to keyboard.  However, don’t expect it to be the final version.
3. Reflect on progress, often and truthfully. Think about what you’ve achieved, review partially completed parts to make sure you stay in touch with reality… Do this often, and be honest with yourself.  Some stuff take longer than planned, that’s OK, be aware of what threw you off course and you can do something about it.  If you do this you may want to use a to-do list.
4. Use a to do list. Except that it helps with remembering all the things that should still be done, it is also very useful as a motivational tool.  I tend not to start with a too detailed one, as that can have the opposite effect.  But the further you go the more granular will your outstanding issues get, write them down, commit them to a to-do list. Then, mark them off as you go, that part is motivational – there is few things as satisfying as scratching something off a to do list!  I am currently experiencing that “I am in control” feeling hence the time to write this blog entry…)
5. It will never be perfect, get over it. Not everybody suffers from this, but I (sometimes) do.  Hand the portfolio in, you are not going to get 100% anyway.  So be realize that this version may be “good enough”, whilst not perfect. Move on to the next thing, up your delivery. (Note if you know that it is not good enough, don’t fool yourself either…)

Couple of basic principles that is not that difficult to grasp, relatively easy to do and can make a huge difference.

What do you do when faced with a non-arbitrary, time-consuming task?

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