Tonight, my flight to Charleston was a bit later than my usual flight to New York – so after I wrapped up work, I decided to go pick up dinner at Panera instead of relying on the airport vendors for food. I know Panera isn’t any healthier/higher quality than the various sandwich shops at DFW, but it holds a special place in my heart (and taste buds) since I worked there for four years in high school and college. One Mediterranean Veggie on an Asiago cheese demi, please!
What I didn’t realize, though, was that leaving for the airport later meant I’d get stuck in some crazy Dallas traffic. Sick of listening to the radio with its incessant commercials after every single song, I decided instead to listen to some podcasts that have been piling up in my queue. In addition to some excellent stuff from Greatist, I checked out a new podcast – Ari Meisel’s Art of Less Doing.
I’ve been a fan of Meisel’s for a while (and in fact, I think it was Greatist that introduced me to him) – his blog provides fascinating insights and tips on productivity, like the how much less should you do post that provided the insight for my 30,000 days of life post earlier this week. Today was the first time I’ve listened to one of Meisel’s podcasts, though, and it didn’t disappoint. On the episode I heard, Meisel talked about a new productivity kickstarter that he’s been using and also interviewed the founders of two pretty neat startups: TalkTo and IDoneThis. While I found both to be fascinating tools, and plan to start giving TalkTo a try, IDoneThis sparked my interest even beyond their actual product.
IDoneThis is a management tool that basically emails a preselected list of employees at the end of the day to ask one simple question: What did you do today? Each person replies, and in the morning, a report is generated that goes to their manager. It bills itself as a quick and easy solution to tracking accomplishments and ensuring that work is being prioritized appropriately – both of which are great things.
But extending the idea to my own personal growth, I thought a log of my accomplishemtn could actually help me to help myself. A few years ago, I had a manager who asked that I email her daily with a very similar list: three things I did the day before, plus my three highest priority tasks for the upcoming day. Though at first I felt micromanaged, I actually came to like putting together that email – it served as a good personal reminder of what I had accomplished, and it also forced me to think critically about what I was doing instead of just proceeding with work on autopilot. When I left that project, there was no reason for me to stop that daily habit (other than the fact that it was no longer required), yet somehow it fell by the wayside.
I do still keep a to-do list, and it’s organized by what must get done today vs what can be done later in the week or later in the month (thank you, Chalene Johnson). However, I don’t list my accomplishments anywhere – and scrambling to think of something when it’s time to write my self-assessment for my performance review is just not the best policy. While IDoneThis is aimed at keeping supervisors up to date, hearing about it reminded me that I am my own best supervisor/cheerleader – and that perhaps I could harness a similar system for keeping track of my own performance. Therefore, I’m taking a cue from IDoneThis and implementing the following new habit:
Before bed every night, I will make a few short lists of things I “done”. One will be career accomplishments, one will be health accomplishments, and one will be personal relationship accomplishments. (That last one sounds very vague, but for lack of a better term, I’m using that to mean things related to my family and friends.) Those are the three areas that I want to prioritize in my life, and it’s often noted that you can’t improve what you don’t track, so why not track my progress in these areas?
Having a written record of my accomplishments will not only help me to keep progressing in those areas, but also allows me to see how far I have come. Like everyone else, I have my unhappy/low self esteem moments, and reminding myself of the things I do well can serve as a great pick-me-up when I’m lonely on a plane or otherwise feeling a lack of direction in life. I want it to be at least somewhat organic, so I’m not going to force it to be my top three items, but I do want to list at least one item for each category every day. Surely I can come up with something I’ve done in those areas on a daily basis!
While I won’t be posting these lists to my blog (god, that would make me feel incredibly self-conscious, especially since I imagine that a lot of these “accomplishments” will be quite, quite small), I do intend to track them on my computer. I’m sure an expert would say that it’s more meaningful to take pen to paper, but my computer is something that I always have with me (whereas I don’t want to have to tote a physical journal around), and it’s a lot more important for me to just make sure I can get it done. Plus, tracking this electronically will allow me to easily flip back through previous days, weeks, and hopefully even months (if I stick to it that long) in order to see progress. As far as my Plan B, I’ll note that it’s fine if I sometimes do it first thing in the morning instead of as the last thing I do at night. The point is just to live more mindfully of how I’m spending my time.