Geetanjali Mukherjee

Friday, January 16, 2015

Where Does The Time Go? Keep Track of Your Progress

At the start of the week we make these grandiose plans, maybe even write down meticulous lists of all that will get done. And we put in our time, rushing around doing things, until its evening, and then you ask yourself - where did the whole day (or week) go?

I have been doing this enough lately, that I have decided to go back to a habit I picked up last year and followed for a few months. Then suddenly I stopped doing it, perhaps thinking it wasn't really that helpful, and that it took up too much time. I have decided to mention it here though, because I think its easy for the days to go by without feeling that all-important sense of accomplishment.

What is that habit? Writing down a simple list of everything I did that day - in bullet points without much elaboration. I use Evernote, but any note-taking app or even a day-planner or notebook would do. Anything that you can commit to using everyday. I found using Evernote convenient, because I already have it open on my computer every day.

I create a new note each week - and at the end of each day, I just jot down a few (anywhere from 4-8) bullet points of significant things I did that day - mostly work-related, like which sections of a book I wrote, or what research I did, but it also sometimes included movies I watched, or someone I met up with. Sometimes I used it to log what I had for lunch or dinner. The whole process took me less than two minutes, sometimes less than a minute.

Benefits - I could go over and see patterns - was I getting a lot done, or only thinking I was getting things done? Was I wasting time in busy work and not making progress on projects truly important to me? I could even sometimes see a list of things I had gotten done and feel proud - that even though I felt I was stuck, I wasn't.

Many times I did something that wasn't on my to do list for that day - maybe I was suddenly feeling inspired to work on another project. Usually these were still items that were important, but I had maybe scheduled them for later in the week. Getting them done was good, but without seeing in black-and-white that I did get something accomplished, I might look at the undone items on my to-do list and feel disheartened.

What if this is too much work, or too much like keeping time logs? Well, it can be easily done at the end of your workday, while you're wrapping up. You don't need to put things down in any specific format or order - just as you remember them, and really it needn't take longer than 30 seconds. Some days when I was feeling unmotivated or restless, I would update the list as I went, adding tasks just to show myself that I was making progress on a project that felt like the opposite. That can be a side bonus, but not necessary. You can even jot down what you did yesterday as you're planning in the morning - if that's the way you work and it feels right.

At the beginning of the year, we are motivated to make inroads on major life goals, but within a few weeks, the best laid plans go awry, and life gets in the way. Keeping a list of what you're doing, and whether that fits in with what you would like to be doing might make it easier to keep on the right track. Remember, life isn't a dress rehearsal. Let's make the most of it!

Let me know what you think, whether you have ever tried anything similar and if it's helped.
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