January 18, 2013

What Did You "Done" Today?

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 (now rebranded 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?

Photo credit: Lululemon Athletica

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.



8 thoughts on “What Did You "Done" Today?”

  1. I find the name IDoneThis a terrible name for a professional tool because it is horribly grammatically incorrect. What were the founders thinking? They sound like uneducated Neanderthals. And talk about micromanaging….

    I find it ironic that Mr. Meisel espouses how to do less, then starts touting keeping track of everything you did that day. Seems like a huge waste of time. I say kick back, read a book or watch a movie, and leave the wasteful list making to Mr. Meisel.

  2. I am a lover of all things podcasts!!! So this just made me very happy. Especially the fact Greatist has a podcast know. Adding it to iTunes!!!

    I’ve kept a similar done journal, but we call it a line a day journal and it just summarizes the key parts of that day on a line or two of an index card. Then next year rolls around and on that same day’s index card you right another line or two. Simple and fast and you can look back

  3. Ha, Anonymous, I totally agree with you on the name – and I can assure you that my file is not called either “IDoneThis” or “WhatIDoneDid” 🙂

    Very interesting points about the timesuck aspect of it, since you’re right that usually Meisel is all about eliminating unnecessary tasks. So far I can tell you that it took less than a minute for me to do it last night – and it was kind of nice to have that meditative moment to reflect on my day. (Especially when I – oops – realized I came up kind of short in one of my categories.) I think it’s definitely something to frequently reevaluate (“is this worth even the one minute I’m taking to do it?”), which is why I’m nto committing to doing it forver just yet.

    Emily, the index card idea is really neat! My concern is that I don’t want to have to carry anything with me whe I travel. That said, it would be easy enough to organize my online file in such a manner that it compares what I did against last year instead of the day before. I love services like Timehop, so that could be a very neat way to look at the data!

  4. What about on a notes app on your phone? I feel like that feels less fleeting than on your computer but gives a similar feeling to writing it down. Also, from reading Jocelyn’s posts about the Believe I Am journal/notes she’s keeping for herself at work–in addition to the shit you know I’m going through–I think writing (/jotting) things down somewhere is great positive reinforcement of what you’ve accomplished.

  5. Theodora, in case you haven’t noticed from my slow/incoherent text messages, I suck at writing on my phone 🙂 Though honestly, I probably need to work on that, as it’s becoming more and more of a hindrance to things…

  6. Sounds like an excellent way to define one’s purpose and make sure each day’s activities contribute in some way toward fulfilling that purpose. It will also serve to track our “evolutionary” process as one learns and grows and redefines what is important. Being mindful of your goals is always a good game plan for achieving them!

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