Tracking progress

Tracking progress

I often work on my own.  When working for a client, it is very often from home and involves creating content or marketing material which requires research and self-organised activity with weekly reviews.  Then there are my own projects that I am trying to develop in the long-term; although they need input from other people and I also aim to ask for feedback and advice from mentors and associates that I trust, this does not happen every day.

Some days it is easy to make progress, others it is difficult to get started.  Always there is the danger of distractions. There are no team members with whom to share each day the progress and the frustrations; there is rarely anyone whose work reminds me to get on with my own. So I am constantly on the lookout for new ways of working or tools that will help me to be more focused and get things done.

Today I signed up for a trial of iDoneThis.  Very simply this will send me an email at the end of each weekday asking me to state what I have achieved during the day; I am currently reviewing five possibiliities for new projects and so the email will focus on the progress made in evaluating them and choosing which one(s) to take forward.

Writing things down has been shown to help you focus on what needs to be done.  Will writing down my daily achievements encourage me when I have made good progress and spur me on when things have not gone well?

The 14 day trial will help me find out.

What tools or tips do you use to motivate and focus when you work on your own. Do comment below
To don’t

To don’t

I am one of those people who gets excited by new ideas, is interested in many different subjects and thinks he can do more than is actually possible given the time available.

“To Do” lists come naturally to me.  I like to organise what I have to do and feel in control once I have a schedule worked out.  The problem with my “To Do” lists is that they are too long, that items are regularly carried over from one list to the next and the list is (virtually) never completed.

This has two main effects.  Firstly, I lose focus by trying to handle too many tasks in a short time; I pursue a large number of goals and reach few of them, at the expense of selecting a few goals and achieving more.

Secondly, seeing the list of unfinished items on the list at the end of each day or week acts as a demotivator.  Instead of thinking about the progress made and enjoying it, I often worry about what still remains to do.  Celebrating achievements is a healthy thing to do, and a motivation to tackle the next set of challenges with thoughtfulness and vigour.  Of course some weeks the achievements may not be worth celebrating due to internal or external factors.  But my balance is wrong when I nearly always rush on to doing, or worrying about, what needs to be done next.

So I am going to be more selective, putting “To Don’t” against things on my lists, or better still deciding “To Don’t” before they even reach the list.

I will follow up this post with ways I find “To Don’t”, how they help to focus on important tasks and my success or failure in using them.  This will help me on my aim to do less things better and hopefully it may help or interest you as you read it.

Now I am not personally against “To Do” lists, although some people think they stifle creativity – there is a good explanation of why on this blog post from the Coding Horror site. For me, they can be very helpful in avoiding missing important tasks, in deciding on priorities and in separating important and urgent tasks so that you can allocate time to each.  However, to be used well they need to be carefully written and manageable.  My “To Don’t”s are designed to improve my lists as well as the way I tackle tasks.

Please look out for future posts on “To Don’t” with the hashtag #ToDont.  I will not be trying to create a  “To Don’t” list – that would just grow into another set of things that you and I cannot tackle all at once.  Instead the posts will be ideas that I am trying out and that you might want to as well.  Be selective in advice from me or others.  If it inspires you, try it out and see if it fits your situation.  Then make sure you bed it into your lifestyle and workstyle.  As with “To Do”, we shouldn’t try “To Don’t” too much at once.