By dint of technology, it’s easy to see our progress when we’re doing relatively meaningless short-term tasks, while it’s quite difficult to see our progress when we’re engaged in the long-term, creative projects that will ultimately have the most impact on our lives.
Jocelyn recommends inventing “progress hacks” to make your meaningful work as addictive as email. Progress hacks might include: breaking up big long-term projects into a series of small short-term projects, creating a daily “small wins” journal, tracking your “habit streak” on a calendar, or creating physical artefacts for your digital projects to make your progress more visible.
I use all four of these progress hacks, and I’ll write about each one of them in separate posts. The interesting things about these progress hacks is that you can use them both as an individual creator, and as a team leader.
For instance, you can maintain a daily small wins journal to track your own progress on long-term projects. You can also create a culture in which every member of your team shares their daily small wins, and celebrates other team members’ small wins.
At work, my 80-member digital team uses Basecamp for team collaboration and project management. Basecamp has the usual collaboration software features like group chat, message board, to-do lists and shared documents, and we use them as part of our regular workflow.
My favourite Basecamp feature is automatic check-ins, which lets us set up an automatic daily, weekly or monthly question for the entire team, or a smaller team within it. At the pre-set time, Basecamp sends out a notification or an email to the relevant people, and reminds them to share their update.
One of the ways we use the automatic check-in feature on Basecamp is to share our top three achievements every day and every week. I share my own achievements with the entire team. I also read through and applaud every single update from each one of my team members. Most team leaders, and many team members, also read and applaud each others’ updates. In essence, we have created a team-wide small wins journal to make our progress more tangible to ourselves and to each other, and celebrate it.
(By the way, we also use Basecamp’s check-ins to share the top three things we would like to achieve in the coming week. This helps us clarify and focus on our biggest priorities using the rule of three.)
If you are finding it difficult to keep yourself motivated about your long-term projects, I would encourage you to start a daily small wins journal to track and celebrate your progress. You can use a Moleskine notebook, a journaling app like Day One, or a notes app like Evernote, Ulysses or Bear. At the end of the day, note down your top three achievements for the day. The next day, write down your top three achievements for the day below your achievements for the previous day. Then, review your daily achievements every week and every month to find patterns, celebrate success, and refocus priorities.
If you already use a variation of this tip, and have had success with it, I would love to learn about your experience. And, if you have been inspired to start a daily small wins journal after reading this post, I would love to know what impact it has had. Do share your experience in the comments below or on Twitter @gauravonomics.