A habit of tracking progress

Regularly jotting down our progress is a great way to feel confident about what we're doing.. or act as a warning sign that it's time to move on.

A habit of tracking progress
Photo by lilartsy / Unsplash

When I started my current job several years ago, it was as a contractor. Never having worked as a contractor before, I felt a certain obligation to prove that the work I was doing was valuable to the company, should anyone decide to ask - especially when it came to justifying overtime. No one ever did, but then my manager was very communicative and knew what his team was working on.

(In retrospect, it might also have had something to do with the fact that a former employer let 15% of the company go, after which I realized I'd spent several years working with a language I couldn't stand on a project they couldn't figure out how to sell... but that's a different story.)

After working as a contractor for a year, I was hired on fulltime and was salaried again. No more overtime. Working extra hours for a project is just part of the job again, but taking a long lunch or leaving a little early is fine too, as long as the work gets done. I can put in a couple extra hours on the weekend or whenever I need to too - one of the nice things about working for a company that's 100% remote!

Even after being hired on fulltime though, the habit of tracking my daily work hasn't faded. I still do it, nearly every day, coming up on 3 years in March. When I think back to that former employer, I wonder why I didn't see the writing on the wall sooner - that the work they had me (and quite a few others) doing wasn't benefitting anyone, and eventually something was going to have to give.

It's easy for the days and weeks and months to fly by, and to not take stock of the current situation and whether it's still a healthy one. It's made even worse if you don't have any notes about what you've accomplished.

Now, no one has to write anything down daily, that just happens to work for me... but maybe set a calendar reminder for the end of the week? It doesn't have to be some elaborate or expensive process either. I use OneNote, but a spreadsheet or even a notebook would work just fine too - but the longer you wait, the tougher it is to remember what you're doing and learning and bringing to the team. I can't remember what I ate for dinner last week, let alone what projects I tackled several months ago.

It feels like a canary in the coal mine, so to speak, serving as a potential warning sign. The week where we have nothing constructive to note, nothing that could be categorized as growing or moving forward or offering real value, might be the week to consider what the next steps are - at our own pace instead of someone else's.