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5 Ways to Track Your Progress (And Why it's so Important) - RescueTime

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5 Ways to Track Your Progress (And Why it's so Important) - RescueTime
As human beings, we're hardwired to want to cross things off a list. However, large, complex projects don't work this way. To stay committed to the work that matters most, we need to find ways to measure and track the progress we make every single day.

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Completion bias

It's where your brain specifically seeks the hit of dopamine you get from crossing off small tasks and ignores working on larger, more complex ones.

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Small wins and motivation

Out of all the things that can boost our mood and motivation, the single most important is making progress on meaningful work.

Just like we love crossing small tasks off our to-do...

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“Most of us make advances small and large every single day, but we fail to notice them because we lack a method for acknowledging our progress. This is a huge loss.”

Jocelyn K. Glei

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Why we feel busier than ever

... but feel like nothing gets done:

  • Our days are filled with meaningless, busy-work (like answering emails).
  • We’ve lost the ability to set meaningful, effective goals.
  • W...

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Tracking progress is a powerful tool

It keeps you motivated and productive.

You become more purposeful about the work you do. And that can create the kind of meaning that so many of us search for in our daily work. You...

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Break out large tasks

...  into smaller pieces and visualize them.

When you’re facing a large project, your first step should be to break it out into smaller goals. Then, break those goals down into sm...

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Set daily quotas

... and start every day at zero.

Rather than simply looking at your overall progress on a project, set smaller daily quotas.

If your goal is especially complex, a quota can be ea...

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Track your metrics on a calendar

Pick a metric (or two) that makes sense for you and then track how many days you hit it.

Your calendar becomes a large, visual reminder of your progress (and also brings in the power of st...

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Write in a diary

... for 5 minutes a day.

At the end of each day, take a few minutes to write about what you worked on. Make sure to note both your “small wins” and any setbacks.

At the end ...

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“The more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or s...

Teresa Amabile

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“If you want to summarize the habits of successful people into one phrase, it’s this: successful people start before they feel ready.”

James Clear

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Learning how to prioritize...

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Master lists

Capture everything on a Master List and then break it down by monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

  1. Start by making a master list—a document, app, or piece of paper where every current and future task will be stored. 
  2. Once you have all your tasks together, break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals.
  3. When setting your priorities, try not to get too “task oriented” - you want to make sure you’re prioritizing the more effective work.

Eisenhower Matrix

The matrix is a simple four-quadrant box that answers that helps you separate “urgent” tasks from “important” ones:

  • Urgent and Important: Do these tasks as soon as possible
  • Important, but not urgent: Decide when you’ll do these and schedule it
  • Urgent, but not important: Delegate these tasks to someone else
  • Neither urgent nor important: Drop these from your schedule as soon as possible.

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Rethinking the 8-hour workday

Rethinking the 8-hour workday

Knowledge workers aren't factory workers. There is no direct correlation between how much time they spend on the job and their output.

For knowledge workers, the 8-hour workday doesn’t make s...

Quality vs Quantity of Time

The structure of most working environments punishes people for efficiency and rewards them for looking busy. We need to shift our focus from the number of hours spent on something to the quality generated.

Build the Right Environment

To make a 3-hour workday feasible, design the right environment to make it possible.

  • Behavior is the result of environment. If you have many apps open, you’ll be more likely to be distracted.
  • Eliminate the need for willpower. Think of willpower like a bank balance. For every decision you make, you spend a unit. Design the right environment, so you avoid depleting all of your willpower.

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The urgency bias

The urgency bias

We usually give priority to unimportant tasks when there is a sense of urgency around them.

We’re actually psychologically wired to put aside important tasks in favor of ta...

Why it’s hard to ignore urgent tasks

A few explanations as to why it’s so hard to reject urgent tasks:

  • The completion bias. Our brains crave the reward we get from checking off small to-dos from our list.
  • Tunnel vision: When we get overwhelmed by the things we have to do, we choose to act on those most available to us; these are usually emails, calls, meetings, and other low-friction tasks.

Urgency puts us into reactive mode

The problem is that we’re continually bombarded with urgent work: emails, meetings, calls, and instead of being in control of our time and attention, we respond and act on someone else’s priorities.

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