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

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.
  • We don’t set in place methods for tracking progress.
  • We’ve lost the ability to handle uncertainty.

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

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

https://blog.rescuetime.com/track-progress/

blog.rescuetime.com

11

Key Ideas

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.

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 list, being able to see that we’re even one step closer to a big goal is a huge motivator. The problem is that these “small wins” are hard to measure.

“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.”

“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.”

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.
  • We don’t set in place methods for tracking progress.
  • We’ve lost the ability to handle uncertainty.

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 also have more insight into the value you’re creating.

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 smaller tasks. The more chances you have to feel like you “finished” part of it, the more motivation you’ll get from your progress.

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 easier to hit than a goal. 

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 streaks).

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 of the month, flip back through your notes and see how far you’ve come. It’s amazing the clarity you get from seeing the progress you made over a longer period

“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 simply produce a high-quality product or service.”

“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 simply produce a high-quality product or service.”

James Clear

James Clear

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

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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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The Busyness Paradox: Addicted To Being Busy
  • Personal productivity is not about all-round efficiency, and it is wrong to think about your input as that of a machine in a factory unit.
  • This is further complicated by our mistaken assumption that being in demand means that we are doing a splendid job.
  • We blur our all boundaries between our work and personal life and every minute of the day is to be kept busy as we rush to attend every meeting, cross out every task from the to-do list or to answer every email that we get.
Completion Bias

Our brain starts to favour small tasks that give a false impression of productivity (woohoo! I just sent out fifty emails!) while we neglect the large, complex but meaningful tasks.

This is known as the completion bias.

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Why Change Is So Hard

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Make Change a Team Effort

 “Role Modelling” is one of the main factors behind successful change in organizations and consists of inspiring change by example.

While leadership will ultimately give you sign-off, the rest of the team will determine its success. So in an organizational setting, you must convince everyone of the necessity of change. 

Know Who You’re Dealing With

In a collection of individuals, one bad seed can kill all the hard work you’re putting in. You must understand who you are working with so you can tailor your message and actions so no one becomes a bad seed. To do this, sort your team in the following categories:

  • Fast Yes: those on your team and ready to work to implement the change.
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The Dynamics of a Resolution

We all have goals to achieve and behavioral changes we want to implement. Making the resolution is the easy part. The implementation and the work that is to be put in daily is the real challenge.

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  • Getting motivated by negative emotions like fear or regret.
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Social Pressure

New research suggests we are less prone to keep working on our goals after we publicize them. This is because we may end up talking about our goals and celebrating our success prematurely rather than implementing them.

Social Pressure makes us fearful, as we can feel afraid of appearing inept. This negative mindset does not work well where we need daily work.

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The Progress Principle: Tiny steps build motivation
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If you wait for the ideal conditions before you start, you'll probably never do it.

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Look for ways your work impacts the people around you

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If your job doesn't make a huge impact, think about how it has helped the people you spend your day with. Each day, write down three ways your work has helped your coworkers.

Giving advice to someone else can be motivating

We don't lack motivation because we don't know how to be motivated, but because we don't know how to act on our own knowledge.

When we feel unmotivated, it's common to seek advice. But research shows that giving advice can be more motivating than receiving advice.

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Flow is the state of mind

... where we are so immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity that we lose sense of space and time.

It is thought to be t...

Why it’s hard to achieve flow in your workplace
  • The processes, policies, and busy work gets in the way.
  • Most jobs don’t have a clear goal.
  • Feedback can be inadequate.
  • The pace of work has increased, and it’s hard for people to spend time thinking deeply.
  • Your skills aren’t well matched to the challenges you are allowed to pursue.
  • There’s a lack of control over interruptions or when and how you work.
  • The job doesn’t push you out of your comfort zone.
Take more risks

... to push your mind beyond its comfort zone. Flow happens when we get a bit out of our comfort zone. Too much, and you get anxious; Too little and you get bored.

You need to know your physical or emotional limitations and consciously push past them.

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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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The weekly review

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The 3 parts of a weekly review
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Benefits of weekly reviews
  • You gain an objective view of the week: a weekly review forces you to practice intention by taking time to pause and reflect as you consider what you did versus what you planned to do.
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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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Switching between tasks

Most of us spend our days jumping between tasks and tools.

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Task switching and focus

Taking on additional tasks simultaneously can destroy up to 80% of your productive time:

  • Focusing on one task at a time = 100% of your productive time available.
  • Juggling two tasks at a time = 40% of your productive time for each and 20% lost to context switching.
  • Juggling three tasks at a time = 20% of your productive time for each and 40% lost to context switching.
A schedule for sustained attention
It includes:
  • Large chunks of focused “flow” time for more demanding projects.
  • “Themed” days to reduce the need to recalibrate between different tasks.
  • Advanced planning so you can prioritize meaningful work.
  • Realistic time set aside for admin, communication, and meetings.
  • Clear expectations for your teammates so they know when not to interrupt you.

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