Give yourself full credit. Track your activity
Have you ever had a moment, where after a hectic day of getting things done, you completely drew a blank on what you actually did? It's the strangest thing. There seems to be little to actually show for all your effort.
Worse, if you filled your day with work that wasn't identified in your task manager, you’re left ending the day with the same list of incomplete todos you started with, leaving you feeling like you mindlessly flitted away the day.
This used to happen to me all the time. A major driver of this feeling came from having to do indirectly important work, a term I’ve come up with to describe all the supporting work that has to be done alongside the work we actually care about.
Take cooking for example. If I'm looking to cook a new dish, it takes me a fair amount of effort and time to pick a recipe, assemble a grocery list, go to the grocery store, and put away the groceries. All this indirectly important work happens before I ever pick up a knife.
A full stomach, leftovers for tomorrow, and a few dirty dishes are the only signs I have of an entire afternoon of effort. Checking off the task titled "cook new dish" doesn't really represent all the upstream activities that went into it, and leaves me feeling like I either work really slowly, or that I must have somehow gotten distracted along the way.
Not getting credit after doing a ton of work is like kryptonite to sustainably making deposits in your life accounts. If you’re new to my writing, these “life accounts” represent areas of my life in which I make regular "deposits" of effort and attention that compound over time. Going back to my cooking example, I’m less likely to try out new dishes if it always feels like I have to waste a day to do so.
In an effort to break this negative feedback loop, I've begun to use interstitial journaling to write down the indirectly important tasks I do throughout the day, and wherever possible, highlight if that task amounted to making a deposit in a life account.
I got the idea from Tony Stubblebine’s article Replace Your To-Do List With Interstitial Journaling To Increase Productivity, where he writes “instead of tracking your work with a to-do list, track your work with a journal.”
Rather than just seeing "cook dinner" struck off my todo list, I instead see a short story, told through completed actions, of how I invested in to my desired identity of being a plant-based home cook. Seeing deposits made in this account, day in and day out, gives me cause for celebration and does wonders for keeping up momentum in my chosen pursuits.
Reviewing the day’s activities and deposits before going to sleep has given me an entirely new perspective on what I consider a good day. The feeling of mindlessly flitting away my time has been replaced by a sense of making hefty deposits in the accounts I care most about.
What’s funny is that the only thing that changed was how I tracked work. Nothing about the work itself changed. If you haven’t tried writing down your work before, I’d encourage giving it a shot.