Why I keep an ‘Accomplishments / Good Stuff’ List

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I was reviewing my year recently, and one of the biggest parts of that is looking back at my “accomplishments / good stuff” list for the year. I’ve been in the habit of updating this list for years now, and it’s one of the habits that’s really helped me, so I figured I’d write about it here a bit.

Why Keep a List for Accomplishments and Good Stuff?

  • Because you do a lot more than you realize. When I first started keeping this list, I was surprised by what was on it, and how good that made me feel. I generally have a pretty high sense of self-esteem, so I imagine others may benefit from this piece even more. It’s really satisfying to chart my growth and milestones along the way. We forget and downplay these things far too often.
  • Because this list is just for you. Your accomplishments are yours, which means it’s all about about how you want to define what accomplishment means to you. I think this is powerful because however your current boss, or company, or coworkers define success, this document is all about things that make you feel good on your terms.
  • It’s private. Keeping a list like this can feel like a secret stash of good vibes, and you never need to show it to anyone. To me, that makes it all the more special. It’s like a journal filled with high-fives.
  • Because it comes in handy in a practical way. More on this in a little bit.
  • Because an empty list is a sign. I try to not to think about it in this way, but if my list is empty or I’m really struggling to put things onto it, it may be that I’m not feeling aligned with my role, or I may not have the right lens on the work I’m doing. This is a great opportunity to seek clarity or, in the case of true mis-alignment, to seek new opportunities.
  • But mostly, because we deserve to be happy and it’s too easy to forget this stuff. A lot of times we’re constantly pushing forward, and I think it’s important to take stock of where we’ve been and what we feel good about along the way.

What goes on my list?

My list is a simple bulleted list, formatted with a bold year heading, a bullet for every month, and sub-bullets under that. I keep it in the note-taking software that I use on my phone all the time, so that I can jot something down there before I forget it.

I take down:

  • Work accomplishments: standard milestones. Promotions, client grades, things that would typically go on a performance review
  • Work things that feel good: Did a difficult meeting go really well? Was I able to navigate a challenging situation? These are the smaller day-to-day things that tend to dissipate, but I try to make an effort to capture them too.
  • Significant life events: I also captured my wedding, buying our first house, etc. Beyond being nice milestones to reflect on in general, these help me have context for the other items on the list, and to remember what else I had going on at that point.
  • Nice things people have said. This is a big one for me. I work with some really nice people, and occasionally I’ll get some really genuine, kind feedback from colleagues or a client. I capture that stuff there as well, as close to verbatim as possible, because it makes an impression on me.

When is it useful?

  • Updating a resume. Whether it’s an internal work resume for potential new clients, or my own personal resume, it’s great to be able to list specific accomplishments that I already feel good about.
  • Performance reviews. Again, being able to speak to a list of specific accomplishments during a performance review feels good (though I try to supplement with facts & figures that I wouldn’t necessarily capture in my accomplishments list)
  • Year-in-review. I just wrote my year in review blog post for 2018 and I kid you not, I 100% forgot that I was promoted at work this year. That’s bananas!
  • Tough days. I think this is the most useful. Everyone – myself included – has days when they just feel not great at their job or at things in general. If I feel like I’m in a slump, these lists can remind me of my strengths and inspire me to think about what the next thing is that I might want to jot down. The kind words from others help the most in this context; it’s a great reminder that someone, somewhere, thought you weren’t the worst. :)

These lists aren’t just for you!

Encouraging others to keep these lists might help them as well. I’ve known a number of colleagues who when I mention that something seems like a great accomplishment or a good thing to jot down, they downplay it. In some cases it’s because these folks have very high standards for themselves and don’t see it as a “true accomplishment”. In some cases it’s because our industry doesn’t treat all kinds of accomplishments equally and so folks feel their accomplishments are “less than” (which is BS obviously but that’s a whole different topic).

When it occurs to me in the moment, I try to say things like “oh man, that’s something for the accomplishments list” so that people remember it’s important to mark these things down, to celebrate them, and to remember them. I feel pretty strongly that encouraging others to track these things – and then making sure they see how much content they can generate there – is a way to raise collective awareness of peoples’ strengths and helps them become even better advocates for themselves.

How do you track accomplishments and good feelings?

I know this is only one way among many to track these sorts of things. I’d love to hear yours, too.

Sound off in the comments!

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