I’ve gazed enviously at many a productivity scheme. Getting Things Done™, do one thing at a time, use a swimming desk, only use hand-hewn pencils on organic hemp paper, and so on.
I assume most of these techniques and schemes are like diets or exercise routines. There are no silver bullets, but there may be an occasional nugget of truth among the gimmicks and marketing.
Inspired by a post about daily work journals, I have found one tiny little trick that has actually worked for me. It hasn’t transformed my life or quadrupled my productivity. It has made me a touch more aware of how I spend my time.
Every weekday at 4:45pm, get a gentle reminder from Slack, the chat system we use at work. It looks like this:
The #retrospectives text is a link to a channel in Slack that is available to others to read, but where they won’t be bothered by my updates (unless they opt-in). I click the link and write a quick bullet-list summary of what I have done that day, starting with “Today, I:”. It usually looks something like this:
My first such post was on August 16, 2016. To my surprise, I have stuck with it. As of mid-February, about seven months later, I have posted 134 entries – one for every day I have worked.
What’s the point of writing about what you’ve already done each day? It serves several purposes for me. Most importantly, the ritual reminds me to pause and reflect (very briefly) on what I accomplished that day. This simple act makes me a bit more mindful of how I spend my time and energy. The log also proves useful for any kind of retroactive reporting (When did I start working on project X? How many days in October did I spend on client Y?).
It may also be helpful in 10,000 years, when aliens are trying to reconstruct what daily life was like for 2000-era web designer.