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An Easy, One-Step Reminder of Your Progress

A calendar that visually tracks your daily accomplishments

Those motivational posters

Ever put a motivational poster on the wall right in front of you so you could see it every day? Have you ever owned one of those 365-day-calendars with an inspirational quote for each day of the year?

There’s a reason we keep visual reminders to encourage us: They work.

Science explains that inspirational posters and motivational props work because we’re turned on by the “self-coaching” that happens when we read those words. The power of the language pings against our emotions and pulls on our heartstrings. Most of all, they hit our primal urge. Let’s face it. The human race is aspirational. We WANT to achieve.

Forget your “to-do” list and make a “what I did list” instead

Most of the time, we’re focused on what needs to be done. We make lists of all the tasks we have to accomplish that day. We cross things off and add new jobs, line by line.

That approach can be discouraging, particularly if something happens that slows down your day and your list gets longer instead of shorter. The very nature of a “To Do” list means that it’s NEVER finished. Every day there will be more tasks to accomplish. Your work is never done.

Try keeping an accomplishment calendar instead:

Keep a datebook or planner beside your keyboard. Every day, create a bullet list of the things you did.

  • What article did you publish?

  • Who did you talk to?

  • How many pitches did you send out?

  • Include statements like, “researched for next week’s article on….” “Started rough draft on…..” “Worked on __________ project.”

  • Your daily bullet list might also include things like, “Invoiced so-and-so for….” and “Received payment from…..”

I get an added jolt from not just words, but color. So every time I publish a piece, I highlight it in yellow and number it in sequence so I can keep track of the number of posts each week. If that piece gets curated, I circle it in pink and jot down the categories it’s curated in.

And when I look down at my planner, proudly displaying pages full of small steps toward success, I don’t feel like a failure. I may not be moving ahead very fast, but I AM moving, taking steps forward every day.

The daily calendar of what I accomplished demonstrates what Tess Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School calls The Progress Principle:

“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.”

Why an “Accomplishment Calendar” Works

The simple, old-fashioned, hand-written notes of achievement fuel your fire for more work. You feel satisfied that you’ve accomplished something, and calendar-charting your progress is a visual boost to your morale and confidence. These don’t have to be big, earth-shattering achievements, either. Dr. Amabile’s research notes that that the most impactful events are small moments of progress, reinforced by the process of reflecting on them:

“Even in the absence of recognition, people often felt incredible elation when they made progress in work that was meaningful to them.”

Who doesn’t want to feel “incredible elation”?

All we have to do is chart the small, daily accomplishments of life to see that we’re moving ahead.

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