Let’s start out with the classic todo list. I create one of these just about every day with things I want to accomplish for that day. Anything that wasn’t completed the day(s) before is evaluated and, if still important, carried over and placed at the top of a new list, and if no longer important, it’s forgotten. I break these tasks down into the smallest increment that makes sense. I enjoy checking off the boxes. I prefer a good ‘ole notebook for this. I’ve used online apps, certainly built a few, but the physical touch of the list helps me feel accomplished.
Todo List Example
- ✔️ Write outline for next conference talk
- ✔️ Book air travel to Austin
- 🗹 R/O (Reach out) to John to check in
- ✔️ F/U (Follow Up) with Sam on arch diagram
If you work for a company, you likely, hopefully, meet with your manager regularly to discuss your performance, career goals, current struggles and opportunities. Some organizations call this a 10/10 (i.e. 10 mins for you, 10 mins for me, 10 mins next steps) or a 1 on 1 meeting. Either way, this is supposed to be your time with your manager to discuss everything going on. If these meetings do happen on a regular cadence most of the time they happen every other week or sometimes less often. So getting the most out of that what should be precious time is important. To prepare, prior to that meeting, days or weeks ahead, I will create a simple draft email to my manager. In the email I will start to collect the things that I want to discuss. This could be things that have happened that I want them to be aware of, decisions I would appreciate guidance on, any answers to questions they had for me, career goals, etc. The list can go on. The important thing is that the list is short and informational or actionable.
After collecting the list I like to send the email the morning of the meeting or possibly the afternoon before. I want to give them enough time to have seen the list and potentially start thinking of questions or answers to the items on my list. This approach has been incredibly helpful in getting clarity and support from someone that I might not talk with on a daily basis. Managers, it seems, really appreciate getting the information ahead of time, it helps everyone get the most out of the time. This also helps with starting or continuing difficult discussions when it comes to other team members, other teams, or lack of support in your own growth. These meetings are your time, get the most out of them.
- Assistance from [other team], delaying API integration
- John delivering on [task name], nice job!
- Accepted to present at [conference name], May 4-5
- New monitor ok?
- OOTO, Feb 25-28
Every year I create a Good For Me list. This is a list that I use to track, and somewhat brag, about my accomplishments over the past year. This is a simple bullet list that highlights some of the ways I have contributed positively inside and outside of the organization. This is a running list that helps be keep track and reflect on the things I’ve done that year and allow for any refocus. I will share access with this list with my manager at the beginning of the year and point back to it often in our one on one conversations. When it comes time for performance reviews I don’t want to have to remember all of the small things I’ve done that added up to a big impact.
Good For Me [year] List Example
- Conducted technical interview for [team other than mine], 3/16
- 🎉 Presented at lunch and learn, 4/5
- 📈 Implemented data validation on [project that’s not mine] to reduce data related errors by 90%
- Presented at [external conference name], 5/4
- Mentored John from [not my team] on [language or framework]
- Developed [tool used by us and other teams] and submitted to inner source team for promotion
This list is something I use for reflection and to boost my moral. As a Software Engineer I often combat the sense of Impostor Syndrome, not feeling like I’m qualified to be able to do something. I use this list to remind myself that I have accomplished great things and that the current feeling is only temporary.
💩 I’ve Done List Example
- 🎤 Spoken at tech conferences nationally and internationally
- 🌴 Lived and worked (for myself) from a beautiful Caribbean Island
- 🏆 Submitted multiple patents for software authorization patterns
This list is to help me clarify the person I want to become or continue being by defining it as an explicit statement. When we declare that we are a person that does something our brain starts to make connections that are then further reinforced. I’m an adamant believer that what you think and say you become.
I Am List Example
- ☎️ I am someone who always returns a friends call
- I am someone that wakes up early
- I am someone who doesn’t need expensive things to be happy
- 📜 I am someone who is passionate about learning about anything from anyone