Dive 63: Why you should record your wins and losses
Hey, it’s Alvin!
There is one artifact of corporate culture that I kept for over a decade that has helped me get promoted in my career, maintain my sanity, and build my confidence. I call it:
“The Status Report.”
Hold on. I know it sounds corporate AF. But there’s a reason behind the name. And the most important part isn’t what we call it, but what it is.
At the start of my software development career, my manager, Kevin, needed to keep track of what his team was working on. This was before agile became mainstream. So, we didn’t do the “15-minute” daily stand-ups that are more popular these days.
Instead, Kevin held weekly status meetings. Exciting, no? Every Monday, our team would filter into our office’s conference room. Then we’d go around the table, and we’d each talk about:
What we’ve been working on,
What we’re doing next, and
What we need help with
Each status meeting would take less than 15 minutes. Well… at least that was the intention. But people would ramble, discussions would go off the rails, and no one would bring the meeting back on track. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, don’t be afraid to suggest the discussion be “taken offline.” Don’t waste your life like I did.
Our weekly meetings kept getting longer. Kevin’s solution was to have each team member submit a “status report” word document on the Friday before the meeting on Monday. That way, he could review everyone’s status beforehand. And we could focus on addressing the most important issues during the meeting itself.
Kevin expected resistance because writing status reports takes time and effort. And as I said in Dive 60, when we put in effort for others, we don’t always see the immediate benefits for ourselves. So, he pointed out that we should do the status reports for our own sakes, too. Because they can be handy during performance reviews.
Did the status reports save on meeting time?
Not really. The meetings did not shorten. I learned that to have the most productive meeting, it’s important to:
Set a specific agenda for the meeting
Invite only those who are needed for the specific topic
If a separate topic comes up, schedule it for another time
To be fair to Kevin, the status reports did their job. We spent less time discussing status updates because each status report covered everything our manager wanted to know:
Highs (accomplishments; positive results)
Lows (obstacles; poor results)
Issues (things you need help with)
This was one of my status reports from back in the day:
But it was his point about performance reviews where the status reports really shined. Because back then, the company I worked for did 2 performance reviews per year. And for all the work I do, it’s hard for me to remember exactly what I did 6 months ago. Or even one month ago.
Is listing 5 major accomplishments in the last 6 months better than just being able to name 2? You bet it is. Especially when your manager is evaluating your performance for a promotion or a raise. But it’s not only good for your performance reviews.
It’s also good for building confidence. In Dive 58, we looked at the importance of anchoring your confidence to something that won’t change. Your accomplishments are part of your past. Your past won’t change. So basing your confidence on your accomplishments is a key way to build confidence that won’t waver.
Recording your accomplishments is a way to remind yourself of all the reasons you have to believe in yourself. My friend, Janahan Sivaraman, calls this a “brag doc.” Call it whatever you want. Just write it down.
And it’s not just your accomplishments. Past obstacles and stuff you needed help with also inspire confidence. Why? Because you overcame them. You learned. You grew. They show your strength and resilience. And they (should) remind you of your past mistakes—the ones you should never make again.
I find keeping weekly notes to be a good rhythm. Not too frequent to be intrusive. Not too sparse that you forget things. Go with whatever makes the most sense for you.
You don’t even have to structure your notes the way I did. What I showed you is what Kevin recommended to me at the beginning. But even my notes have evolved over the years. Because your notes should include everything that matters most to you and exclude everything that doesn’t, to avoid clutter.
Nowadays, I use a simple text editor to record my notes. I don’t bother with formatting as much. And I write about:
Noteworthy interactions with teammates
Newfound knowledge I gained (business, technical, etc.)
The “things you need to help with” and “to dos” are more for managing your day-to-day activities.
But no matter what, always note your highs AND your lows.
Format, structure, and write it however you want. Call it whatever you want. A journal, notes, whatever. I only call this a “status report” partly out of habit. And partly as an homage to Kevin, one of my all-time favourite managers.
Wanna get creative?
Write it as a story.
Together, your “highs,” “lows,” and “issues” tell your story. A hero’s journey. If not for other people; at least for yourself. As a reminder of how far you’ve come. How much you’ve accomplished. As you strive for even greater horizons in life.
Reply to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or comments. I’d love the hear from you.
Thank you for reading. Record your wins and losses. And I’ll see you in the next one.