It occurred to me early this week that I am fast coming up on my 100th Going Paperless post. If my counting is correct, this is my 98th post, which means that #100 should arrive on about March 18. Thinking about this milestone got me thinking about achievements in general, and that in turn got me thinking that maybe I should write a post about how I track my achievements and accomplishments in Evernote. And not just how, but why.
Why I track my achievements
I originally started tracking my achievements in Evernote because I found that it helped me in my performance review process at my day job. Things can get so busy that by the time the annual performance review rolls around, what I’d done in the previous year is a blur. So I started capturing quick notes whenever I did something I thought would make a notable bullet point on my performance review.
This evolved into all kinds of achievements, both professional and personal. Over the years I’ve collected this information for three reasons:
- A complete picture. Having my achievements called out succinctly help paint a complete picture on my timeline. Remember that everything that goes into Evernote has a date associated with it. That goes for my achievement notes, and when I am reviewing things, or looking at the notes from a historical perspective, it is nice to see the achievements there.
- Automation. As I will explain, my performance review process is fairly standardized. By capturing my achievements throughout the year, I can automate a good portion of it, without having to strain my brain to remember everything I did.
- To feel good about what I’ve done. Everyone has stressful days, or days when things don’t go so well. It is nice to be reminded of the good things you have done, and capturing achievements helps with that.
What is an achievement?
Everyone defines an achievement differently and that is okay. Use your own definition for what you flag as an achievement. For me, I focus on what I consider to be “big deal” things in my personal/freelancing life, and I focus on major milestones in my day job. So far example, while I wouldn’t consider solving a thorny coding problem an achievement, I would consider rolling out a project as an achievement, even if it was a small project.
For my freelance work, I wouldn’t consider an invitation to an anthology an achievement, but I would consider selling a story to that anthology an achievement.
Go with what makes the most sense to you.
How I capture achievements
Here are the steps that I use to capture an achievement:
1. Create a new note for the achievement. Each achievement gets its own note. I don’t want to miss an achievement because more than one is buried somewhere in another note. I think an achievement as a discrete thing.
2. Title the note as succinctly as possible. Some examples of achievement note titles I’ve used:
- “Big Al Shepard” published in IGMS
- Successfully rolled CAFM 1.5 into production
- Featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series
Note that I do not include the date in the title of the note. That is because the note itself has a date, and if the create date of the note is different from the date of the achievement, I simply alter the create date of the note.
3. Tag the note “achievements”.
I use the “achievements” tag to easily find all of my achievements.
4. File the note in its appropriate notebook. If it is a work note, it goes in my work notebook. If it is a personal achievement, it might go in a freelancing notebook, or it might simply go in my Timeline notebook.
That’s it. I try to keep it as simple as possible. I only add additional information if I think it will be useful in the future. For instance, for an achievement like
Completed Watir script updates for WDR
I might add some additional information to the note, something like,
Jenkins was reporting 168 errors before the update, and was reporting 51 errors after the update.
That is the kind of specific detail that might be useful on a performance review. But otherwise, I keep the notes simple, and the vast majority of them have no body text at all, just a title and a tag, like this:
I would add that as much as possible, I try to capture these achievement in real-time, as they happen, so that I don’t forget about them.
I need a way of finding my achievements. I can use Evernote’s search functionality to do this by tag very easily by searching for the tag: