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A month ago I decided to record my progress on my personal activities (goals, projects). I have many such activities and usually I work on the activity I have taste for, or how things develop during the day (if I have ideas I will start unexpectedly work on new things instead of finishing old things). This style of work is really good for me, most of the days I have nice progress but I don't like recording the progress. When I'm in passion and work on something I don't make a record about it.

I decided to create a record at 21:30 every day (with possibility to shift the time if something happens). This worked for a few days. Than I have created various reasons to don't record it. "I don't have time." "I have to think about something more interesting", "I want to go to sleep." "It's not good idea to record only every fifth day."

Do you have some better method that really works? And now you can see what you have finished 7. March (last year) or close to this date (or you will see it was holiday or restful time)?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

So there's a difference between tracking goals and activities. I'll give you my activities first (this would be the "And you now can see what have you been doing 7. March (last year)?" part of the question) because my project logging is likely to be very like other peoples.

I've got a couple of options to see what I was doing 7th March last year. For example my setup takes a snapshot of my todo list every half hour and stores it - so by looking at the snapshots I can see exactly what I achieved (and what I avoided) during the day.

But that's not the same as measuring progress - it's generally encouraged to take a slightly more high level view when recording how your projects went. So my approach (roughly) is to have one text file for each project (an example project would be 'Apply for this grant') I have open and once a week I update them with what I've achieved on that project in that week. Each quarter I also look at similar systems for more general things I want to record/achieve ("career", "family" and so on.)

I'd certainly encourage measurement of any type - if you're not measuring something, it's very hard to change it.

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Thank you, your answer is useful for me. The task list can be tracked and I can see what was completed and what wasn't. But I'm used to not set particular time slots in my task list (I don't like pressure and determination what I will do, if I will determine time slots I have a need to do something else). So, I will do what I think is most important and am passionate for most, but many times these are the tasks I don't even write to the task list, then I have many ideas arised from my task, a lot of work has been done but I don't have a record about it. – xralf Mar 8 '12 at 17:12
Do you know some psychological technique, how to overcome this passion and make a record about what I'm doing and what time is suitable for making a record? (I don't like alarms too, if this could help) and at the same time during recording I don't what to stop being creative and forget good ideas. – xralf Mar 8 '12 at 17:13
Actually, I'm very rarely conscious of the task snapshoting - it's an automatica process used to make the graphs on this page - – Joe Mar 8 '12 at 20:14
This is what I'm directing too. I only have to do what I have in my todo list. Actually for me the todo list serves as a reminder if I don't know what to do (and for things I don't want to forget). But it's good to write the completed task additionaly to the todo list, to see that I made some progress. This is the technical point of view. I'm fighting a little the psychological (I usually don't resist and start something new instead of finishing old. I'm not sure if I could only write that to todo list and work on it someday). – xralf Mar 8 '12 at 20:46

I'm going to throw a similar answer here into the ring, even though you've already accepted the first one.

  1. As part of my job, I've developed a skill for writing "workpapers". These workpapers outline the goal I wanted to achieve, the steps I took, the results I had and the conclusion I've come to.
  2. I've adapted this style of writing to my every-day projects, but it's not nearly as structured as required by say, the governing bodies that I work for. I keep a text file that has my objective at the top. I then list down what I've done and next steps to keep track of my project plan. As I complete next steps, they move to the list of completed items
  3. For every new project I try to create a roadmap document, something that explains the objective, background and next steps. This roadmap eventually turns into the text file explained in point 2.

You need to find a way that works for you. I like going roadmap v1 through end parallel to WP v1 to end. In the end I have a final roadmap and a final working paper document for each project. Every deliverable, article, graphic, you name it is in the same folder as these documents. I keep them in my projects folder, which I back up often and off-site.

Mind you, this is an electronically-based system. Also, I keep iterations of my versions and I date events that happen in my documentation, so while I may not be able to tell you what I did March 7 of last year, I can tell you what major milestones occurred in March for XYZ project. I'm in the same boat as you, I don't need to know what I did in the past, just what was accomplished and when. I see a difference.

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