Keep track of accomplishments

“The palest ink is better than the best memory.” — Chinese proverb

This pithy maxim is very true, especially in corporate environments. It always makes sense to keep a running track of your work, especially milestones and achievements. Situations when this is the most useful:

1. When preparing weekly project status reports.

2. Getting ready for the annual performance reviews, so that you do not have to spend hours trying to recall everything that you did in the last year or going through every email communication from the past year. The list can also help in filling up gaps in the manager’s list of your work during such reviews.

3. When updating your resume from time-to-time so that you do not miss a mention of your smallest yet critical and impactful contributions.

4. When you want to perform a status check on your career from time to time (daily, weekly, monthly, semi-annually, annually). This list can provide insightful evidence and answer questions such as “where do I spend the most of my time”, “are my achievements in the right direction”, “is this where I want my career to go” and so on.

If you are managing other people, this list extends into keeping track of their work as well. Anyone who works for you will be pleasantly surprised if during performance review, you point out a small but important contribution that he or she did not think about. I have found that this habit makes the whole review process much faster, easier and more accurate.

It is a good habit to cultivate, both for the manager and the managed.

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Hare and tortoise

We all know about the story of hare and tortoise. Yesterday I was thinking about an analogy in the corporate world. Lets say you got recognized for your hard work this past year by upper management. Everyone in the group is admiring you for the achievement. At that point, you can leverage your position of advantage in two opposite ways:

1. Rest on your laurels and keep doing the same tasks. It can lead to either you becoming easy-going at what you have been doing (because suddenly you think you are better than what you were a day ago), and/or it can lead to others catching up on you (and very soon they will..it is just a matter of time in this corporate rat race) and one day you will again become part of the crowd. Your name may get a mention in corporate circles or parties as someone who once got recognized for the hard work. Management will shower favors upon you for some time, but those will eventually stop.

2. Use your position at this point to demand greater responsibility (but not necessarily more work) so that you get another opportunity to prove yourself, and it could even be in a different area of work than what you do at present. This will eventually lead to your own professional growth and will continue enhancing your positive reputation.

It is obvious to consciously choose #2.

Perception and expectation for achievements

Others perceive you based on what you have done until now, whereas you perceive yourself based on what you think you can do. And the farther away in past your biggest accomplishments are, the greater could be the difference between the two perceptions.

Solution…one simply has to keep doing bigger and better things.

Note: If you accomplish something good, you set higher level of expectation for others for the next time. More you achieve, the better and bigger feats you are expected to perform each time. But by then you also expect yourself to achieve greater heights every time, and that is good. Also, many a times one needs to prove himself more than once.

Thanks to my wife for discussing this thought with me.