Keep an Achievements and Mistakes List

Keep an Achievements and Mistakes List
An example of a message you should definitely keep a copy of in your Achievements List

A shorter article today folks, after the deep dive into brag lunches in the previous article. Do you ever feel like you don’t have anything to brag about? Here’s what to do. 

Keep a running list of your achievements and mistakes. Keeping this list makes performance reviews, resumes, interviews, and even coaching or mentoring easier and more effective because you have ready access to this key information. 

Make it a habit to update the list at least monthly. It’s even better if you do it weekly while things are fresher. It’s even even better if you develop a habit to update your list as things happen. 

I’ve kept some sort of version of this for many years. It started as a list of achievements and kudos I’d received, simply to make writing my annual performance reviews easier. Recency bias being a thing, by the time my annual review rolled around I’d often forgotten things that had happened more than a a few months prior.

About six years ago I started adding mistakes to my list. I can be, ahem, a bit of a perfectionist and catastrophizer. I figured that if I wrote down my mistakes I could look back and see how mistakes were a normal part of my growth. That was certainly what I told other people when they made mistakes! By keeping track, I could get some real-world data showing that mistakes didn’t actually (usually) lead to a catastrophe. I could even use those mistakes to help coach others, by remembering the specifics and using them as real-world teachable examples. I find I often forget the mistakes I make along the way. I suspect that’s partly because they can be painful to remember and my brain is sneaky like that. But, it’s also because mistakes are often made along the path to an accomplishment and I remember the end result, not the bumps along the way. 

I love the saying, “if you can’t make mistakes, you can’t make anything.” But it can be easier said than lived. Keeping this list has helped me keep a healthier perspective about how mistakes are part of the process, and reflect on which were part of a normal learning curves and which were more significant. The more significant ones can lead to deeper questions like “did I ignore the warning signs?” or “did I not ask for help when I should have?” or even ““is this not the right work for me?”

Keep it simple. I use a note on my phone and write something short—just enough to remember it by. I start a new note with a new year or new role. When you receive some recognition, copy it into the note. Don’t limit your record to just the big formal wins like promotions or awards. Include the smaller thank you’s and acknowledgments you get throughout the year. It’s  really helpful (to you and your manager!) when you include in your performance review a direct quote about the impact you’ve had. 

However your company does or doesn’t do performance reviews, an achievements and mistakes list will help you when you need to advocate for yourself, need a boost, or want some perspective on how far you’ve come.

Your Dot Release

Start an achievements and mistakes list. If you’re already doing this, go update it, because you’re awesome. 

Link to this article on my web site.

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Jamie Larson