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Tracking your accomplishments: Why to do it, what to document and how to follow through

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Who is keeping track of your career successes and ensuring they’re documented for your next performance discussion? Unless you’re in a really unusual situation, there’s only one person tasked with that job -- you. Are you keeping up with the responsibility?

In my presentation “Release the Untapped Potential of Your Underutilized Leaders,” I discuss the importance of tracking your success, why to make it a priority and how to raise your visibility so you make more of your accomplishments known.

Why you should track

Maybe it seems like a lot of effort, or you’re uncomfortable with the self-interested nature of investing time in writing down all you’ve achieved in your career. It can feel a bit indulgent, but a few minutes spent regularly can make a huge difference in your lifetime career trajectory, not to mention your own confidence and daily outlook.

Track regularly, because:

  • You will forget. We are almost always fooling ourselves when it comes to how good our memories are. Our brains are, unfortunately, much better at remembering mistakes, so be sure to write down all your wins, big and small.
  • Everyone else forgets. Even if you remember all your successes over the past year (or five!), your superiors are extremely unlikely to be able to recount them without notes. Make it easy on you and them by keeping track of your accomplishments.
  • Be interview-ready. Perhaps you will never use the information in your current position, but you will be grateful when you are ready to speak to your suitability for any opportunity that comes your way, at a moment’s notice. Interviewing and self-promotion are skills that need regular practice. Even if you go years between interviews or performance appraisals, frequently reviewing your own list will keep it all fresh and top of mind.

What you should track

As you track your accomplishments, be specific about what you document. Focus on fact-based, concrete details and the specific feedback you receive from others. Quantifiable data is especially persuasive, in part because it measures the impact of your accomplishments. When in doubt, include the item on your list. You can easily eliminate it later.

Track events such as:

  • Comments from your boss, clients or other stakeholders. When you get positive feedback, write it down. Keep the original document or emails and direct quote whenever possible.
  • Successful projects. Look at the entire project and break it down into its successful components. Highlight the changes made in productivity, efficiency, net profit, operational costs, employee/customer satisfaction and/or any other measurable outcomes.
  • Positive results from your efforts. Write down impacts that occurred due to your actions. Did you improve relations with a vendor? Secure a contract with a better supplier? Build or repair a relationship with another department? Design a new process that saves time? Make sure it’s on your list.
  • Regular responsibilities you have fulfilled. Make note of all the regular tasks and duties you handle in your current and past positions at your organization. It’s easy to forget all the things that are part of the everyday cadence of your job.

How to make the effort

Tracking your accomplishments won’t happen without focused, determined action. Keeping a record needs to become a part of your regular (even daily!) responsibilities.

Yes, it will take time, especially as you catch up in remembering and writing down the past few years of activity. You won’t regret the time investment, however, when you’re able to demonstrate in concrete terms that you are the best person for that promotion or next opportunity.

Make space for tracking by:

  • Adding it to your to-do list. A weekly and monthly review of your work should become a default for proper attention and maintenance. Schedule these times in your calendar and honor them as you would any other important appointment. Whenever you’re tempted to pass up a tracking appointment, remind yourself that a comprehensive list of accomplishments just might be the key to help you advance and have a stronger impact on your company’s success.
  • Start the day with yourself. To create more time in your week, consider starting work at home or at the office earlier and devoting that extra time to yourself. You could do this daily, or even once or twice a week, to gain extra hours to use these ideas, concepts and perspectives to develop your executive presence and start the day on a positive note.

Now you’re armed with a few tips and tricks to get you going on your path to tracking for success. There’s no time like the present to begin, so don’t procrastinate; start putting your plan in motion today by adding regular appointments to your calendar.

Even if you haven’t set out the exact format of your tracking yet, don’t delay; set aside the time and get down to the business of preparing for your next opportunity.

As an executive coach, Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S. He provides webinar trainings and virtual coaching sessions to help employees achieve higher levels of leadership. This past month, he led three corporate trainings for a company that wanted to advance the careers of their women, minorities, and people of color. He helped them to achieve higher levels of leadership. Garfinkle is the author of 11 books, including "Getting Ahead." Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter which is delivered to over 10,000 people. You can view his video library of over 100+ easily actionable two-minute inspirational video clips by subscribing to his You Tube Channel.

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