The Importance of Tangible Evidence

So it’s Friday once again, which means Saturday and Sunday are just around the corner. Combine that with the fact that the school semester is quickly coming to a close, and it comes as no surprise that I’m planning on spending the next couple of days engrossed in my studies. So, as a began to prepare for the fun filled weekend I did a little reflection on the previous weekend of homework and school assignments.

I spent almost the entire day last Sunday trying to figure out how to wire up and control a stepper motor via my computer. I’m using it for an art project that I’m working on right now that involves some mechanical motion. However, despite spending nearly eight hours working on it I left off almost exactly where I had started.

The motor just sat there on the edge of my desk, vibrating, and rumbling. As if to say, “You only wish you could understand the complex phases and coils that make up my innards.”

Sure I learned a lot along the way, but in terms of any tangible product, well there wasn’t really any to speak of. And simply put, it was a little frustrating. Especially so when every time I look up from my computer I see the growing list of things I need to accomplish before the end of the semester. A list that seems to keep growing and never gets any of its items checked off.

That got me thinking about accomplishments, and the importance of being able to “feel” like you’re actually making progress while working on something. I tried to figure out why at work I can work for days, and sometimes weeks on the same project and never really have issues with feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing. Then I realized the answer.

At work, most of the projects I work on, no matter what the scale, get separated into smaller components. Rather than having to wait until the end of the project to check something off the list, I get to do so every time I finish one of these smaller bits. This in turn satisfies my need for evidence of having finished something. The idea to take away from all of this, give yourself something (anything) to accomplish. Don’t just work for nothing.

But how does one apply this concept to projects that are still in their conceptual stages? Where you’re still trying to learn about part A, or idea B, and figure out how it’s going to work in regards to the overall project?

Progress meters duh! Like the loading bar we’ve all become accustomed to on our computers, video games, and digital cameras. And I was going to draft up some print outs that had a simple to do list, with empty bars next to them that you could fill in along the way, when I found Dave Seah’s – Printable CEO . Looks like Dave beat me to the punch. And did a much nicer job of it than I would have done. Good work.

So for all of you out there that need some kind of tangible evidence that you’re actually getting work done. Check out Dave’s Task Tracker and some of the other great productivity ideas on his site.