vAt the end of the workday, do you get in your car or sit on the train and mentally run through the list of things you got done? Feeling a sense of accomplishment is an important part of our sense of self-worth. Beating up on yourself because you think you could have accomplished more can dent your confidence and self-esteem and leave you feeling depleted at the end of the day.
Maybe you could have used the hours in your day more effectively and accomplished more on your to-do list, but you probably accomplished more than you think.
Try these five tips to help end your day feeling more accomplished.
1. Break down your goals
If your goals are too big to accomplish in one day, you are more likely to suffer from feeling unaccomplished because there’s simply no way to get that item crossed off your list quickly enough. Jamie Gruman, psychologist and author of Boost: The Science of Recharging Yourself in an Age of Unrelenting Demands, says breaking down goals into sub-goals can demonstrate that you’ve made progress. “Establishing sub-goals will make you feel more confident and on track because you’re genuinely making progress, and you can track that progress,” says Gruman.
If you’re starting the day with the goal of creating a PowerPoint presentation, for example, that might be too large of a goal to get done in one day. Instead, start by identifying all the steps you’ll need to take to reach that goal. The first step might be to establish content. You might break that step down into brainstorming thoughts on the topic, researching the topic, and asking other people for their thoughts and input. You might not have written out all the content you need for the presentation by the end of the day, but you can probably check off researching and brainstorming, allowing you to show yourself that you have in fact accomplished something.
2. Journal your accomplishments
One of the reasons we tend to feel unaccomplished at the end of the day is because we simply forget all that we’ve done. Make note of the tasks you’ve completed during the day, and those you’ve made progress on. Gruman advises not to focus solely on performance goals (those tasks that you can check off the list), but to consider learning goals as well. This is especially important if you’re working on something new to you. “If you’re learning how to put a PowerPoint presentation together, your goal shouldn’t be to put together the presentation, it should be learning how to use PowerPoint,” he says.
When focusing on learning goals, instead of writing down all the tasks you accomplished, write down the things you know at the end of the day that you didn’t know that morning.
3. Save an easy task for tomorrow
When nearing the end of the day, Gruman likes to pick an item still on his to-do list that will take no longer than 15 minutes and move it to the top of the next day’s to-do list. “When I start the next day, I can easily zoom into that task and have an accomplishment,” he says.
Starting the day intentionally with an easy task also helps to get your momentum going for the day and means you don’t have to waste time in the morning thinking about what you’re going to tackle first. You already have a task waiting for you that you know will be easy to check off.
4. Ask for feedback
Feedback is the best way to get clarification on whether you’re making progress toward a goal. Seek feedback from your boss, coworkers, or clients. Often, we think we aren’t making enough progress, but the people around us believe that we’re killing it. Asking others how they think you’re doing is a great way to get clarity on your progress.
5. Be kind to yourself and re-goal if necessary
If you find yourself often overwhelmed by the number of tasks still left to do on your to-do list at the end of the day, it’s possible that you need to spread those tasks out over a longer period of time, or spend some time re-examining your goals. If you had to take a day off to care for a sick child, for example, reorganize your goals for the week and move things to the next week. “We often plan things in the abstract, the perfect world, but we don’t execute them in the perfect world,” says Gruman. Practice self-compassion and realize that you can modify your goals.