Write Down Every Compliment You Get
In praise of the Good Shit board, the tool I use to track accomplishments large and small
Whenever I need to give my eyes a break from the blue light of my laptop, I look over to a wall full of whiteboards in my office: One for client deadlines, one for keeping track of creative projects, and one containing a running list of all my professional accomplishments for the month — the one I think of as my Good Shit board.
Some of the items on my Good Shit board for this month include an inspiring week at a writer’s workshop, a fun new assignment from a magazine I enjoy writing for, and an article pitch accepted at Forge (hi!), along with any kind words about my work, or complimentary emails from editors that I’ve received.
The Good Shit board is a lifeline on days when work feels frustrating. It’s where I go to celebrate my wins, providing a confidence boost anytime my morale takes a hit after a rejection or roadblock. At the end of each month, I type up all the contents of the Good Shit board into a Word document, save it, then erase the board and start anew.
When I became a freelancer two years ago, I got serious about tracking my Good Shit. There’s something cringeworthy about broadcasting “accomplishments” on my wall, even just to myself, so the over-the-top label helps take the braggadocious edge off. The whiteboard and the Word documents serve as reminders of everything I’ve achieved, which is especially useful when I sit down to evaluate how I’m progressing toward my goals.
And avoiding the word “accomplishment” also helps reframe what I’m proud of. For me, Good Shit isn’t just an article published, new client, or piece of positive feedback: Sometimes, simply working hard to win a new client, even if the deal doesn’t go through, can earn a spot on the Good Shit board.
It isn’t just a feel-good exercise: Research shows that small wins are powerful motivators on the path to reaching larger goals, even if they aren’t direct steps to help us get there. “Small wins do not combine in a neat, linear, serial form, with each step being a demonstrable step closer to some predetermined goal,” organizational psychologist Karl Weick explained in his 1984 paper “Small Wins.” “More common is…