Lots of people in my extended network have been working out loud — sharing what they do, and the thought process behind it — long before #WOL as a term got very far down the street. This informal reflection (often followed by informal exchange) has made a tremendous difference in how I learn things and how I get better at things.
If you’re not familiar with the idea, for starters there’s John Stepper’s book, and there’s Jane Bozarth’s Show Your Work. In both cases the emphasis is not simply on what gets done, but how it gets done.
Before the week’s over, I wanted to go out loud with a small item that’s produced a lot of progress for me in the past six weeks. I’d like to have something more obviously impressive, but I’m going with “personally worthwhile.” I can’t find the original source — most likely because it’s buried in the cognitive junk drawer of my Twitter favorites. But the idea is this:
If you’ve got some future goal — say, you’re giving a presentation in four months — there’s research to suggest that framing your goal in days, rather than weeks or months, is a much more effective way of spurring yourself on.
Try it yourself: which has more psychological weight? “I’ve got three months” or “I’ve got 91 days.”
The notion intrigued me, and with not much searching I found the Countdown Widget at the Google Play store.
The day I installed it was four months ahead of the target I’d set for myself. But the widget counts down in days — so it displayed 120 on my phone.
As you can see in the screen shot I took this morning, that’s now down to 78. I’ve got work to do this weekend.
I made sure to put the widget on the home page, and so every time I glance at my phone, I’ve got a double reminder of the schedule I chose: the number of days appears, and the bright ring around the number disappears, bit by bit, with each passing day.
What this has done for me is probably what end-of-the-day reflection does for other people, or a carefully tended to-do list: I look at this and ask myself what I can do next to move forward toward my goal.
Another out-loud angle: I talked about this with a co-worker, and at least three times a week she’ll notice the countdown on my phone and ask what I’ve done on my project lately.