Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Visual Incremental Progress

I do information work for a living -- which at the end of the day leaves me with very few tangible widgets. As a balance I have an extremely physical craft in knitting; it may not be fast but at the end of the very slow witchcraft there are socks, a hat, a shawl from what was previously pretty string. 

And I don't do especially well with grand challenges. There are some challenges I do each year related to my knitting but even those are mostly against myself. Can I get X done in Y time? And if I don't make those goals? Well there's usually very little consequence. I might not get a small prize from a yarn store or a knit vlogger that I watch. My Annual-Review-Type goals for work are always ambitious but then pretty much every year something drastic happens and takes me in a way I couldn't have anticipated in January... so to some degree I've accepted that those goals will be fluid too. 

For 2020, however, I decided that there were a few numbers I wanted to track to see what the change was over the twelve months. I'll run the last set of numbers for the year on Thursday and calculate the total difference. I had vague goals around the numbers: I'd like these to go up (savings balance, numbers of books I've read); and these to go down (student loan, number of skeins in the yarn stash). 

By not having absolute goals beyond "more here" / "less here" -- I actually found it really compelling. On the first of the month -- or fairly close to that-- I'd run my numbers. How many new books had I read in the past month(?) and please God was that number higher because if it wasn't that meant I'd had absolutely no concentration. 

As we came into midsummer, the number spreadsheet was a talisman and had expanded. The First Tab is just Numbers.  There are Nine Columns and a note field with only a couple of comments. One column for date recorded at the 8 numbers. I wasn't measuring everything; I was mostly measuring things I could control a little bit and there was change in the numbers.  

Other tabs tracked yarn I bought "during COVID" as I tried to support the many indie dyers that I hope make it through; small successes I had at work; my current list of research projects and their status; a totally failed attempt to track the types of prosecco I drank. Those tabs were more or less successful -- the numbers tab was really the one I kept coming back to again and again. 

I've decided I'm going to keep the spreadsheet, or at least a version of it for 2021. At least one numbers column is going away -- I paid off my student loan and that debt is gone! But I have a couple of ideas for numbers to replace it. Things I'd like to see generally go up or down.  I'll make that decision on Friday.  

If you'd like to see some incremental progress or change -- maybe you'd like to have a spreadsheet too. No public accountability, just for you, and make sure a column or two is happy things like craft projects you finished or really great baked goods you ate.  For me it is part of using things up -- but also gives me a sense of wins over the longer sense. I hope it might do that for you as well. 


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