Increase productivity by pretending your work is already done

It’s not unusual to write a small “status update” email to a client or superior throughout the lifespan of a project. Usually once a day, or maybe 3x a week, I’ll drop my boss a line, just to convey progress, concerns, or blockers.

Then I stumbled on something. Occasionally, I’d write these updates when I felt a lull in the day, which meant the work I was writing about may not necessarily be 100% done, but I know I was getting there. When I finished for the day, I’d hit “send” on the draft and leave the office in a blaze of glory.

Ensuing blaze of glory form a day’s job, well-done.

I started intentionally doing this mid-way through a feature, and it’s yielded great results.

Write your status update email before the work is done, and you’ll inadvertently be better equipped and more focused to complete the work at hand.

Your goal becomes sending the “status update” email, and the feature is a means to an end.

In order to click “Send,” you must first complete everything you promised to yourself you would. For whatever reason, I find this to be way more compelling than exterior deadlines imposed by someone else. It becomes little mind-game with yourself, as you try to make good on the bet that you’d accomplish what you set out to initially.

You become focused on the important things.

You’re less likely to waste time working through a random edge-case if it doesn’t move you closer to sending that email. The “Status Report” acts as a litmus test throughout the day, similar to a To Do list, but more pointed and more personal, because it’s a communication, chambered, ready to be sent to your boss or client as soon as possible.

Stay connected and reap the rewards.

There’s definitely a happen medium to communication. Eamil your boss every 10 mins with an update, and you’ll shortly be disregarded and relegated to a pile of other annoying, unimportant unread emails they’re sure to get throughout the day. Collate your thoughts into a concise list of accomplishments, and sent 3x — 5x a week, and you’ve effectively communicated your progress to someone that matters. Connected clients/bosses are a good thing.

But, how?

I don’t usually do this right away. Any any sizable task (something that might take you 1–3 days to complete), there’s always that lull. After you’ve started into the project, and gained some momentum, you might find an issue that just dissolved your motivation a bit. It’s not that it’s a show-stopping issue or anything, it so happened to hit you at the right time and, along with all the other work you’ve done, you might decided it’s time for a break.

Since you’ve started the project, you already have a pretty good idea of what you are going to deliver, you haven’t seen anything that makes you want to run for the hills, and you’ve made enough progress to establish momentum and velocity.

You’ve just found the perfect time to write up a status update. Mine usually look something like this:

Hey Derpina,

Just wanted to drop in and give you an update on my progress this week:

- Feature ‘x’ is pushed up to staging and ready for the QA.
- Feature ‘y’ has some inconsistencies in the mobile design when compared to previous decisions, so I’ll have to circle back to the UX dept. and verify before moving forward. Should have another update on this mid-week.
- Feature ‘z’ is all done! Test it out by going to the detail page and share on Facebook. You should see the results as documented in that ticket.


Front End dev + Solution Architect. Read The Web Performance Handbook —

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