If you’re like me, you have a lot of projects going on. I currently have multiple research projects for my PhD, my webcomic Handwaving, my monthly essays here, and some other personal projects in the works.
Not only that, but a few of these are open-ended. They don’t have a completion date. And even when I will finish some of them, the timelines are stretched out, making every day feel like I’m accomplishing little.
Big goals are like mountains, with each day only being a few steps. Most of the time, it feels like you’re not making progress. You push a bit on one project, and it seems like nothing changes. You switch to another, and the same thing happens.
It’s a frustrating feeling, particularly since a lot of these bigger projects require long stretches of time where you won’t feel productive.
How can I go through my day feeling like I accomplished something?
The best thing I’ve found is to set daily anchors for yourself.
The idea is simple: Each day, have an activity that you do which, if you complete it, your day has been “successful”. The key is to choose an anchor which you can do each day and gain meaning from without any larger goal surrounding it. Simply the pleasure and craft of doing this will help set the mood for your day.
In my life, running is an anchor. I do it each day, and once I’ve completed my run, I can mark my day as a success. Even if everything else goes horribly wrong, I can still look at my day and be happy that I got my run in.
This way, even when it feels like I’m making little progress on other projects in my life, my anchor is there, reminding me that I am accomplishing something.
In my life, doing research can be quite intangible at times. There’s a lot of fumbling around in the dark, uncertain about what will lead to progress. With a daily anchor, it’s so much easier to remain motivated to keep pushing in the uncertainty.
Whether it’s reading, painting, writing, running, or some other hobby, find a low-stakes activity which can serve as your daily anchor. It will complement your main work and help you feel productive in the day-to-day.