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Welcome! I am Jason Nguyen, a graduate student in ethnomusicology at Indiana University, Bloomington, and this blog is where I make observations about music, culture, and academic life.

Daily Accountability with help from Google

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This semester, I have a lot of work, but it’s all going to have to be self-structured.  So I took a strategy from a Noah Kagan blog post, “Daily Accountability Marketing Metrics“, in which he asks those working for him to fill out a daily form that asks them what specific work they’ve done as part of their duties for that day.  What I like about the forms he uses is that they are both metric and reminder.

So, for example, the first question on his form is:

It’s basic, but also clever.  It’s easy–just measure this task associated with your work.  But it also parenthetically provides expectations and guidelines for that task.  And through repetition, both the task and the guidelines become habitual.

At least for me, it’s not hard to remember what I have to do overall–this semester, it’s just finish your damn thesis.  But, for whatever reason, the inability to quantify that often feels paralytic–it’s the same as my students who face the prospect of studying all-science-ever to prepare for the MCAT.  It’s just this gigantic task, so I don’t know where to begin.  But if I could make myself achieve steady, daily goals, it becomes more reasonable.

So I created a Google spreadsheet, and in the spreadsheet, I made a Google Form that looks something like this:

personal daily accountability form

The form will track my progress based on two metrics–time spent and actual output (the full form also tracks some other daily goals I have, but those aren’t relevant to this discussion).  I will fill out the form each night before bed, reinforcing the expectation that I not only “do some work on my thesis”, but that I specifically put in a minimum of 3 hours and produce 5 pages.

I’m also using the Google Calendar’s reminder feature to create a daily event (I made a separate calendar so it doesn’t clutter my regular calendar) that emails me the link to the form every night.  Since I basically operate out of Gmail, this is just another reminder for me to, at the very least, look at the form and be accountable to myself.

I think we’re all accountable in our best moments.  The problem is our weakest moments.  To help with that, I’m using my strong moments to create automated workflows that will fill in the lapses that fall in-between.

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