Whether you’ve been around the community for a while or you’re just finding me for the first time, it’s pretty easy to see I struggle to feel like I am doing enough, pretty much in any context. It is really paralyzing for me because it then keeps me from starting new projects, from taking the breaks I know I need, and from being able to form a helpful to-do list.
When I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything, I tend to sink back into my bed. I’ve tried things like keeping a list of accomplishments in my journal, but a page in a journal is only so long. And then I would get stressed about the order of pages in my journal and how much room to give myself to write accomplishments. I also struggle with perfectionism, so with these struggles compounding, I just wasn’t writing anything at all, anywhere.
A great friend told me about how they keep a gratitude jar where they write things they’re grateful for on little pieces of paper and put them in a jar throughout the year. I thought that was a fantastic idea, but my immediate struggle isn’t with gratitude, it’s with feeling like I am doing enough. So I decided to change the concept into an Accomplishment jar.
I have a jar that I call my “Accomplishment” jar. It helps me keep track of all the little things that make up the big things in life—you know, the ones that your brain just wants to tell you aren’t significant enough to count.
The things I write down in this jar are little reminders of how much energy it takes just to get through each day: paying rent, checking the mail, taking out the trash, washing my hair… even eating breakfast if I am not feeling hungry. All of these things go into being alive and waking up each day.
The reason I have a physical jar is because I want to battle against my brain when my brain tries to tell me that I haven’t done anything productive, or that I’m not going to get the things I want to be done. This jar gets filled up with little pieces of paper that show the accumulating effort that I put into each day.
My brain likes to tell me that I haven’t been as productive as I could have been, or that I haven’t been productive at all. Having the physical jar as a visual reminder that shows me all of what I have accomplished helps me keep taking things one step, one moment at a time.
I really enjoy noticing how full it gets after even just a week. It’s like another layer of time I know I spent in beneficial ways, even when it feels like* it’s something I’m supposed to be doing and shouldn’t get praise for it.
I feel like this also contributes to my mindfulness. I have noticed more recently that when I’m washing my hair (a longer process than just washing my body) I can catch myself starting to think about the day ahead and feel more stressed than relaxed. When I notice my thoughts wander, I have more easily been able to bring myself to the present moment and remind myself that taking time to relax in the shower while I wash my hair and being present is a valid accomplishment in my day. I don’t have to think ahead about my day while I’m taking a shower, I just have a little trouble being present and mindful.
Another way keeping an accomplishment jar helps me is the endorphin boost I get when I can throw several papers in the jar because I did several things. Some might say the way I’m filling my jar is “cheating” because I’m adding things I’m supposed to be doing. But like I said above, I really enjoy getting to see it fill up over time. I don’t think it’s cheating if it offers me an endorphin boost, helps me be a little more mindful, AND helps me battle my brain!
Maybe one of my favorite parts of how an accomplishment jar helps me is the fact that even if I have a really bad 2-5 days, I can still put things in the jar because I bring down my expectations for myself and put things like “I sat up today” and “I still walked Muenster” (if I did.) This image by @lizandmollie does a good job representing what I mean when I say “bring down my expectations for myself.”
*Our productivist society makes me feel like it’s something I shouldn’t get praise for
I relate to that feeling of like, “Okay, I can’t keep up with this anymore.” I get it. It’s hard. Not to mention the executive dysfunction that comes with ADHD.
But we have to remember that it’s okay if we miss a few days. We have to give ourselves grace for those times when life gets in the way and we are spending our spoons (energy) in different ways.
One time in June, I realized that I hadn’t written one thing for three weeks. At first, I was like “okay, the time came when I finally couldn’t keep up with it” but instead of letting that stop me, I reframed: “okay I missed the past three weeks, that’s okay. Let me just write down everything that I think I can remember: I know I washed my hair 3 times in the past 3 weeks, so let me write three times that I washed my hair.”
Just be kind to yourself and give yourself grace for those times when life gets in the way of your goals. It won’t help if you beat yourself up about not being able to stick with something 100% of the time—just do your best!
While we’re writing down all of the things that come with daily life, we can forget to then give credit to those really big accomplishments. It’s important to remember that while we’re focused on giving credit to our day-to-day task accomplishments, we also consider days where we can write “wrote in my accomplishment jar ten times” or “I was able to go to sleep on time.” Those are things that maybe we think less about, similar to how we think less about the energy it takes to check the mail.
I don’t know if I would have been able to keep up with my accomplishment jar for a full year had I not been coming to my desk every morning and checking in with our community during Breakfast and Feelings Check-In. That is something that I’ve been able to build into my routine. I’m not telling you to come to my stream every morning because I don’t know if it works in your schedule, but I think trying to find a time whether it’s while you’re eating breakfast or you’re wrapping up your day’s work, that you take time to write a few of the things you’ve done in your day.
I can understand if you are sitting there like “I don’t have any one thing that I know I do every day that I can make time to write accomplishments out.” That’s okay. I want to invite you to share your accomplishments with me whenever you’re able to get a spare moment! At a minimum, when you come to Breakfast and Feelings Check-In, you can remember: Jenny wants to hear what I’ve been doing even if I feel like I haven’t done much. If I brushed my teeth today, let me recognize that and share.
With all of the above in mind, I think it is important to also remember that we don’t have to have an accomplishment jar to feel accomplished. We just have to start with one tiny step. Maybe you write down what you ate for lunch or when you walk your dog. Whatever you do, remember to give yourself grace. You’re trying!
I would love to hear if you’re going to start using an accomplishment jar. Feel free to reach out via email or comment below. We are going to rock 2023 together!
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