Memory is such a fickle beast. You think you’ll remember all your best work, the contributions you made during the year, the compliments you received from co-workers, customers, your manager.

But you won’t.

The year will spin merrily along and you’ll be caught up in new challenges, tasks, problems, projects, and assignments. Then before you know it, it’s performance review time. Your mind will go blank and your self-evaluation will end up being a collection of vague remarks: “In Q4, I did a lot of product testing.” Not exactly shining the light on the value you’ve brought to the business during the past 12 months.

The solution is to develop the habit of tracking your activities and achievements–and the time to start is right now, before the year gets away from you. If you’re diligent (or even halfway diligent) about noting your biggest wins, you’ll be able to breeze through the eval process, sharing concrete examples that demonstrate your efforts and your worth to the company. You’ll also have powerful fodder for resume updates and job interviews, should opportunities take you in that direction.

Here are a few suggestions for beginning–and maintaining–a record of your most significant accomplishments.

SEE: Accomplishment tracker (Tech Pro Research)

Document your year

One of the most effective ways to keep track of your projects and activities is to jot down a few words about them–in real time or near real time–so you don’t forget what they were. You can include as much detail as you want, but even something like “Evaluated accounting packages” may be enough to jog your memory. You don’t have to invest a lot of time in this process, either. And spending a couple of minutes here and there is much better than dealing with The Gaping Void of Lost Memories later.

If you have more than a couple of minutes, consider dashing off a sentence or two that captures what worked/didn’t work, what you might do differently next time, and any data or testimonials you can scare up that support the success of the projects you’re most proud of.

How should you approach this recordkeeping process? You can go old school and write on a legal pad or in a calendar book. You might take the spreadsheet route, maintaining a workbook with tabs for various categories of events and activities. You could record voice memos or use a note-taking app like OneNote, Evernote, or Google Keep. And there are scads of online and mobile journaling apps out there waiting to make this an efficient and painless task. The main thing is to find an approach that’s sustainable for you–because the key is to stay as up to date as possible.

SEE: Tips for getting the most from your performance reviews (free TechRepublic PDF)

Other artifacts

Along with jotting down notes to remind you of what you did when, there are several other means of tracking your performance during the year. Step one is to create a folder where you’ll stash the items of interest. Then, just collect those items as you come across them and stick them in the folder. You can save files, grab screenshots, scan documents, or take photos of all sorts of papers and communications:

  • Text messages
  • Emails
  • Certificates of achievement
  • Notes of appreciation from colleagues, bosses, and partners
  • LinkedIn recommendations
  • Social media posts

… In short, anything that may come in handy as evidence of your work ethic, collaborative spirit, competence, and accomplishments.

Also, remember to gather data. If you can get your hands on KPIs–metrics that show your efficiency, productivity, and success rates–add that to your file.

Finally, don’t overlook things like awards, membership in professional organizations, mentions in the media, and documents showing completed training, courses taken, or certs earned. Capture these items one way or another and put them in your file. Just don’t let them slip away.

The payoff

Creating documentation is a notoriously unpopular task. But in this case, it’s worth it. It’s not time consuming or tedious or complicated. Just develop a routine that works for you, stick to it as much as possible, and reap the rewards of having a record of your best work at your fingertips when you need it.

Also read….