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My personal vault. Or what I learnt from a decade of progress tracking

I made a fun discovery today: It’s now been over ten years since I started this list of things I have done. Wow! I had no idea it had been that long, and seeing those entries from 2013 made me pause and reflect on the habit of keeping the list, a decade in the making.

Why did I start tracking progress in this way?

My archive page is a lot like a personal vault. If you scroll all the way to the bottom of the page you’ll see that at the start I added some entries a bit like you would on a CV. I added dates of degrees I completed and images of things like my doctoral thesis from 2008:

Initially, I added these things as I was moving blogs, and I didn’t want to loose track of what I was up to. I was just in the finishing years of my graduate studies, and started working full-time and I had no real idea of what was going to happen next.

For a while, in the first few years of working at ALT, I didn’t really keep a record of anything until I started blogging publicly again in 2010 on WordPress, rather than my old Google Blogger sites. But then from 2013 onwards I started keeping a running list of projects I completed, conference papers, media stuff and so on.

Looking back to 2013, this entry makes me smile: June: Radio 4, Today Programme . Not particularly helpful for anyone other than myself, but it does bring back the morning I spent nervously sitting next to a very intimidating John Humphreys in the BBC radio studios in London. Similarly, in 2014 I went to the European Parliament in Brussels… noted in a similarly cryptic entry, but equally memorable for me. And although the 2015 link to an appearance on Parliament TV still works, many of the older links have rotted.

As we progress through the years the list of things I recorded each year becomes both longer and more comprehensive, particularly as I started to add links to blog posts on my own domain that contain a lot more information about a specific event or project. 2020’s entry is a bit shorter, but it looks remarkably ‘normal’ given everything that happened that year.

What do I use it for?

So, how is this useful?

Well, the practice of making the list and adding new entries to it is useful to me in itself. I could probably use a tool to compile this kind of information for me, but there’s great value for me in the act of processing what I have done and reflecting on it as I make the list.

For example, adding new items to the 2024 section of the list earlier today made me realise just how busy a year I have had so far, and we are only three weeks into it:

So on a regular basis, as I publish something or a new project gets scheduled or completed, I will update the list, add links and date each entry. Wherever possible I try to capture what I am doing in a blog post as I add it to the list, so that I don’t have to rely on external websites to retain the information.

Then, on a monthly basis as I compile my newsletter, I refer back to the list, and cross-check what else I may want to mention. This is super helpful for me and makes compiling the newsletter pretty easy.

I also use the list as an archive in case someone asks me what talks I have recently given or what papers I have published on a particular topic and I make use of it for reviewing my progress or performance.

It’s a kind of super power when it comes to things like annual appraisals or planning career development. It doesn’t take me long to answer the questions like ‘What have you done in the past year ?’ or make a list of articles I have published. That is magnified if I want to write end of year reviews or reflections.

It’s important to me to keep learning and developing and over the years keeping this archive up to date has become a natural process of my workflow, just as blogging or journalling have become part of my practice.

Tips for starting your own archive

If you are keen to start your own list, get started with literally anything. You could add a workshop you have run or an event you attended, or even books you’ve read. You could add projects you have been involved with or led, or papers you have published.

The key is not to worry whether something is worthy of being included, and to simply include everything. I find once you start making a list of everything, things quickly amount to more than expected.

Over time, as you practice keeping the list, the satisfaction of adding to it will become a good motivator for keeping going but initially it can be difficult to find the courage to get started.

You might prefer to keep your list private, which is completely fine. The reason I have mine on my blog is that I am comfortable working here and I use my blog every few days. It’s a convenient place for me to refer back to or to send people to, but I don’t think the page that shows my archive gets a lot of visitors.

For me however it is priceless, and it reminds me when I have low days how much I have achieved over the years. Maybe your list will do the same for you.

One consideration for me is that I want to do what I can to keep the data safe. That is why I don’t rely on a platform like LinkedIn to keep this information. In an ideal world I might update the information somewhere like that, a network where folk who consider working with me might more easily get an idea of what I have accomplished. However, although that would be useful, I don’t trust that the information will still be there in 10 years or that it won’t suddenly get reformatted or repurposed as platforms change. Thus, I keep it here on my own domain first and foremost, and I update everywhere else when I feel it’s necessary.

So, good luck if you are just getting started and kudos to you if you are already on your way to keeping that precious list of everything you’ve done.

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Cover image credit: Photo by C M on Unsplash


  1. That’s a valuable example of developing a regular act going that really grows in value much later. It reminds me of a line from a documentary “Stories We Tell” (only paraphrasing) that is something like it’s not a story at all when we are in the middle of, it’s only later when we are looking at it or telling it to someone else, that what we’ve done becomes a story.

    I was on those same lines on a warbling post about the value of a time-lining habit.

    You only see the value when you have something to look back on.

    • Maren Deepwell Maren Deepwell

      Thanks for your comment – really appreciate your perspective 🙂

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