On 5th April 2018 I posted a story on Medium with my thoughts on creating instant positivity when you need to in your life. My context was around my career and work primarily, but this technique could apply to any facet of life.
This blog post is a “v2.0” of the original, with a little more detail, some better clarity on things, and other uses for the technique, beyond those I posted a year ago.
I’ve also had an overwhelming amount of positive feedback (ironic!) on how this idea has helped others so thank you everyone whose feedback also adorns my own notebook now.
Like the vast majority of software professionals (especially testers!) I find my thoughts wandering off-track occasionally. When that happens, those thoughts veer away from knowing my own knowledge and/or skill as a tester, to questioning things that I should know, but for that specific snapshot in time, I forget. 🤔
My mind takes paths like:
- “I don’t agree, but I’ll stay quiet as they probably know better than I do” (lack of confidence)
- “Why do I bother?” (frustration)
- “I’m not being listened to.” (not feeling integral to your team)
- “You think I can do (x) well enough to do a talk on it, but I’m not really sure” (imposter syndrome)
- “I’ve had little sleep, a frustrating commute, the coffee machine is broken and I’m generally feeling a bit ‘meh’ about today” (short-term dip in happiness)
In those types of circumstance, I’ve found that a short “pep talk” from family or friends helps to shift that negative feeling away somewhat. Often, though, those pep talks have no specific understanding or context around the issue you’re experiencing — it’s definitely nice to hear, but also somewhat of a platitude which leads to questioning whether their feedback is useful.
What makes a real difference is real positive feedback from peers.
The problem with feedback, though, is that most of it comes verbally and is forgotten shortly afterward. Either that, or it arrives via Email or Slack and when we’ve moved on from that project or job any written feedback is lost.
So what can we do about it?
Well a while before last year’s version of this post, I read an article about the brain retaining information better if it’s written down by hand, rather than just reading on a screen, or trying to remember it, so I embarked on an adventure to bring back writing, drawing, and doodling to my daily work.
So my process was simply this:
- I bought a pocket notebook.
- On my mobile, I wrote down any positive work feedback which made me smile, or feel good about the work I do, as soon as possible after it occurred (voice dictation or Siri is great for that!)
- On weekends, I copied into my physical notebook anything I’d noted down during the week.
I break out my “Personalised Book of Positivity” (PBoP) to remind myself of the times I’ve done well and received positive feedback, including the context of why I did good or received that feedback.
Some ideas on other uses for the notebook may include things like:
- Morning pre-work positivity boost - Read the book for 5 minutes on your commute.
- Overcoming a negative morning - Break out the book and read it while relaxing with a coffee.
- Upcoming business meeting / interview - Break out the book!
- Having trouble conveying thoughts or feelings you need to verbalise in a conference talk - Grab your book!
I’m sure there are plenty more uses for the notebook you can think of; be creative!
OK so you’re still with me which is good; what should you include in your book?
Well I guess that answer is entirely personal to you, in your context; what info do you feel would be beneficial to you to really get those positive feelings back? It’s your Personalised Book of Positivity so only you know what to add to it to make you positive/happy.
If you’re still struggling though, here’s what I include in mine:
- Who the feedback was from
- Month + Year
- Task/Project/Reason for the feedback (if relevant)
Your ‘notebook’ doesn’t have to be physical of course as there are plenty of other methods of recording and recalling your positive feedback. I could leave all mine in Things3, but I prefer the act of writing it down to help cement that positivity in my mind.
You might choose some other method though:
- A tasks app like Things3, Todoist, Nozbe, Reminders etc
- A notes app like Bear, Notability, Good Notes, Evernote, OneNote, Notes etc
- A “Positivity” email folder you forward or write emails to
- Text or .md Files
The main thing is to have easy, instant access to your PBoP when you need it. The format doesn’t really matter; what matters is the info you put inside, how that info makes you feel when you read it, and then applying those feelings when needed.
I’d love for you to give this technique a go and let me know how you get on. What do you include in your book and why? What difference does it make to you daily routines, or one-off big events? Have you gained enough to suggest the idea to others?
And of course if you have any feedback for me to incorporate in my own PBoP please feel free to Slack/Message/Email that feedback too. 😃
Until next time folks, get your Positivity going!