I’ve just about finished playing Tears of the Kingdom, and the current state of my life leaves me wanting to write an introspective blog post. Specifically, a follow-up to my Sprint System Retrospective. (Which itself was a follow-up post, so I guess this is an entire series now. Mark it, it’s canon. Let’s get an official label on this thing.)

Several years ago, I spent a few months learning Spanish through the language-learning app Duolingo. (Relearning, mostly. I took Spanish throughout high school, which… means nothing, to be honest. High school foreign language classes are a joke.)

Anyway, for anyone who doesn’t know, one of Duolingo’s neat little motivational tricks is it keeps track of your streak of consecutive days you used the app. I had a good long streak going—almost 100 days straight—so I felt pretty great about my consistency and progress.

And then one day, I forgot to do my daily lesson and my streak broke. Reset all the way back to 0 days in a row. Seeing all that “progress” disappear, I was so demotivated that I didn’t bother with my daily lesson that day… or the next day. Or the next. Or ever again. I had unintentionally pinned all my motivation to my streak number, rather than the actual progress of me learning the language.

I have a long history of getting into a groove, then missing a day or a week, and then never being able to pick up the pieces of what I had put down. It happened in sixth grade, when I tried writing a fantasy novel—I was writing a single full chapter every day, but then came Thanksgiving vacation and I let myself skip a few days… and I never picked it back up. The writing stopped at 25 out of 46 chapters.

(I eventually finished the second half of the novel, a full 17 years later, but mainly as a joke. My writing skill as an 11 year old was, well, nonexistent.)

And that’s also how most of my previous Productivity Tracking Systems ended up. I’d get a good streak going—sometimes for months, sometimes for years. Keeping track of my project progress every day; setting goals every month; whatever the system was. But eventually, I’d get into a rough patch, and I’d have a few days/weeks/whatever where I accomplished absolutely nothing, and then that would become the norm until I quit the tracking system entirely. Weeks, or months, where I don’t succeed at any of my goals—whether they be writing or reading or the most basic and vague thing I can think of.

Tracking all that shit really kills me in the long run, it seems.

… Which takes us back to the present. At the start of this year, I (re)started a new (old) productivity tracking system: just keeping a daily list of one or two bullet points for what interesting or important thing I did that day. “Wrote a blog post.” “Worked on XYZ Project.” “Did a lot of cooking and cleaning.” “Watched a movie.” And so on.

If you’ve been reading between the lines, or if you’ve read my last few blog posts, you probably see exactly where I’m going with this. The last month and a half of my Daily Doings 2023 doc is just a wall of “Played Tears of the Kingdom.”

It feels like the streak is broken. I look at this doc and I don’t want to continue it, because it disgusts/embarrasses me. So it looks like yet another era of productivity tracking has come and gone.


Every time I try this stuff, it eventually ends in what I would consider failure, yet I keep trying this stuff all the same. Even in the exact same ways sometimes. But this time I want the lesson to truly sink in: I am not able to sustain a rigorous system of tracking my own goals and/or accomplishments.

It wears me down. It becomes a chore. It exposes all my failings and becomes a counterproductive, demotivational tool. I cannot maintain doing Agile sprints at my day job and then coming home and doing Agile sprints with my passion projects. I need to do something other than this broad way I’ve been tackling the problem so far.

I need to be… unrigorous. Somehow.

Maybe I could just have a Trello board of projects, blog post ideas, etc, without due dates? Can’t shame myself for not finishing something on time if I never schedule it in the first place.

… Except I already have that, and it’s not enough. I barely ever touch it. I forget about it for months at a time.

Maybe I need the scheduling, but I don’t need the in-depth systematized tracking after the fact? Like, instead of keeping a list of what I’ve done… I could keep a to-do list and just… erase things from them forever when they’re done? That doesn’t quite feel like enough. I wouldn’t be able to analyze my past performance. (Ugh, why do I want to be able to analyze my past performance? That feels like a self-sabotaging requirement in the midst of all this.)

I don’t know where I want to go from here. Maybe I just need to wing it and do whatever. That would probably be unrigorous enough to be maintainable… until I eventually get stir-crazy and want to track my stuff more thoroughly again, at least.