Why you Should Keep a Brag Document

The end of the year is a natural time for self reflection. It’s an opportunity to take stock and consider the accomplishments you made over the past 12 months. The big things are usually obvious. You made these hires, you worked on these projects, you shipped these features and, if you're lucky, have some positive stats to show for the work.  However the details are always a little bit fuzzy. 

“I remember the past few months pretty well, but the start of the year is a bit of a blur. I remember getting some good feedback from my team about the work I did on that particular project, but I didn’t jot down exactly what was said. I remember having that really important meeting which I spent ages preparing for. I recall it going really well, and feeling really positive about the outcome, but honestly can’t remember the details? Oh, and there was that big confrontation with marketing about that feature we thought was a dark pattern. How did that play out again? 

Now that I think about it, I’m really struggling to remember what impact I’ve made over the past 12 months. I feel like it’s been a good year, but I don’t have that much I can actually point to. Uh oh. The imposter syndrome is starting to kick in. Maybe I haven’t achieved that much after all? My performance review is coming up soon. What am I going to say? I wish I’d taken better notes at the time”.

Taking Better Notes

This is an all too common experience. While the big wins are obvious, we take the small wins for granted, and they quickly drift from our mind. As such we can often find ourselves looking back at the year wondering what we’ve actually accomplished, or struggling to justify what we’ve been doing with our time (and why we deserve that promotion) in our yearly review. This is where the idea of a “brag document” comes in.

Brag documents are essentially a running list of all your achievements throughout the year, both big and small. Had a great meeting? Put it in your brag document. Helped out a colleague? Put it in your brag document. Delivered a project you’re especially proud of? Maybe it solved a specific problem or hit some important KPIs? Put it in your brag document.

A Simple Process

These documents don’t need to be anything complicated, so pick a process or platform that works best for you. For some people it might be a physical notebook. For others it could be a Google Doc, spreadsheet or Evernote file. I generally think it’s a good idea to jot down the details as soon as they come to mind, so the simpler the process the better. However we’re all busy people so it might also make sense to set a little reminder at the end of the day (or week), to go back and fill anything relevant in. Like most things, if you can turn it into a “behaviour” (B=MAP) it becomes a relatively trivial task.

As for the listings themselves, all you really need is a date, a brief title and a short description of what you did, why you think it’s important and what effect you had. Reviewing the document every few months can help reinforce the progress you're making, while going through it in more detail with your manager can help shine a light on things they might not be aware of. This is especially helpful when it comes to annual review time and you're able to demonstrate in detail the value you've been able to add to the team.

So that’s it really. Brag documents are a really simple way of tracking progress and sharing it with others. What are you waiting for!