My Love Affair With Checkboxes

I work in a very non-physical world. Digital files, links and layer styles. It’s difficult to walk away from my desk at the end of the day and feel like I’ve accomplished something “real”.

Not all professions are like this, though. A contractor can step back at the end of the day and see the sheetrock hung on the studs or the paint on the trim and know they accomplished something. There’s a visual reference for their effort.

I’ve spent years hacking my habits to allow me a bit of that same visual reference. When I plan out my day (something I do the night before), I put a large checkbox beside each task on my schedule. I don’t have to — my page is blank until I write in the timeline for my day — but I always do this. I write out the time, then the name of the task to do at that time, and then I draw in a large checkbox. I even shade the right side and bottom to help it stand out.

I draw checkboxes because they are something visual I can fill in later. When I look at my list at the end of the day and find 50% of the boxes are unchecked, I know I could have tried harder. When all of the boxes are filled in, I feel good. I set a goal, worked toward it, and accomplished everything I expected[1].

The visual signs of my accomplishments motivate me. They propel me into the next day and the rest of the week. They fuel my confidence that, yes, I can get this stuff done.


  1. I might be giving away too much information by telling you this, but if I happen to do something that isn’t on my list, I have been known to write it down after the fact, draw the checkbox just as meticulously as before, and then check it off with a satisfied smile.