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A Weekly Status Report: Just Do It!

To be successful you must be visible, and that means people in your orbits know what you’re working on. In particular, what does your boss think you’re working on? Control the message. Status reports are the way to do it.

Stylized bullet points

If you have a job, then I highly recommend delivering a status report at the end of every week. Friday afternoon is good. Saturday morning works.

Not a full ‘status report’ per se — with twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles, and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one1 — but a brief email with three bullets outlining your recent accomplishments and three bullets previewing of what you will be working on next week.

Here’s the logic: If you work for anyone but yourself, then you have a boss. And if you have a boss, then on a regular basis, people will ask that boss, “What is <Your Name Here> working on?” In fact, your boss will occasionally ponder this question themself even without being asked. Do not leave your boss’ answer to chance.

Instead, plant the seeds for what is top-of-mind for your boss. By delivering an easy-to-remember, one-email-screen, end-of-the-week, status report, your boss won’t ever have a moment when they realize that they don’t know what you are working on. They will never have to stumble or make up an answer when someone asks about you. Instead, they’ll think back to your recent status reports and recite some of your bullets. Control the message.

Avoid the temptation to provide a lot of detail — your boss can circle back later if they need more information. This is a tl;dr, talking points memo. Save the manifesto for a different context — or a different audience. And it’s not a bad idea to distribute your little ‘status report’ to anyone you consider a stakeholder, including anyone who might have an interest in your work and your career.

Originally published August 25, 2014. Revised, renamed, and updated July 18, 2019.

1Lyrics from Alice’s Restaurant Massacre by Arlo Guthrie

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