Jorge Manrubia

April 23, 2022

What did you work on today?

Everyone at Basecamp answers this question at least twice per week: "what did you work on today?". We use Basecamp check-ins, of course. It's a simple practice with profound implications and something I would recommend to any company working remotely.

These answers are in written form, and anyone in the company can see them and make comments. You decide when to answer this question, the level of detail, style, and frequency. Think of the "daily stand-up meetings" that Scrum popularized, with their benefits amplified and without their problems. They aren't disruptive: nobody is forced to attend a meeting at a particular time regularly. And they radiate information in all directions, not only for the members of a certain team.

Radiating information in an organization is essential, vertically and horizontally. This question is an opportunity to communicate how you spend your time and how your projects are going. Also, to share the things you learn and the problems you find. All this is valuable for both people making decisions above you and for your peers: it offers an opportunity to help and be helped and, ultimately, keeps everyone aware of in which directions the company is moving.

Regarding the style, I recommend not making them too aseptic. I learned this from my colleague Rosa, who writes the best check-ins. Any task manager can list the things you got done; the value resides precisely in what's missing in such report: the context behind decisions, the struggles, the things you are proud of, the hard-learned lessons, the distracted days where you don't get anything done, the screwups, the successes, the gratitude to those that help you, etc. The human ingredient is the secret sauce here.

My previous employer used this same check-in too, so I have been answering this question for many years now. I've gone through different stages. I used to consider it some necessary bureaucracy, and I often felt that spending much time on it was a bit wasteful. Today, I believe writing proper check-ins is an important part of my work, and I make sure I dedicate them proper attention twice per week, which is the frequency that works better for me. The difference is that years of seeing them in practice have made me interiorize how valuable they are.


About Jorge Manrubia

A programmer who writes about software development and many other topics. I work at 37signals.