Why you need to keep a reminder binder (or a smile file)

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering if the work you do is any good, if your coworkers appreciate you, if anyone even recognizes the time and effort you put in to projects, or anything along those lines, this tip is for you.

How to make a reminder binder

The simple key is: take screenshots of nice things people say to you—or about you—in emails, messages, and comments in docs.

Keep all these screenshots in a folder and browse the file whenever you need a reminder that you do matter, that you do good work, and that people do value you and your contributions.

The old-school way

I started doing a version of this when I was freelance writing and editing. As many freelancers know, sometimes you need to hustle for the next gig. The market fluctuates, the needs are never steady, and the roller coaster effect can make you woozy, with a distorted sense of your value and effort.

Back then, I created a print version in a literal binder. I printed up emails and messages in which someone told me how much they appreciated my work, or even a simple “thank you.”

I three-hole-punched these papers into a three-ring binder, and flipped through it like a magazine whenever the gig hustle got me down and I needed a reminder that it wouldn’t always be that way.

That’s when I first started calling it a “reminder binder.”

The cloud storage way

Of course, most if not all of us have some sort of cloud storage on our devices, which can make the process a little easier, if somewhat less creative. Just create a separate folder to store all your screenshots:

  • Nice work on Project Mars!
  • Thanks so much for your help with that last copyedit.
  • Hey, it was fun to have lunch together last week—want to do it again next week?

Like a “reminder binder,” I’ve heard some people call this folder a “smile file,” or a “nice things folder.”

Be sure to give it a title that’s easy to recall, so you actually remember to be reminded when you need it.

An extra benefit: your annual performance review

Some people also keep a running doc of things they’ve accomplished throughout the year, which is a helpful side project to a reminder binder.

One way you can put your reminder binder to good use is during your annual or half-yearly performance reviews.

Performance reviews can be daunting—even the name is scary. (Side note: we should really be calling them something else, like We’re All in This Together Reviews or Even Execs Have Growth Areas Reviews.)

If your review cycle includes self-reviews, having an easy, go-to resource of kind things people have said to or about you can be a healthy way to jump-start your self-evaluation.

If your reviews include 360 feedback, take a look through your reminder binder to see if anyone in the file might be willing to write a short note to your manager.

You are more than your job

A final note is that while a reminder binder can be helpful in many stages of your day-to-day life or your career, you’re more than a file of “thank you” notes stored in the cloud.

Your worth is inherent and if you’re finding yourself increasingly tying your identity, value, and entire meaning in life to performing for another person’s gain, consider whether that approach is helping or hurting your everyday life. It might be time for a break, so be sure to take whatever steps you need to remember that, reminder binder or not, you are important.

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