For Higher Productivity, Call Your Shots

There is a famous 1932 World Series game that legendary baseball player Babe Ruth played in. In the game, he may or may not have pointed to the bleachers before hitting a critical home run, which intrigues fans to this day. There’s something compelling about the idea of calling your shot, or saying what you are going to do and then doing it.

Picture of Babe Ruth

Calling your shots

My productivity advice is to call your shots every day you sit down to work.

At the beginning of each day, publicly state what you’re going to accomplish, and then update the list throughout the day. Make a list of the three or so most important things you are going to accomplish. If they aren’t important, why are you doing them? Ideally, you can tie these back to company or team objectives.

Here’s an example of what I might set out to do during a day. I usually post this to Slack in an appropriate channel, but you can use the best communication method for your team:


[√] Fix forward-progress onboarding issue when there is a 500
[√] Sign up for Salesforce backups { OKR: Salesforce }
[√] Work with KP to test out a Salesforce email sending to Mandrill test environment

Blockers: need help figuring out why the PDFs are not generating and updated TOS/ROI at on some Salesforce accounts.

Headed to the Indy Vim meetup tonight, where I’ll be presenting on “using text objects and surround.vim effectively”.

I try to update the task list throughout the day for:

  • new work that I didn’t expect to take on
  • things that I decided were not as important as I thought they were
  • tasks other team members took on

When you get to the end of the day, I reflect on why I did or did not hit the goals that I set. If I hit my goals, I usually feel pretty satisfied with the effort that I put in. I’ll evaluate if I set the bar too low, and adjust accordingly the next day.

There could be many reasons that I miss goals. Maybe I was busy with other things. Maybe the tasks were harder than expected. It could be that the tasks were too easy, and were not enough of a challenge. I could have been prone to distractions. The tasks could have been poorly defined. I could have gotten too focused on one of the tasks and neglected the others. Whatever the issue, I try to address the root cause so it doesn’t hinder me again.

Throughout the day and at the end of the day, I update what I have done. I try to mark when tasks are related to a company or team objective (OKR) so that it’s more clear what it relates to or what the value is.

Why is this useful?

For me, the largest benefit is accountability. Did I set out to do meaningful tasks, and did I do them?

I find that the days where I am fuzzy on what I am going to do are the least productive. I can mentally justify any level of achievement when I haven’t written down what I want to do before the day begins. The day fritters away, and while I like to say that it was unavoidable, it was likely under my control. Most people are not going to call you out when you’ve had an off day, so it is your responsibility to try to communicate expectations to hold yourself accountable.

Focusing on just a handful of things greatly improves my concentration. When everything is a priority, nothing is. By creating a short list at the beginning of the day and trying to get those things done first, I reduce the amount of time wasted figuring out what to work on next.

Another benefit of this approach is broadcasting to your team what you are planning on doing. There will be less stepping on toes. You might get input from a team member before you work on it that there is some prior work or thinking on this tasks, or that they have shifted in priority.

If the whole team does this at the beginning of their days, your team can have asynchronous and remote standups instead of needing to be in the same room at the same time. It fosters a greater sense of accountability and understanding what everyone is working on.

Selfishly, calling your shots and hitting them is a great way to build your reputation as someone who gets meaningful things done on a regular cadence. People will trust that you will do what you say you will do. Sometimes it is difficult to understand what the people you work with are doing. By broadcasting what you are getting done, you make it easier for others to understand and give you credit for the things that you do.

Meetings are not accomplishments

Meetings are not accomplishments, but they might affect how many things I accomplish. I don’t list them on my daily update, but I take them into account when forecasting for the day. At this point in my career at least, I’d rather focus on output over sitting in a room. There are often more productive ways to make decisions than having meetings. (Thanks to Jim Brown for hammering on this idea when we worked together at Haven.)


It takes time to consider what you will realistically get done each day and communicate it to your team. You may decide do this planning the night before instead of first thing in the morning to save time. I find that this helps me get excited about the tasks that I set out to achieve, to think about them while heading into work, and that I more often hit the ground running when I start.

If you haven’t done this much or are early in your career, you might not be calibrated. Keep practicing and I can assure you that you will get better at it. You might choose to do this in private for a little while, but I recommend posting it after the first few times to try to get more accountability. Your estimates will improve when you write them down to “commit” to them.

While you might miss your targets a little, by continuing to strive to plan and accomplish a few key items per day, you will have far greater total output. Instead of having monthly or weekly feedback loops, we shorten it to a day.

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