Writing a good status update

We share written status updates within the team on a weekly basis (every Monday). I wrote this article to explain what these status updates should look like, and I think it's useful enough to publish publicly. Here goes:

What is the purpose of status updates?

  • Let your manager know what you have achieved last week.
  • Let your co-workers know what you have achieved this week.
  • Reflect on your progress and pace yourself.

Properties of good status updates

  • Short and meaningful. (5 min reading time)
  • Communicate work in the previous week, highlight progress.
  • Communicate plan for the next week, help make yourself efficient.
  • Communicate open questions and blockers, highlight areas where we need to help you.

Writing the status update

Write the status update either as the last thing on Friday or as the first thing on Monday. Remember to review the status you had posted previously, so that you don't miss out on any updates. If you choose to write on Friday end-of-day, this can also be a great wind-down / logging-off ritual to wrap up the week and give yourself a sense of accomplishment.

Create sections for your updates

  • Use the following sections:
    • What I accomplished this last week
    • What didn't go according to plan
    • What I plan to do next week
    • Questions / Blockers / Action Items
  • This makes it easy to parse your update.

Name the project you are currently working on

  • Yes, your manager is supposed to know what you are working on. But you often do unplanned, extra tasks too. You help on other projects, handle production issues, discover interesting tidbits, get insights from analyzing logs. Highlight all of these activities!.
  • Help your manager by making it easy for them to compile project reports.
  • This makes your update very readable.

Name the milestone of the project you are currently working on.

  • Helps when the team needs to take a call about cutting or increasing scope on a project.
  • Highlights and reinforces upcoming co-ordination points.

Your status update should definitively answer the following questions:

  • What are you working on?
  • For each project that you are working on, where are you? What is the next date that you are committing to?
  • Are you on track for the current phase of the project or not? If not, what is the impact on the overall project?

Example status update

What I accomplished this last week:

  • Completed final PRD review for Project X, no open questions at this point! :yay:. Project is on track!
  • Pushed a fix to ABC Service to production and closed Jira Ticket Z. Graphs show amazing reduction in network bandwidth! :epicwin: link to graph or screenshot.
  • Conducted the Enterprise initiative meeting, meeting notes are here: link to meeting notes.

What didn't go according to plan:

  • Working on dev of Project Y. Project is not on track :sadface:. We had communicated that dev will be complete by <2019-08-02 Fri> but I will need 3 more days. This pushes the new date to <2019-08-07 Wed> EOD.

What I plan to do next week:

  • I will have the initial estimates for Project X by EOD <2019-08-08 Thu>.
  • I will complete the Dev work on Project Y as mentioned above. <2019-08-07 Wed> EOD
  • I will create a document about DEF Topic as we had discussed by EOD <2019-08-09 Fri>.

Questions / Blockers / Action Items:

  • We need to sync up about ideas for implementing Project X before tomorrow EOD, but you don't have an empty meeting slot until day-after. What should we do?
  • I will inform Frontend team-member that Project Y integration testing cannot start tomorrow, instead it will start on <2019-08-08 Thu>.

What do you get from writing a good update?

  • A record of work for yourself. This is invaluable come performance review time. You only have to read through 26 updates and you have a thorough summary.
  • Help your manager advocate for you during appraisals. You should care about your career more than anyone else.
  • Help yourself. Writing the update should give you a clear idea of your own progress and what you need to work on.

Published On: Tue, 06 Aug 2019. Last Updated On: Wed, 14 Aug 2019.