Here is my most effective and practical way to keep a work journal/log so far:
- Try to keep each entry to one line
- Use a tag in the beginning of each line to indicate the type of log entry
- Example: TODO, DECISION, IDEA
- Tags should be a visual cue so that it is easy to find a log entry
- Tags should occupy a small space
- All tags should be about the same size
- Use color coding but keep the number of colors small
- Only use colors that are readily avilable in the office: red, blue, and black
- There should be a small number of tags
- Small means you can keep them all in your head. Overtime if you can easily keep 50 tags in your head, then 50 is considered small. If you can only keep 3 tags in your head, then 5 is too many.
- Tags should have clear meaning
- Rule #4 takes precedent over Rule #5
- Example: Think inheritance: Use the TODO tag for most tasks, but having an REVIEW tag specifically for code review tasks might prove useful.
- Log entry can have an OPEN/CLOSE state
- Example: a TODO item is OPEN when created, CLOSED when done
- Example: a DECISION item might be OPEN when the team agreed on something during a meeting, CLOSED when the decision has been formally recorded / communicated / executed … whatever suits your needs
- Example: an INVESTIGATE item is OPEN when the question is stated, CLOSED when an answer is found
Here is what I actually do:
- Use LOG tag to log what I have done
-LOG talked to Bob about his designs
-LOG emailed Cal about project status
-LOG interviewed John Smith for C++ position
-LOG prepared slides for Thursday meeting
- Use single Chinese character as tag to keep the size the same (I tried to draw logs, but quickly found out I am very bad at it. Well I know hanzi, which are logograms)
-決 for decisions that I have made (決定) – I red box this if it needs to be written down formally, and cross it out when it has been done
-学 for new learning (simplified character for 學)
- Use abbreviations or symbols
-INV for investigation – I red box this, and cross it out when I have found an answer. I usually write down the answer next to the entry
-Question mark ? as a to-do item to ask someone to make a decision – I red box this, and cross it out when done
- Scan for other TODOs if I need to procasnate
- Scan through the log at the end of the day
- Review 決 tags to review decisions that were made.
- Review 学 tags about new learning
Why do I do this?
For time longer that I would like, I feel that my time is gone without really knowing what I have done. I know I am constantly distracted: code reviews, bounce ideas, meetings, interviews. My boss suggested that I should try to log time in my notebook. I don’t like logging time, but I like the idea of logging what I did. Then I read about using colors. Then I read about using states. Then I thought of using tags. Then I tried it.
And I actually only used this for a week, but I found this method so awesome I decided to write about it.