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OT : Logging your work

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  • OT : Logging your work


    I work in IT and mostly write reports for long-term projects.

    I've seen a few consultants in the office that keep a "work log". They basically use a notebook with lined sheets and write down bits & pieces of information that they accumulate or generate throughout the work day.

    I assume this is important in the consulting business where you must bill by the hour, but is it important and useful in the corporate life in general?

    Making a work log sounds like a decent way to bring my expensive leather 3-ring binder to a useful state (after switching to the Hipster PDA!).

    Do YOU keep a work log? Or a life log? How do you manage it and store it?



  • #2
    Moving to a planner myself...

    Originally posted by Bebert
    Do YOU keep a work log? Or a life log? How do you manage it and store it?
    I do web development, so my job resembles IT in some ways.

    After 8-9 months of keeping a lightweight GTD system (a pocket Moleskine and a single Word document), I am currently in the process of moving to a larger (5.5 x 8.5 inch) planner. One of my main reasons for this is to keep more notes about my day.

    With the Moleskine as a capture tool, I tended to write down only what I knew I needed to capture. Other observations didn't make it onto paper, and sometimes those observations can be useful later.

    Also, my lightweight system kept no record of what I had done or when I had done it -- my Word document of next actions was, by definition, things not yet done. Not having any lasting record of what I had accomplished left me feeling as if I was always working uphill against my whole list. It's nice to be able to look back and see the completions sometimes.

    I'm using pages from the D*I*Y Planner, available at -- and I've got them in a leather binder left over from one of my forays into Franklin Planner-land.

    I haven't gotten to the point where I've needed to build an archive, but I expect that I'll be looking for an ordinary 5.5x8.5 3-ring binder sometime, so I can at least keep some sort of temporary archive before I toss things out.

    I've kept years of completed day planner pages before, and I find I don't refer to them. Your usage may be different -- keep things for a while and see if a long archive period is useful to you.


    • #3
      could be useful for performance reviews

      One way you might consider is to jot down a few words any event, action, milestone or results that you make happen.

      If you work on big projects, it is possible that many of your actions will seem too "small" or insignificant to write down--as David points out, we can't *do* a project, we can only do Next Actions. So the fact that you placed a telephone call to someone to talk about X may not seem that significant or "impressive", say, for a performance review, at least not when taken on its own.

      But if you jot down the basics of what you do each day, more in the context of what progress was made on things that you are responsible for, that might be more helpful. Taht way, you could show how all those little action steps produced some desired results, it could be a very useful tool in your salary negotiating arsenal.

      Just my musings on this!




      • #4
        YeahWrite as a logging tool

        I have kept a running log of work done for several years now using YeahWrite (, which includes a journal feature which is adequate for my needs. A day might be:

        Date: 2005-07-31
        Place or subject: Month end
        1600 in, start
        —Month end: smoothest, quickest month end to date. I mostly took care of minor issues, server room....
        1736 end day, hours —> 1.6, week —> 43.6 (so far), support calls —> 0 calls, 0 hours

        The "Text" area is as advertised, an entirely free text area that I populate with templates stored elsewhere in YeahWrite, for example:

        0830 in, start
        1200 lunch
        1300 end lunch (-1)
        1800 end day, hours —> 8, support calls —> 0 calls, 0 hours

        which I then modify and populate throughout the day.

        The nice thing about this is that the product has a decent trial period, and that if you don't need all the features, you can use it for free. I decided after only a few days that I wanted to buy it.

        --Phil Hair


        • #5
          I use Natara DayNotez software to keep a log of my actions throughout the day. All of my next actions are on my Palm device, using LifeBalance, which will automatically send tasks to DayNotez upon their completion. DayNotez syncs with windows, where I can review/annote/print my completed tasks (and what time I completed them).


          • #6
            I work as an engineer and am often in problem-solving or troubleshooting activities. In trouble-shooting, it is crucial to have good observations that can be analyzed. In our work, we cannot always tell as it is happening which observations will be important and which are trivial, so I always encourage less experienced people to write down as much as practical. I have witnesses quite a few "Ah ha!" moments when an engineer is reading over his notes and finds a significant trend or key piece of information.

            I keep a daily log in which I record significant (in my opinion) events and decisions and phone calls. I never really understood why David Allen would be against phone logs, but I find them done my way to be mission critical.

            It is interesting to note that many time-management courses start by having you keep a log of all your activities every fifteen minutes. This is overkill for me, but I do like to look back over recent weeks or months and know what I spent my time on.

            I don't keep a log like "9:12a - 10:27a worked on Acme project" but can tell what I did by looking at my logged events and phone calls. For example, I might have "9:10a called Jones at Acme, ship date is OK, paint color must be changed to RAL 9001, need to ask Joe if this is OK, next phone call will be 8/18 at 2p" At the end of each day, I re-read my notes and will mark an estimate of the time spent on each set of issues. For example, I'd mark a 1-1/2 in the right margin next to the above phone call entry, telling me I spent 1-1/2 hours on that topic.

            Note, that in real life, I abbreviate heavily, put symbols next to next actions, underline and circle, etc., none of which I can type here but all of which helps me get it done.


            • #7
              I find logs very useful when building reports, and telling folks at work about recent events. "Oh, yeah, we rebuilt that load on...(checks)...Tuesday."


              • #8
                Re: Logging Your Work

                I may not have a work schedule that is as complicated as some of you, but I simply use my Palm and, as the day goes on, make appointments in the calendar that show what I did. When I look at the calendar, I know that anything in the future is scheduled and anything in the past is a record of what was done during that time span. It also makes it easy to find something when you do a search.

                If you also use Agendus, it has a feature that allows you to log appointments to an individual in your contacts list. Calling up the log for that individual, then, brings up all past activities from the calendar that are related to the contact as well as a running total of the total amount of time the activities add up to.


                • #9
                  Time and action logs

                  It might help to think of a log as a project or group of sub-projects. As such, you should define the desired outcome(s) and make sure that your method matches the outcome. For the trouble shooters above, logging observations seems a means of creating a data base for solving/defining certain problems.

                  For many situations that I encounter, I would like top have an easily searchable logging system (maybe by key word) so that I could gather all observations pertaining to a certain place, time, person, action, or whatever.

                  I would also like to have a system for logging that has built in reminders, so that as I log in my food intake I would get a remidner to eat a sald at the next meal, for example. Or, say I drive to see a customer in Powersville, I could pull up any note about the place, the costomer or the route that I had made previously.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Bebert
                    Do YOU keep a work log? Or a life log? How do you manage it and store it?
                    I also use Natara DayNotez which logs all the tasks I check off in Life Balance.
                    It has been incredibly useful having this searchable information. I can think of 4 useful ways of using it off the top of my head:

                    1) For following up when I haven't received the response I should from one of my actions. For example, I needed an important form from Accounting. Their website said to mail a written, signed request. I did so, checked that action off my ToDo list in Life Balance which then got logged to DayNotez. When the next action for that project showed up in my @WaitingFor list, I realized I had not received the form. I quickly searched for the previous action in DayNotez, called up Accounting, and said "I mailed a form on September 19th requesting XYZ. . ." It was amazing how effective it was to tell them that date. I got my form from them that day. I'm quite sure that if I had just told them I mailed the form, I would have had to wait another week or two.

                    2) For logging some of the stuff I do at work. For example, I do quite a bit of programming for data analysis. I'm not good at remembering what I did when programming, so I have gotten in the habit of logging relevant information as I work.

                    3) In just a couple seconds, I can search and find the last time I did a given action, such as feed my roses time-release fertilizer, change my vacuum cleaner's HEPA filter, etc.

                    4) The information in #3 is also useful for resolving arguments with my spouse. Enough said!


                    • #11

                      Looking at the DayNotez website, the app looks like a template-driven word processor. Has anyone on this thread posted their templates to a webpage or blog?


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jdstanton
                        Looking at the DayNotez website, the app looks like a template-driven word processor. Has anyone on this thread posted their templates to a webpage or blog?
                        Hmm, it looks more like a simple database to me.

                        I don't think my template would be useful because I don't use this app directly or heavily. I just quickly search its database when I need to. Everything in the database is a task that was originally created and checked off in Life Balance.