Years ago, I was stuggling to meet all of the committments I had made. When discussing this with my manager, he suggested keeping a log of what I did each day for a couple of weeks to identify items that I could eliminate or postpone (or now that I manage others – delegate). The exercise was useful and got me through the commitments. I then promptly forgot about it. Some time later, I was in a similar situation and started to keep the log. This time, I made it into a habit. Since then, I have kept a simple work log at my last 3 companies.

It is a simple format:

Date      * Description of what I did
Date      * Description of what I did
Date      * Description of what I did

No more than a line for each item. (The details can always be found in my engineering notebooks, wiki entries, source code control comments, bug reports, etc.) At the end of each week, I archive that week’s log and start a new one. I review the prior weeks log when I file my weekly status report. At longer intervals, I will review larger blocks of time.

The work log has helped me numerous times. It is especially useful when I need to answer questions like “when did we do A, B and C?”

I am currently in the process of moving out of my current position. One of the first things I did was review my work logs for the last 12 months and identify

  • What types of items should my replacement do?
  • What should be delegated to existing team members?
  • What items do I need to discuss with my boss about who should take on these duties?
  • Without these logs, I am sure I would let something slip through the cracks. This is definitely a habit that has been useful and that I will continue.