Last Updated: 23 September, 2020
Over a year ago I asked for advice on how to keep a daily log and I used a lot of the suggestions when I started my own log. I kept my log from August to October 2008, a few days before I left work on maternity leave. I also started a log at home while I was on maternity leave (yes, it seems particularly odd to me that I did this with a new baby as well).
Before returning to work in November 2009 I reviewed my previous logs to see what worked and what didn’t and thought I’d share my thoughts.
I have found keeping a daily log at work worthwhile because so many of my thoughts are captured and can be reviewed later. Obviously after having a year off work my mind hasn’t retained all the details of my job and I’ve been able to refer back to my log to help me out e.g. finding the name of a file I couldn’t locate on the server. However, my system was too complicated and as I wanted it to be ‘perfect’ it was difficult to keep up to date. To help improve my system I did a lot of reading and I’ve included links at the end of this post to the sources I found helpful.
Starting each day
In my old log I would write down my location, any appointments, the tasks I wanted to complete that day and the state of my inbox. My theory behind including the tasks was to record how many I completed and how many days the tasks hung around; the tasks were generated from my organisation system at the time and took a fair time to set up.
I am no longer using that organisation system, instead I am using a variation of AutoFocus which enables me to get started quicker in the morning. The record of my emails was for two reasons, to record my progress to 0 emails in my inbox and to track my mailbox size as I was always running close to the 100Mb limit so kept a record as a motivation to reduce the size. However our IT systems have been upgraded and there is now no limit on mailbox size so is no longer relevant to track.
With my new log, the only thing I do at the start of the day is write the date and my location – much quicker.
Recording items through day
I used to try and record everything which was difficult when lots of things happened at the same time. Now I aim to record the items that I may want to refer to in the future (as input in to future discussions or to cover my self 🙂 ). I sometimes make notes that I’ve sent an email and a brief summary of the contents, but only if it is important. I make notes from telephone calls and discussions, and if they are a bit hurried and unclear I include additional notes when I review the pages at the end of the day. I also now staple in any paper used in a meeting instead of recreating the idea of it; yes it makes my book flare out, but it makes my written notes more meaningful. I also do rough workings and thinking in my notebook so I have a record of how I got somewhere.
At end of day
At the end of the day I used to review my mailbox size and number of emails in my inbox again so I could see progress during the day. However, it is now a fairly pointless measureÂ so I’ve stopped.
Now, I review my notes from the day and write topics and actions in the margin. At the end of the notes for that day I draw a double red line and list the actions with another line underneath (this is similar to Cornell method of notetaking, except that my summary is at the end of the day instead of at the bottom of each page). The line show me very quickly that I’ve reviewed the day for actions and they are all listed.
I have to admit though, that sometimes I just want to leave at the end of the day so end up doing this review the following morning.
I have found this Cornell style approach very successful so far, as it is easier to find things at a later date as the headers and actions stand out by being in the margin and therefore encourages me to do a review of my notes every day and helps ensure I don’t miss any tasks. Plus it is very easy to transfer any actions I didn’t add into my task list at the time as they are all visible at the end of the day.
My method of taking notes is now the best it has been in the 8 years I’ve worked, however I know there are still improvements that can be made. For instance, I would like an index to help find information at a later date. In two of my notebooks I’ve started numbering the pages and started using the topics in the sidebar in an index, but I’m not keeping it up to date. I know this should be part of my daily review of notes, but somehow it hasn’t made it in yet.
I also want to introduce a later review when I may generate different thoughts and to ensure I’ve picked up all the tasks. My thinking is this should be part of my weekly review, but I’m not very good at doing those!
As you can see I’ve come a long way into developing my daily log into a useful tool, but I’ve no doubt that my style will continue to change with time. How do you use your daily log? What works for you and what would you like to improve?