I cannot stress enough how important keeping a detailed log of your work activities is. If there is just ONE thing you take from this site, let it be KEEP A WORK LOG. Some people call this a work diary, other call is a work journal. Whatever you call it, start keeping one right now.
Because if you don’t, it will be impossible for you to recall the specifics of tasks you performed, people you spoke to, and other decisions you made today a month from now. Or a year from now. Or even tomorrow. And if that isn’t enough of a motivator, it will make your life tremendously less stressful starting right now.
If you keep an accurate, reliable, and consistent daily journal, you can get all the stuff off your mind and start using your brain for more important stuff, like being creative at work and solving problems. And, you won’t have anymore awkward meetings in the hallway where you have to admit you completely forgot you said you’d do ‘that’ and will get to ‘it’ right away (you know you’ve been there…). (And even better, your colleagues won’t get called to do something for a client or customer or MANAGER that you were supposed to do, or said you’d do, and didn’t. Talk about a reputation killer!) Once you have a system in place you trust, you will be less stressed about what you have to remember, because you have it all in one place and won’t get forgotten (See Tip 2 – Planning Your Day on how this comes together)
There isn’t a right or wrong way to log, as long as you trust your system, and use it consistently. For some, this will be a simple notepad they keep in their pocket, others will have an electronic system. Just find and use what works for you personally.
My preferred method for logging my work day starts on my Blackberry. Since I have a company issued device, I always have it with me, and the Memo pad syncs immediately with Outlook, so I have my daily notes at my desk as well. Over the years, I have ‘tweaked’ my system to provide me more information about my work habits, but at the heart of the log is the actual event. I have hundreds of auto-text shortcuts set up so I easily log an event in seconds with a few keystrokes. I have one text note for every day I’m working, with one line entered for every single thing I do. I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s a system that works for me. Here’s an example from one of my daily logs:
– met with jsmith re drilling reports #Meeting #45 #In Person #99999
– jdoe unable to log in to accounting. password reset #App #15 #Phone #98765
– bjones error loading intranet. Using wrong browser. #App #30 #Remote Session #98789
My personal system allows me to track HOW I handled an event (In person, on the phone, etc), HOW LONG I spent on that event, as well as ties my company incident tracking system in with my notes since I reference the associated incident number. I can then dump this into Excel, and run all kinds of cool reports for myself, and my manager, on how I spent my time and what services I provide my company, beyond the simple metrics pulled from our call management system. AND I can use these notes to make the information I put into the incident more complete and accurate since 90% of the work I do is not done at my desk, but in a remote field location, making it impossible to update incident right away. But I CAN update my daily work journal immediately. And by using auto-text, I can make an entry even faster – like having #p set up to expand to #Phone, and tno set to expand to the entire entry I make for weekly status meetings with clients.