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How Logging Your Day Can Lead To Higher Effectiveness

How Logging Your Day Can Lead To Higher Effectiveness
    From http://www.flickr.com/photos/zak/

    I recently started a job as a Programmer Analyst for a large insurance company and spend most of my days fixing technical issues, programming, and creating solutions with other engineers. It’s an awesome job, yet at the same time can become extremely technical and complicated in nature. Not just because of the technical stuff that I need to remember how to do but because of the inherent business processes that I have to take in and learn on a daily basis.

    After doing a little research online I found that there is the idea of the “Programmer Log”, which is simply a time and dated log of things that you have done in the day, things that you have learned that are related to your job, and even problems to watch out for as you go through your work day. Also

    I started to log my days everyday at work and at home for the past month to see what this logging idea was all about. In this short period of time I have found just how much more effective you can become in work and life if you keep track of the things that you have done and encountered throughout your day.

    The Premise

    Starting to log your day is pretty simple stuff. You just write (or type) the date and time and explain what you have done or even something that you have learned.

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    For instance, I noticed that there was some small differences between a production server that I was working with compared to other development servers at work. I wrote down these differences in my log in detail and then got back to work. Doing this took a whole 20 seconds but what I gained in the long run was input to a document that I created for my entire team on subtleties between environments.

      Another example is logging when you start to work on a task or project and then logging when you stop work on those things. This builds a realistic view of how long something takes to accomplish that you can use to make adjustments as well as estimates on future tasks or projects.

      So, the act of logging is simple; pretty much everything you do write it down with the date and time. Of course, that in itself is the end. You have to use your logs to become more effective.

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      Using and reviewing your logs

      Having a log isn’t enough. You have to go through and review the stuff that you have written down to see if anything needs brought up at a meeting or with other people, a project needs created, another task needs done, or you just want to see how much time it takes to do something.

      In other words, if you are a GTDer, you are looking for potential “inbox items” that are hiding in your logs. Finding these can be a little difficult at first, but after a few days of reviewing your logs you can pull out meaningful content.

      Let’s take my above example about the differences between two servers. At the end of the workday I noticed those differences I pulled them out of my logs and added a project to my project list:

      “Create small document on differences between production and testing environments”

      I then identified some next actions and proceeded to add these actions to my context lists. Pretty standard GTD stuff here. But in reality, this process isn’t “standard” for most people, and because of that potentially meaningful and needed work is missed.

      Something else nice about logs is that if you are speaking to someone about a certain topic that you have been working with you can always go back and review what you have done (or even what you haven’t done) with this topic. Being able to present the things that you have done in a current team project or personal project, you can then see where to go next.

      Becoming more effective

      The definition of effective is:

      “Successful in producing a desired or intended result.”

      Keeping a detailed log helps you produce intended results in projects by tracking what you have done, the time that it took to do it, and anything that came up in the process. Being able to look at these logs when you approach a project gives you the data you need to make decisions on next actions as well as how long something will take.

      In personal projects it may not be as important to decide how long something will take to complete, but if you work for “the man” or even your own business, having realistic outlooks on the time a project will take to complete is invaluable and one of the only ways to produce the intended result.

      So, readers, I challenge you take a log of you day for an entire week to see the things that you may miss that are project or action related that you wouldn’t have tracked otherwise. For me, it was an eye-opening experience to track my work for the last month; something that I will continue to do because of the boost in my effectiveness. Give it a try and see how it fits.

      More by this author

      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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      Last Updated on September 18, 2019

      15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

      15 Best Organizing Tips For Office Organization and Getting More Done

      You may think that you don’t have time for office organization, but if you really knew how much time that disorganization cost you, you’d reconsider.

      Rearranging and moving piles occasionally doesn’t count. Neither does clearing off your desk, if you swipe the mess into a bin, or a desk drawer.

      A relatively neat and orderly office space clears the way for higher productivity and less wasted time.

      Organizing your office doesn’t have to take days, it can be done a little at a time. In fact, maintaining an organized office is much more effective if you treat it like an on-going project, instead of a massive assault.

      So, if you’re ready to get started, the following organizing tips will help you transform your office into an efficient workspace.

      1. Purge Your Office

      De-clutter, empty, shred, get rid of everything that you don’t need or want. Look around. What haven’t you used in a while?

      Take one area at a time. If it doesn’t work, send it out for repair or toss it. If you haven’t used it in months and can’t think of when you’ll actually need it, out it goes. This goes for furniture, equipment, supplies, etc.

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      Don’t forget about knick-knacks, plants (real or artificial), and decorations – if they’re covered with dust and make your office look shabby, they’re fair game.

      2. Gather and Redistribute

      Gather up every item that isn’t where it belongs and put it where it does.

      3. Establish Work “Zones”

      Decide what type of activity happens in each area of your office. You’ll probably have a main workspace (most likely your desk,) a reference area (filing cabinet, shelves, binders,) and a supply area (closet, shelves or drawers.)

      Place the appropriate equipment and supplies are located in the proper area as much as possible.

      4. Close Proximity

      Position the equipment and supplies that you use most within reach. Things that you rarely use can be stored or put away.

      5. Get a Good Labeler

      Choose a label maker that’s simple to use. Take the time to label shelves, bins, baskets drawers. Not only will it remind you where things go, but it will also help others who may have a need to find, use, or put away anything in your workspace.

      6. Revise Your Filing System

      As we move fully into the digital age, the need to store paper files has decreased.

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      What can your store digitally? Are you duplicating files? You may be able to eliminate some of the files and folders you’ve used in the past. If you’re storing files on your computer, make sure you are doing regular back-ups.

      Here’re some storage ideas for creating a smooth filing system:

      • Create a meeting folder – Put all “items to be discussed” in there along with items that need to be handed off, reports that need to be given, etc. It’ll help you be prepared for meetings and save you stress in the even that a meeting is moved up.
      • Create a WOR folder – So much of our messy papers are things that are on hold until someone else responds or acts. Corral them in a WOR (Waiting on Response) folder. Check it every few days for outstanding actions you may need to follow-up on.
      • Storage boxes – Use inexpensive storage boxes to keep archived files and get them out of your current file space.
      • Magazine boxes – Use magazine boxes or binders to store magazines and catalogs you really want to store. Please make sure you really need them for reference or research, otherwise recycle them, or give away.
      • Reading folder – Designate a file for print articles and documents you want to read that aren’t urgent.
      • Archive files – When a project is complete, put all of the materials together and file them away. Keep your “working folders” for projects in progress.
      • File weekly – Don’t let your filing pile up. Put your papers in a “To File” folder and file everything once a week.

      Learn more tips on organizing your files here: How to Organize Your Files for Better Productivity

      7. Clear off Your Desk

      Remove everything, clean it thoroughly and put back only those items that are essential for daily use.

      If you have difficulty declutter stuff, this Declutter Formula will help you throw away stuff without regretting later.

      8. Organize your Desktop

      Now that you’ve streamlined your desktop, it’s a good idea to organize it.

      Use desktop organizers or containers to organize the items on your desk. Use trays for papers, containers for smaller items.

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      Don’t forget your computer desktop! Make sure the files or images are all in organized folders. I’d recommend you clear your computer desktop everyday before you leave work.

      9. Organize Your Drawers

      Put items used together in the same drawer space, stamps with envelopes, sticky pads with notepads, etc.

      Use drawer organizers for little items – paper clips, tacks, etc. Use a separate drawer for personal items.

      10. Separate Inboxes

      If you work regularly with other people, create a folder, tray, or inbox for each.

      11. Clear Your Piles

      Hopefully with your new organized office, you won’t create piles of paper anymore, but you still have to sort through the old ones.

      Go through the pile (a little at a time if necessary) and put it in the appropriate place or dump it.

      12. Sort Mails

      Don’t just stick mail in a pile to be sorted or rifle through and take out the pieces you need right now. Sort it as soon as you get it – To act, To read, To file, To delegate or hand off. .

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      13. Assign Discard Dates

      You don’t need to keep every piece of paper indefinitely. Mark on files or documents when they can be tossed or shredded.

      Some legal or financial documents must be kept for specified length of time. Make sure you know what those requirements are.

      14. Filter Your Emails

      Some emails are important to read, others are just not that important.

      When you use the filter system to label different types of emails, you know their priority and which to reply first.

      Take a look at these tips to achieve inbox zero: The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

      15. Straighten Your Desk

      At the end of the day, do a quick straighten, so you have a clean start the next day.

      Bottom Line

      Use one tip or try them all. The amount of effort you put into creating and maintaining an efficient work area will pay off in a big way.

      Instead of spending time looking for things and shuffling piles, you’ll be able to spend your time…well…working and you’ll enjoy being clutter free!

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      Featured photo credit: Alesia Kazantceva via unsplash.com

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