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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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      Published on August 4, 2020

      How Smart Goal Setting Helps You Make Lasting Changes

      How Smart Goal Setting Helps You Make Lasting Changes

      SMART goal setting is one of the most valuable methods used by high achievers today to actualize their life goals time after time. SMART goal setting is the inverse of random or carefree goal setting without strategy.

      Perhaps, you’ve always wished to get back in shape, get an annuity, or take control of your finances, but you failed to act. When you approach your goals with a care-free and nonchalant attitude, you’re less likely to achieve them.

      You should have a strategic goal setting method in place, and learning how to set smart goals is imperative in this case. The method is time-tested and purposeful, meaning it can help you achieve your goals now.

      To achieve your goals consistently and join the pack of high achievers out there who have consistently achieved many of their goals, you must be prepared to do what these people have been doing, and be ready to do the right thing: SMART goal setting.

      What Is the SMART Model for Setting Goals?

      SMART goal setting is a goal-setting method that considers certain factors about a goal relative to the person setting it. These factors are simply the five different letters in the SMART acronym for goal setting.

      It is relative to the person setting the goal because what is true for A may not be true for B; or what is possible for A or within A’s ability to achieve may not be possible for B or within B’s ability to achieve.

      What does the goal setting acronym SMART stand for?

      • S—Specific
      • M—Measurable
      • A—Achievable
      • R—Realistic/Relevant
      • T—Time-bound

      Is it possible that this acronym can make a long lasting impact in your life?

      Is it possible that a mere goal setting metric like SMART can help you achieve so many of your unfulfilled goals?

      Is it possible that if you practice SMART goal setting, you will be able to have faster results, understand your goals better, overcome the habit of procrastination, and achieve a lot?

      The power to achieve your goals is in your hands.

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      It is important to extend the inquiry by asking: How many times have you said you’ll do “X,” but failed to do so?

      We all have goals, and we all have 24 hours each day at our disposal. While some people find it easy to achieve their goals without procrastinating, some find it difficult to do so.

      For some people who have succeeded again and again in achieving their goals, they have simply found an easy way of doing this. Is there something they know that you don’t?

      How Smart Goal Setting Makes a Lasting Impact

      Smart goal setting examples can be found all around you. Through SMART goal setting, Stephen Cooley was able to grow his real estate business to the point of closing at $110 million in sales when the average price point of homes was between $100,000 – $200,000 in South Carolina[1].

      Through SMART goal setting, Steve Jobs was able to improve the fortunes of Apple and prevent the company from going bankrupt, even when it had barely 90 days left before being declared so.

      SMART goal setting can make a lasting impact in your life in several ways.

      Make Your Goal Clearer

      When you use the SMART criteria to set goals, it is easier for you to understand the various phases of your goal.

      By using SMART goal setting, you’re able to ask yourself relevant questions pertaining to your goal.

      Motivate You Into Acting on Your Goals

      When you use SMART goal setting and break down the goal into smaller goals or milestones, the bigger goal no longer looks intimidating or impossible.

      Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, wrote in his book How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be about how they applied the rule of five in marketing their book, Chicken Soup, and were able to make the book a best seller after some months[2]. The rule of five simply means doing five specific things every day that will move you closer to achieving your goal.

      In order not to be overwhelmed, you would have to measure your performance using the right metrics. Here we are considering the Measurable and Achievable aspects of the SMART acronym. It is critical that you measure yourself in terms of lead measures.

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      What are lead measures? They are the things you do that leads you closer to your goals. On the other hand, you would have to avoid “lag measures.”

      While lag measures mean a successful outcome that you wished for and got, they can be emotionally draining and deceitful because, whenever they don’t happen, you can become discouraged.

      Therefore, it is better to stick to lead measures.

      Help You Save Time

      You can achieve more when you use SMART model goal setting.

      To be strategic, your goal would have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. If you can’t identify any of these points in your goal, you probably will be wasting your time on a wild goose chase.

      When your goals are written down, it’s easier for you to go into action mode.

      Improve Your Self-Discipline

      Self-improvement is an important thing for everyone to do periodically. When you set SMART goals, it makes you realize that you have to sit up and work on achieving them.

      How to Set SMART Goals

      See the source image

        To make your SMART goals work, use the following tips:

        Specific

        Every goal ought to be specific. It is important to guard against making vague goals because even when they have been achieved, you may not know. This is because you weren’t specific enough.

        For example, “I will start planning toward retirement” is vague. Rather than write that, you could say, “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan.” This is more specific.

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        When you are specific on your goal, it’s easier for you to identify all its components and work accordingly toward achieving it.

        Measurable

        Your goals must be measurable. When they are measurable, it’s easier for you to follow through.

        A goal like this is not measurable: “I want to make millions of dollars.” You can make it more measurable by saying, “I want to make one million dollars selling one hundred thousand copies of my book at ten dollars each.”

        Also, using our SMART goal setting examples while explaining the Specific acronym, you can make the goal more measurable by saying, “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan and saving $500 every month.”

        Achievable

        How realistic or actionable is your goal? Is it practical enough to fit into a given time frame? Is it something you are able to achieve in your capacity?

        You would only be setting yourself up for failure if you sets goals that are not reasonable.

        A goal like this is highly unrealistic and, therefore, not achievable: “I want to be the Governor of Texas in six months,” especially since the elections will be coming up in three years.

        Goals must be written down relative to the experiences of the one setting them. They must resonate with you. It is important that you have at least some of the resources needed to actualize this goal.

        It is also important that you consider your time frame. When the time frame to achieve a complex goal is too short, it is rare that such goal will be completed.

        Thus, using our previous example, if you write “I want to make one million dollars in ten days selling one hundred thousand copies of my book at ten dollars each,” you would only be setting up yourself for failure.

        This is especially true if you’re not a popular author or if you’ve never sold even up to one thousand copies of any of your previous books, whether e-copy or in print.

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        Realistic/Relevant

        Before you proceed to making the commitment toward that goal, you need think about how realistic and relevant it is.

        Being realistic means you should be willing to make all the commitments required for that goal to be achieved. If your goal is relevant, it fits into the life you’ve imagined for yourself.

        Time-Bound

        Every goal must have a commencement date and an end date written down. It is also important that you break down your goals into phases, chunks, bits, or milestones.

        The act of having deadlines set to your goals is ample motivation that drives you into action. Without a deadline, it is not possible for you to know if you’re making headway with your goals.

        “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan and saving $500 every month for the next twenty five years” is a time-bound goal.

        Remember that some goals are short-term while some are long-term. It is important to always bear this in mind, because this will help you in making a clear and realistic strategy when SMART goal planning.

        Without SMART goal setting in view, much of our goals may likely end in our minds, on paper, or just midway into implementation. SMART goal setting reveals to us all the action points of our goals and helps us to have an awareness of every aspect of our goals.

        The Bottom Line

        What matters at the end of the day is what you do with the contents of this article because the power to achieve your goals is in your hands.

        It is not enough to have a goal. It is not enough to put it down in writing. It is important to have a strategy in mind while putting it down. This strategy is a guideline or set of rules that point you in the right direction. It is SMART goal setting in the given circumstance.

        After writing down your goals, you will have to be ready to take action. There should be a clear action point. Write down what you need to do on daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

        When your goals are realistic, they make them worth the chase. One of the things to bear in mind is that, in order not to be overwhelmed by the daunting nature of your goals, remember to always break them into milestones, chunks, or bits. In fact, take one day at a time.

        Do not bother yourself with the one-year, three-year, five-year or ten-year plan as this may likely overwhelm you with fear and doubt. Let your focus be on each day. What will I be doing today? Consider this and go for it.

        More on the SMART Model for Setting Goals

        Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

        Reference

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