Why you should keep a work log

March 3, 2022
3 min read
DA Ledger

My coworker asked me how I remember everything at work. I pulled up my work log and showed him how I operate on the job.

How do most people remember what they did at work?

Well...they don't. Most people say they feel overrun by the amount of work they have to do, and they feel like firefighting keeps them from moving forward on their projects. They're just too busy.

I want you to imagine this scenario:

It's performance review season, and your manager asks you to write your self-review. By the way, it's the basis for whether you get a merit increase/promotion or not.

You take a pen and paper and get ready to start writing. Then, you blank. I guess I'll write a few sentences and hope for the best.

Hope is not a strategy!

You can make one choice to make recalling what you did at work a piece of cake. Regardless of your role, adopting this simple practice dramatically impacts your productivity and career. It's called a work log.

What's a work log?

Think of a work log as a living document where you write important things you worked on for the day. Did you start a new feature? What about an ad-hoc meeting with stakeholders to drill into a new initiative? Did production go down?

Why should you do this?

After noticing that some of the organized and accomplished engineers and product managers I worked with kept a work log, I started making a work log. When you create a work log, you'll see some trends in your day-to-day work:

You have a better grip on your day

You can see how you're spending your day. Did you want to crank out a Flow at the beginning of your day, only to find yourself ending your day commenting on a design proposal that another developer proposed? You'll be able to track that with a work log.

You can spot inefficiencies in processes

A few years ago, I noticed I spent more time with a stakeholder than others over three months. Upon reading my notes, the calls were about getting more business context on the incredibly vague requirements. I drafted a proposal that our stakeholders should provide more business context on the tickets, significantly reducing the number of sessions.

You are more organized

You can say no to unimportant work more quickly because you have a document outlining your priorities. Share this document with your managers and coworkers, and there won't be any ambiguity about your work. They'll also perceive you as being more organized.

Performance reviews are easier

When it comes to performance reviews, assume your manager has a very particular type of amnesia where they remember nothing about your work or its impact. A work log is a cure that helps your manager remember everything you've done. They'll thank you for your organization, and it'll show in the performance review.

How can I get started with a work log?

I'm sharing the template I use to log the work I do on a daily basis. You can find my work log template here.

A snapshot of the work log template I use on a daily basis.

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