Keep Your Sanity with a Work Diary | Ryan Bosinger

Ryan Bosinger

Web App Developer, Victoria BC

Keep Your Sanity with a Work Diary

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in the movie Momento. If you’ve never seen it it’s about a guy who can’t form new memories but nonetheless tries to track down the guy that killed his wife. He tattoos messages on his own body to help him remember things.

Maybe I don’t feel quite like that but I do have hard time remembering things; especially work-related stuff.

It’s not that my memory is particular bad or that I find work activities to be boring (I like my job and it’s my hobby too). The problem is that I do too much. Too many projects, too much multitasking. I jump from one project, programming language, web framework, client, industry to the next. I have 50+ repos in SourceTree and 100’s of directories of local projects and experiments. Add that to many emails per day, meetings, 300+ username/passwords in 1Password, documentation wikis, HipChat conversations and keeping up with the industry on Hacker News and I’m not surprised I can’t hold anything at the forefront of my mind.

What to do?

Minutes! As in: “meeting minutes”.

That’s right. This is what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months:

  • I created a note in Evernote called “Big Fat Timeline”
  • Every work day I open up the note and hit cmd-shift-D (shortcut for the date in Evernote)
  • I create an unordered list and record as much as I can

Here’s an example:

Evernote Work Diary Screenshot

Yes, I made this one up but you get the point. It’s actually not as tedious as it looks and the benefits are well worth it.

  1. It’s nice to be able to see just how much I do in a day. I find that sometimes, when you work on a computer, it can feel like you’ve accomplished nothing at the end of the day.

  2. Paired with GIT commits and time tracking it really paints a picture of the effort and timeframes required for different types of projects.

  3. Invaluable when I’m asked to suddenly jump back into a project that I haven’t worked on in weeks to explain to my boss or clients where we left off.

  4. By recording distractions like the “urgent” request I show in my example screenshot it can be a lot easier to explain why a project might be behind schedule. “I haven’t had more than 1 uninterrupted hour to work on this app… maybe we have too much on our plate and need someone else to take care of these things”.

  5. By writing things down I feel like my memory is actually improving.

If you feel like I do I’d recommend giving this a try. Remember, there aren’t any rules. Sometimes I paste images in there. Sometimes I write long winded stories; other times short GIT commit style points. I don’t put actual times next to anything (ex: 1:44pm:) because I find that too tedious. I will sometimes divide day up with a LUNCH item.

All in all it saves me from having to do this…

Memento Screenshot