When I became a tech lead and started managing people, I spent a lot of time managing relationship between team members, helping others, and reviewing pull request. I was lucky if I spent an hour writing some code. So during the daily standup I couldn’t say what I was doing the other day: it just passed and I sort of did something, but where exactly did my time go? So I started journaling. And it helped a lot with recalling the previous day. Also retrospectives became so much easier.
But then I quit that job and forgot the habit. Now trying to get back into it via blogging and writing a monthly post recalling what happened.
By the end of the day I’ve forgotten most of what I’ve done. I started keeping a daily record, a list of the nuggets of activity that I did during the day. It’s really helpful to be able to look back on the past week and see a list of items and remember all that I had done. It always turns out to be more work than I thought.
I love slack standups for just this reason. It’s not as detailed, but still helps me see the arc of my work in a way that a verbal standup can’t.
Yes, I can’t journal to save my life, but blogging is something I have found works for me. The public nature of it makes it easier to see the return, perhaps?
Did you journal specifically about work interactions, project progress, and the like? Curious to know if there was any system you employed. Did you also journal about outside life stuff?
It was work related only. When your work becomes helping people (solving problems with code, reviewing pull requests, doing 1-on-1’s, and helping to avoid friction in the team), you’re constantly busy throughout the day, but it doesn’t feel like quantifiable job I’ve been doing before while writing code. There are quite a lot of blog posts on the topic of transition from developer to a management position. So in order to “quantify” it somehow and bring structure, I started writing down everything I’ve been doing throughout the day: 10 minutes of writing code, 15 minutes helping one dev with their problem, 5 minute break, 23 minutes talking to the management, 40 minutes preparing presentation. All with a timestamp.
By the end of the day I had a very good list of things I’ve been doing. Having timestamps helped me understand when I was interrupted by others. After few months I started to develop routines and structure my day into chunks where I could spend more time on different tasks without being interrupted.
At the moment I am a co-founder of a tiny startup with just a handful of people (2 developers including me), so I don’t get interrupted a lot and this kind of journalling is not needed anymore. I do however write blog posts for personal things.
A friend of mine gathers every year with their family where each member talks about their 3-5 biggest achievements throughout the year. They also nominate people of the year, events of the year, etc. I couldn’t recall any of that. So I started writing monthly posts highlighting different events, things I’ve learned and did. I love the way Tom does his “recently” posts.
Bullet Journaling has worked incredibly well for me here. That and starting a nightly habit of journaling just before bed. It doesn’t have to be much; half a page can suffice on an uneventful day.
I started a morning pages routine recently, too. They already seem to help me with organizing my thoughts.
Good advice. Suprised the article or commentors didn’t mention jrnl.sh. May I recommend version controlling the jrnl file (or whatever files your solution generates) and pushing changes to a private remote git repo. Make an alias to quickly commit and push. Now you can read and write to your journal no matter where you are. And no overwrites from complex file syncing.
I’ve found journaling and note-taking to be very helpful, but especially so if I use pen and paper. Things just seem to stick more if I write them down