Keeping a work journal

Thoughts on documenting work and research daily | Written by Nathan

When I started working full-time on Shareup I also started keeping a work journal. Every day (or sometimes the following morning) I wrote up notes about what I did, why, and any research I accumulated. Some days I didn’t have much to say. Other days, I had quite a lot of notes. Anthony and Adam both started doing the same soon after.

We decided to keep the work journals in a shared place so we could all read through each other’s. We created a “shared work journal folder” inside a git repo, and we all throw our notes into it each day. Our folder structure is:

WORKJOURNAL
┣ 2019
┃ ┗ 12
┃   ┗ nathan.md
┗ 2020
  ┣ 01
  ┣ …
  ┗ 10
    ┣ adam.md
    ┣ anthony.md
    ┗ nathan.md

We keep one file per person per month, and the files are in reverse chronological order:

# October 2020

## 2020-10-23

- [x] End-of-week sync
    - Went well, feel really good about where we are at and the bets we are making
- [x] Write the work journal blog post
    - Used [Rocket](https://matthewpalmer.net/rocket/) to find the "box drawing" utf8 characters to make the nice directory structure diagram with text
    - <img width="883" alt="Screenshot of Rocket" src="https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/179/97006674-7df17b00-1540-11eb-9274-22ec55ebb1da.png">

## 2020-10-22

GitHub provides a nice place to read them and even make small edits/updates quickly. We keep our notes in separate files to keep from ever having merge conflicts when pushing updates. While a single october.md might be appealing, it could lead to more fiddling with git than we would want. We need updating our journals to be as friction-free as possible.

I asked Adam and Anthony what they think about keeping a work journal and below is what they sent me.

Anthony said:

I think it’s a huge win for accountability to yourself and your teammates. It’s a time-efficient way to keep in touch remotely without needing to constantly interrupt each other in chat messages. Additionally, when writing up “things I expect to do today” it helps improve focus.

Adam said:

For me, I like that it is a place to often read and learn about the “behind the scenes” of various tasks. I admittedly don’t do this as often as ya’ll. But I do enjoy reading through blogs and articles y’all find for how you solved a problem.

I’ve really enjoyed the exercise of writing these everyday. I’ve also enjoyed being able to asynchronously read what Anthony and Adam have been up to when I get time. It’s a much better pull model instead of a push like emails or chat messages. I set aside time to read through the work journals at least twice a week.

Do you keep a work journal? Do you share it with your colleagues? Tweet at us and let us know.