Lambros Petrou
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit!" — Aristotle

Best tip I received — The worklog

In a previous article where I wrote about my favourite productivity tool I briefly mentioned about my daily work log habbit. This article is its origin story.

Origin

About 5 years ago I returned to Amazon (did an internship the year before) as a full-time employee after finishing my Masters degree. During one of my first 1:1 meetings with my manager we were talking about career growth and to this day I remember him saying the following.

If I can only give you one tip, it’s to keep notes of what you do every day. Not for the usual reasons like performance reviews, but because there will be days that you will feel unproductive, thinking that you don’t produce anything, and it will make you feel bad. Those notes will be the only way to go back and see all the work you did during those days.

This is by far the best tip I received in my (albeit short) career, and it’s the first tip I give to every new hire joining my team as well.

I call these notes the worklog, and it’s essentially a big text file with everything I do throughout the day in chronological order. Anything can go into the worklog like tasks or issues I worked on, code reviews I opened, meetings I attended (including notes), or research I do on new features.

My rule is that anything taking away my time should go into the worklog.

What’s the big deal?

I consider the worklog to be the most important document I keep regarding work.

  • I use this worklog for every performance review and/or promotion document preparation since I can literally scan through it and pull out a list of the important stuff I did for a certain period amount of time.
  • I cannot count the times I grepped the worklog for things I remember I did in the past, but vaguely remember exactly what it was or how it was solved. It’s been invaluable!
  • Occasionally, a colleague will ask about something I did and the answer will be in the worklog since information is spread in several internal tools making discovery hard.
  • Those rainy days I mentioned above will come no matter how genius you are, and the worklog will be there for you.

Want a tip?

Keep notes of everything you do throughout the day. Embrace the worklog!