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I read that a lot of people seem to favor the journal, or diary, form to keep notes on their work related activities.

I've had a more structured approach myself, which involves outlines and categorization.
While this has its advantages for information retrieval, I find it can become an hindrance when it comes to entries of a broad, subjective or reflective nature.

I've been thinking about using a more diary-like format for this purpose, but since I've never held one before, I wonder about what sort of information it would contain.

Can anyone give an example of their typical journal/diary entry's content ?
What do you keep notes of, and how do you structure it ?

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Here is mine: ...... (Note: Do not use me as a role model for this...) –  ChaosPandion Oct 8 '10 at 13:49
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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I've found a good daily entry in the dev-log (using Org-mode, of course!) includes some or all of the following:

  • The date.
  • Reflections on work yesterday; what went well? Where did time/energy go?
  • Today's to-do items.
  • Design thoughts while solving problems; think through significant decisions and trade-offs.
  • Snips of code: debugging code, snips of what worked/failed, stuff tried.
  • Learning: links of useful content, tools, etc.

That looks long, but it's really not a big deal to take such notes during the day, and it can be an enormous help later when reviewing, re-designing, etc.. It also helps to have a weekly log with high-level goals for the week; you can apply that recursively to keep monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. goals.

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Sounds interesting, do you have a particular org-mode setup for this (org-mode user myself) ? –  julien Oct 8 '10 at 16:40
Accepted for details of the actual content. I would like to know if you have a partciular setup for this though :) –  julien Oct 9 '10 at 15:25
@julien: I just use org-mode headers, lists, and to-do checkboxes: Headers for year, month, date; within a day's entry, a paragraph or two with thoughts on yesterday and today; then subheadings for code snips, useful links, etc. At the end of the day, re-categorize/move things around. Can't write more in this format, but feel free to contact me. –  limist Oct 9 '10 at 16:49
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I personnaly use one simple method that proven its effiency, both storing and retrieving data related to my daily work:


So I don't care of what and how I structure things. With technology of today, you can easily do data mining in your email archive with extended search criterias.

Since most of the information I want to take "note" of is present in emails, it's perfect.

For other things, I send myself an email with the information I want to keep. When I'm outside the office, I use my laptop, my iPad or even my phone.

With the GTD methodology, every note is processed and stored accordingly.

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You reposted this and I still don't see how this answers the question, you explain the how and it's obviously not holding a diary, and you state that the what is just anything. –  julien Oct 8 '10 at 14:12
My point is that you don't have to worry about the what if everything is stored anyway. I don't know myself the what. Until I will need the what... So I found the email methodology very useful. Each time I had to "review" my notes, emails are great –  user2567 Oct 8 '10 at 14:17
+1 if you use gmail filters/labels. -1 if you dont. –  Chris Oct 8 '10 at 15:58
Labels are very helpful in your search queries. For instance, "in:[projectname] invoice" will retrieve you all invoices of a given project. Of course, emails are automatically assigned with a label depending on some rules. –  user2567 Oct 8 '10 at 16:00
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I have a blog.

Disclaimer: That's my blog

If I find something interesting enough I'll write about it. Sometimes they are short lists of links, sometimes I put books I plan on reading, other times articles other people have written that I found really interesting or insightful. I don't have a set "format" that I adhere to, probably because when I look back I find that most of the formats don't fit what I'm trying to say.

It's a form of "public" journal for me. If you want a private one then toss a .htaccess file up there and boom! private journal. If you were to keep a daily record you might consider omitting titles (replace with dates) and then follow through what you did, errors / issues you encountered, how you solved them, and any reflective notes after that.

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+1, I love blogging for this purpose. –  Incognito Oct 8 '10 at 15:48
+1 for disclaimer. I have clicking on links and not really knowing where I will end up. (At least when I am not in an adventurous mood.) –  Chris Oct 8 '10 at 15:56
@Chris: Normally I do title text, but here I felt it better to limit the amount of self promotion speculation. –  Josh K Oct 8 '10 at 16:11
+1 for shamelessly promoting your blog.nathan-taylor.net. (See what I did there? eh? eh?) –  Nathan Taylor Oct 8 '10 at 17:03
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I use a blogs, but not exactly the way Josh K is talking about.

First, I have my scratch pad / generic thoughts that come to mind while going about my day. I'll fire off an email to this blog from my phone to keep that thought in storage, go back later, and look at all the small ideas I've had. Here's a snapshot of some things recently submitted (the blog is non-public):

negative code : I took my 300 lines and reduced them to about 60, with a object decliration that actually allows 10x greater versitility.

stuxnet: write something about the virus controlling facilities, net neutrality, the conspiracy, the bullocks



code igniter, drupal, etc..., yii, git

I'm not worried about AI taking over the world because of shampoo bottles, later, rinse, goto 10.

...As you can see, a lot of it sounds like inane prattle, but they all remind me of something I found interesting and I can talk about it at length in a second public blog.

I spend a lot of time writing a few articles about anything any everything. Most of them aren't released public as I don't feel they're suitable for public viewing yet (I like to write a lot of inner-monologue; reflective). But some things I do push out there. Sometimes it's technical, some times it's just neat things you can do with non-digital things, some times I talk about building a better mousetrap for any given programming problem... anything that's interesting enough for me to want to write about. I only have 3 public posts, but there's a wealth of knowledge for myself that I feel I have to edit before releasing.

Things I talk about in this blog:

DIY CD wallet for your car

Cryptographic chat system via javascript

The off buttons on computers need to be designed like nuclear launch switches (key, cover, toggle switches, push button).

Lastly, I have a non-technical blog. It's good to keep one of these too, it keeps your perspective and communication skills sharp. I normally write things like letters to the local news paper, or politically motivated things, issues about education, social rights, etc... In this blog I've talked about

Value attribution, lack of standardization and bias of education

Transparency of Government data

Letter of rage to my local news station for suggesting house-hold WIFI causes illness.

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I just keep track of the tasks I worked on (some 10 items a day, described in a word or 10), together with the time I spent on them (with a minimum of a quarter of an hour). Every week I make a summary of this list for future reference. I have documented the reason why I think this is very useful on this same site.

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