My Daily Log

My daily log is currently a single text document, new each morning, copied from the previous day’s document. The document contains four lists, with items moving between the lists as tasks are completed.

The document is everything I'd like to have in my head during the day, if only I could actually keep track of it all up there.

I feel I should be able to view one page of information and tell roughly the quantity of stuff in all my piles. If I can read the titles and short notes about all of the things, then all the things feel containable. This visualization is a delicate balance, but it is the difference between a system that is clean and productive and one that is a stressful, depressing mess.

The lists I use are:

  1. DONE: At the top of the page, the list of things that have been completed today. Showing completed items at the top of the page gives me a greater feeling of accomplishment.
  2. FOLLOW UP: A list of things that are important, in-progress, but are long-running and require check-up. These are a small list of things that should be scanned every day and moved back to DOING when appropriate. This list must remain small.
  3. BACKLOG: In the middle of the page, this is the list of things that will soon be important. Groom this frequently; these are items-in-waiting, either to be moved into DOING or moved to a storage backlog outside of this document.
  4. DOING: The list of things that that are currently being worked. This must remain very short, perhaps two or three long. These are in flux throughout the day, and having them at the bottom allows me to associate random notes at the bottom of the page with them.

Everything in a single document is a bit of a compromise in the interest of visibility, but I have been able to sustain a clean, groomed daily log document for a few years. It works for me; its clarity directly impacts my stress level. Everything else (email inbox, project notebooks, personal backlogs, RSS feeds, etc.) can be a mess, but so long as my daily log is neat everything feels manageable.