A notebook (NonVirtualHardCopy?
) where you log and probably describe and explain your activities while performing it. Not an agenda.
- You want to stop forgetting about how you did things in the past, or what you were thinking at a certain moment.
- You want to organize your thinking while working.
- You want to keep legal records of your actions.
- You want to record your activities.
A log book keeps track of knowledge acquired over time. It can be a record of data, thoughts, or activities. It answers the question "What did you know and when did you know it?" It documents the rationale for the actions you take.
- Human LongTermMemory? is unreliable.
- SecondaryStorage? is subject to crashes and malfunction.
- You can not be sure that you will be able to read disks and tapes after 10 years, for technological changes, and 6 months, due to media problems.
- Paper is the medium with longer duration.
- Writing enforces LongTermMemory?.
- You may be legally bound to keep a log.
- Writing helps thinking.
Keep a notebook beside you. Log everything you do, including the rationale you followed. A specialized log book is best; they are sold at places like http://www.bookfactory.com/
This is called a LogBook
and is current practice in many activities, like Experimental Physics.
And required in many others (e.g. my better half - a biotechnology research scientist - is required to keep them). When they're full, they get stored in a controlled atmosphere and environment in a cave somewhere in southern England. Log books might provide evidence for later patent cases. So, she should keep two, a second one for her.
- Through your work life you will have the LogBook, actually many LogBooks, to access.
- The act of writing itself enforces LongTermMemory?.
- The words you write may someday be read back to you in Court.
AntiPattern you should beware: ElectronicLogBook
Also Known As:
Examples in the Literature:
Errors in TeX
- Start slowly. Any log is better than no log.
- Keep it where you can see.
- Keep it open.
- Keep it where you can use it.
- Must be easy to use.
- Must be easy to carry with you.
- Must be personal.
- Must be safe from crashes.
- Date pages.
- Number pages.
- Cross reference when you have the option.
- Use a consistent format, if you manage.
- Keep it readable.
- Leave spaces after entries, if you are not using it for legal purposes.
- Use icons, drawings, colors.
- Don't spend time being beautiful, spend time being informative.
- It's more important to keep the log than to follow all of these practices.
which can be found in DonaldKnuth
(see the LiterateProgrammingBibliography
) includes a marvelous log of his debugging of TeX. -- RolandKaufmann
Examples in Practice:
I was under the impression that people did this in every field:
When I was doing research in an Endocrinology Lab, I kept a LaboratoryNotebook?
. Some students bought bound notebooks, with numbered pages and a yellow carbon page that could be removed and stored in a safe place.
When I worked as an environmental consultant, I kept a FieldNotebook?
, which contained everything that happened when I worked in the field (Site Surveys, Drilling Logs, Sampling Plans). I routinely made photocopies of applicable pages and placed them in the project file rather than part with the original. The Log was definitely write once
. We were supposed to initial and date typos, and cross out any extra white space on the page.
Back when I answered the phone 50+ times a day, I kept a PhoneLog?
. It was a big accounting record book and I wrote down the date, time, phone number, participants, and description of every call I made or took.
Gardeners are often exhorted to keep a gardening journal, where they track weather patterns, rainfall, blooming times, project ideas, project status, etc.
Note that this is not unlike journalling.
I am trying to have a LogBook
, but I keep changing from ProjectLogBook?
s to PersonalLogBook
s. However, since I do many different things as a CompanyPartner?
, I get a bit lost.
Perhaps maintain multiple project log books? -- BrentNewhall
I often catch myself thinking idly about some weird idea that crossed my mind or explaining something in a bit greater than necessary depth while RubberDucking
. I try then to make myself pick up the log (that should always be at hand) and start writing. This slows me down and trying to phrase the original idea or rationale actually causes the actual thinking to halt for a long time.
I still try to do this, because I have noticed that after a while, thoughts thought get lost and you have nothing tangible left. Maybe you can start explaining what you were thinking about and maybe not. I at least tend to stray so far drifting in streams of thought that I can't even remember where I started or where I "came from".
Finally, once I have it all written down, I have either proved that the whole idea was pointless or managed to put together something more or less coherent. Sometimes I proceed to write an even more coherent explanation of the idea or problem and any accompanying questions etc and put it in a blog or a web page somewhere. Perhaps in a wiki :) Usenet would probably be a better medium in the sense that anything there is wide open to all kinds of critique and peer review from knowledgeable people and the threshold to sending a reply is very small. Most groups get more or less permanently archived. I haven't gathered the momentum or nerve to start posting random ideas, though. Writing with a pseudonym should not be too scary after all.
Nevertheless, a LogBook
for me is often pretty much all that stands between a lost thought and a realized one.
A few years back, I knew a guy that wrote down every single thing he did. This made providing inputs on his accomplishments for annual performance reports a snap, as he could provide both what he did as well as it's impact on the operational mission (we are military folks). I started doing the same thing, just a tiny notebook I could cram into a corner, and it worked pretty well. In my new job though, I turned this into an Access database, just to have something on my computer to track my accomplishments throughout the day. As I work trouble tickets, create new system functionality, attend meetings and come up with ideas to solve pressing problems, etc. I log it in under whichever category it applies (maintenance, project management, development, etc) and include the impact as a separate field to show the immediate and projected impact on the system or unit. Now I can spit out one or more reports on-demand to see my accomplishments to-date. Helps me see what I've done so far this year, areas I need to spend more time on (community service always comes up short for me), etc. I know this isn't a paper notebook, but so far it works for me. I just hope the hard drive doesn't fail... :) -- DaveCantrell
Or that you need to use it when you are away from a computer. To be useful, a LogBook has to be with you all the time. -- GarethHowell
I keep a diary (8 inch by 5 inch, week to view, with a lined recto page for comments). I back this up by photographing each page opening with a digital camera.
An Example of SnapItInsteadOfScanIt
See also: ProgrammersNotebook