How using a daily log keeps you focussed on your goals

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Keeping a daily log is an essential technique for staying focussed on achieving the goals of your project.  It’s one of the best kept secrets in project management, but it’s also a simple method to employ.

A daily log is simply a private place to record you thoughts, comments, actions, and lessons learned. It’s a brilliant way to clear all of these things from your mind. And, getting them down in one place allows you to organise your thinking and identify your next steps.

What are the key benefits of a daily log?

  • Capturing Everything. A daily log is a catch-all location for all of your thoughts, actions, events, and lessons learned so long as they are related to the goals of your project. It’s also a place where you can go beyond just listing what you are doing, and get to the how and why of your actions.
  • Organising your thoughts. Getting everything out of your head and down on paper helps you organise your thoughts. Doing this over a period of days, weeks, and months helps you see patterns, issues and opportunities to improve what you are doing.
  • Seeing progress. Sometimes, in the middle of a large project, or one where there are distant goals, it’s crucial to be able to demonstrate to yourself that you are making progress. A daily log helps you track this progress in a visible way and lets you reflect on what is working and what isn’t.
  • Making or breaking habits.  The best way to establish a new habit, or break an old one, is to show that it’s something you are doing every day. The daily log is ideal for this, becoming a record of your efforts to make the change necessary to replace old habits with new ones.

How and where to keep a daily log?

There isn’t a firm rule, or fixed format, for a daily log.  But it must be somewhere that’s easily accessible and fits with your working habits. In other words, make sure it works for you.

For me, by far the best place for a daily log is in note taking software, such as Evernote. I’ve been keeping daily logs using this kind of software for a couple of years now, and have developed a  three-step process:

  • first, I capture each day in a new note.  I do that at the beginning of each day, but you can choose any time that helps you to establish this as a habit
  • next, I transfer any actions from my log into my task list
  • finally, as often as I can – but at least weekly – I review my log looking for any patterns or ideas I might have missed.

My goals can’t be achieved in a day – they are long-term objectives. But by using a daily log, I’m able to stay focussed, clear my head of thoughts and ideas, and establish new habits.