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I have not taken a psychological personality type test for many years but I am quite sure that I would be categorised as a Well-intentioned Slacker. I have lots of ideas but lack discipline and will power, and can find it hard to finish things if something new and more interesting comes along.

As well as different work roles, I maintain several websites and enjoy creating 3D and 2D artwork. To gain some semblance of control I try to organise all my activities into “projects” but frequently have to switch between them, often coming back to something weeks or months since I last worked on it. At those times my most common thoughts are “why did I do that?”, and “how do I do that thing again?”.

Understanding my shortcomings, but trying to get a better grip on recording project activities I have looked to some apps to help me out, eventually settling on a “Journalling” tool. I chose Day One but there are many similar. Here’s an example of how I’ve used it:

I keep a separate journal for large projects, or a combined journal for related smaller projects with “tags” to distinguish between them.

My workflow is that whenever I sit down to work on a project I open the appropriate journal and create a new entry. The entry title is a summary of what I am about to do, so “Fix problem X”, “Add feature Y”, “Evaluate technology Z” or whatever.

Then, as I do things, consult web sites, fix problems or create new ones I jot down a line or comment on the journal. Sometimes I copy over screenshots, often I’ll copy a website address. And finally figured out that tricky command string? Copy that there too.

Do I remember to do this every time? No. Does it matter? Not really, I’ll often do a “catch up” when I do start notes again. And when I have found the discipline to do it then I have found it enormously useful!

Are there other tools? Yes, obviously, there are many could be used. I did for a while try a similar approach with Microsoft OneNote but that was too flexible, there was no existing structure to hang my notes on and that involved just too much thought for me. I like the linear sequence of concise notes that a journal based approach provides.

Where next? Well, it turns out that Day One has a command line interface, so I’m looking at automating some entries, for example whenever my software is compiled an entry could be added to the timeline of the appropriate journal. The aim here is mimimal effort for maximum return.

I hope you found this look at project recording useful, next time I’ll cover how I’m looking ahead and discuss the slacker’s approach to planning.

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