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Do your future self a solid by keeping a running list of literally everything you do at work

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Every Friday afternoon at my last in-house job (we're talking 4+ years ago now), I took 10 minutes to summarize everything I had worked on that week, and what I had on my plate moving forward. It kept my boss in the loop, and was a great source of detailed information for annual reviews. I gathered the information from a few data sources, including my work calendar and email inbox, and probably a notebook, and housed all of it in a live, running Google doc using a simple table.

Why it's worth keeping track of everything you do

Honestly, I found it to be a pain in the ass when all I wanted to do was go home for the weekend! But I'm so glad I did this huge favor to my future self. I ended up with a repository of literally everything I'd ever done right at my fingertips. If the time came to find another job, or if I got laid off, I could use it as a resource to update my resume and prepare for job interviews. By the time I left that job, I had 80 pages of information from 2.5 years of work!

Screen shot from the log of all of my work I kept when I had my last in-house job. It's a table with three columns, one for project/initiative, one for highlights/accomplishments, and one for what's next on my plate.

It's yet another thing to add to your to do list, but so worth it for the benefit of staying professionally organized and ahead of the game rather than starting from scratch. The goal is to capture the information that will help you tell stories about your experience in the future.

Also not reflected in this example, but very important to track, are the actual qualitative and quantitative outcomes of your work - impact to product, business, strategy, roadmaps, processes, workplace culture, etc.

Other ideas for capturing pertinent information and where to store it

I originally posted about this on LinkedIn (click here to see the post), and frankly I'm surprised at how much something so basic resonated with so many people. Some contributed additional ideas for helpful information to capture, including:

  • "Lowlights/Challenges to capture added context/effort against the highlights. A Highlight might include 'Conducted design workshop' but the Lowlight could capture 'Hurricane affects business travel and half of the traveling stakeholders couldn't attend in person.' Then, the highlight can become a story of tenacity and delivering against adversity. Those are stories you want to include in your portfolios/case studies as you go out into the market, imho. Ymmv." - Sara Yates, Design Operations Lead

  • "I maintain a running log in the Notes app on my laptop with a short summary of everything I do each day—all projects worked on (with spec and doc links), meetings attended, to-do items with deadlines, etc. Any outstanding to-do items get rolled over into the next day. I came up with that system as a survival mechanism of sorts, but it has the added benefit of convenient recall." - Andrew Astleford, Content Designer & UX Writer

  • "Curate a list of those accomplishments that you're proud of. When you next have a day where you feel like you're incompetent, you break out the list and remember who you are." - Aleksandra P, DevOps Engineer

  • "I keep a "Wins" section on my bullet journal - currently using a leuchtturm1917 weekly diary...and we have a tool at work where we can report our wins & bookmark them too. I've been remiss on updating my Evernote notebook though! Is there a greater benefit in keeping this information outside of company platforms?" - Clara Kuo, UX Researcher

  • "I also include a timeline. I start these my first week at any new job in my personal Google Drive. I also have a folder where I put work to reference such as files or images. I try to include a link in the doc to the folder. For example, I was laid off in December after only three months and I had created a ton of documentation in Confluence around best practices. I had copies of most of that as PDFs because I kept a list on Fridays with what I had done and how it was helping my team. It was all in my personal account. I had links in Lattice for my manager, but that's all gone now." - Julia DeBari, Design Operations Lead

  • "I had an employee who kept great notes like this and as the manager it was terrific because we could spend our talking time going deep where needed instead of trying to catch up. I always knew the status of her projects or how to easily find it, I could easily advocate for her, etc. There are only great reasons to do this!" - Tracy Hayes, UX Leader & Coach


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