My Daily Log

I have long been intrigued by the usefulness and power of keeping a daily log of ones activities. I felt it was time to fully detail my method and workflow. Recently, I have been coming across many articles surrounding the methods and values of “life tracking”. I have some links to those articles and other related resources at the end of the post.

There are many useful reasons for keeping a daily log. For instance, in a former job, I had a micro managing boss who often popped their head into my office to ask what I had gotten done that day. Because I kept a good time stamped log of what I did, I was always able to tell her exactly what I had done, when I did it, and even how many times I was interrupted by other things that prevented me from doing even more (including her popping her head in my office).

The options and possibilities for how to keep a log are nearly endless. For instance, a simple piece of paper or notebook would suffice. The key, for me at least, is to make your Daily Log as simple as possible to add an entry to.

My daily log is a text file I call @log.txt. The preceding @ sign allows it to sort to the top of my finder window alphabetically. As plain text it is highly “portable” (i.e. I can open it up on any device). The trick is in the workflow and couple of tools I use to add a log entry. Without further adieu, here is how I tie it all together:

To add an entry, I invoke Quicksilver:

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The advantage of using Quicksilver is that it is available to me from any application I happen to be in at the time. I don’t have to “switch modes” to add an entry. I simply type “@log” and it finds my log file. I then hit the tab key and select the “Prepend Text” command. I personally like having the latest entry first in the file.

I then invoke a TextExpander command, triggered by typing “dlog” that formats the entry the way I wish:

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I then type the entry, hit return and it is added to the file. The result is an entry that looks like this:

dailylog.VKbjIKUcXoQA.jpg

I store this file in my Dropbox folder so it syncs to all of my machines and “the cloud”. Thus, it is available to me anywhere I can access the internet.

This setup has been working very well for me for years now. I think a big key is to come up with something that is easy and as ubiquitous as possible.

For further reference and ideas, here are some other resources about keeping a daily log:

* For This Guru, No Question Is Too Big – Jim Collins tracks his activities to ensure he is spending time on the things he feels are important.

* Politican as self-tracker – Bob Graham’s notebooks – How a US Senator proved the CIA wrong with his obsessive self tracking.

* Ping’s Thesis – From Diary to Graph – How one man not only tracks his daily activities but also can graph it with fascinating results.

* My Big-Arse Text File – a Poor Man’s Wiki+Blog+PIM - Much of my own inspiration came from this post by my friend and short term personal saviour Matthew Cornell.

* Living in text files - Why do a use a text file for my daily log? The answers are here.

**Update**

In a serious error of omission, I forgot to include probably the best two posts on this very subject written by my friend Chris Bowler:

* Track Yourself With a Custom Log File

and

* Custom Log File Revisited

Changing The Landscape

This may sound strange but one of the crucial tools that helps Princess Bethany and I save our marriage on a daily basis is a shared calendar. We both work out of our home office, we have many meetings and events that we must attend together, and it helps in making sure that the scheduling needs of Duchess Beatrix is always tended to. Without the ability to share a calendar, our lives would be utter chaos.

Up until very recently, we have been using Backpack’s built in calendar for this task and it has been really great. Bethany and I each have separate calendars for our work and personal items. We also have a calendar for joint events. It is very easy to keep track of which things pertain to our work, which things are personal and which things we had to do together. Because it is browser based it is easily accessible as well.

Once I got an iPhone, things started to break down a bit. I was able to subscribe to the various calendars in Backpack in iCal, and then sync those events to my phone. The only problem was the subscription option is a “read only” solution. I could not add or edit events on either the iPhone or in iCal. I was fine with this for a while as I rarely need to add events when out and about. The calendar is more of a “dashboard” for my day. That being said, when those rare times would occur, my solution was to capture the meeting specifics on a 3×5 card and then add those to the calendar when I returned home. Having to “touch” the event more than once did drive me a bit batty.

Then, Princess Bethany got an iPhone. While I was willing to put up with the limitations of this solution, I knew that her level of patience for such things was less than mine. A change would have to be made.

I knew that, in order to have native read/write calendar functionality across all devices, I would have to use iCal. The problem with this is that iCal does not natively allow you to have calendar sharing and synchronization across machines on a network. There are ways one could workaround this using a shared MobileMe account but this is a less than ideal solution.

The solution is a product called BusySync. It installs as a pane in System Preferences and seamlessly allows you to do real iCal calendar sharing between multiple Macs – with read write and password control. It is a fantastic solution and works so well you wonder why Apple has not implemented this feature in iCal themselves. It could not have been simpler to set up and make the switch. Here is what I did:

  1. With the Backpack calendars subscribed in iCal on one of the Macs, I exported each calendar individually. To me, this is the simplest way to get the data out of Backpack.
  2. I then deleted those calendar subscriptions from iCal.
  3. Next, I imported the calendars I had exported back into iCal, being careful to make sure it imported each one into its own new calendar.
  4. I then installed BusySync and followed the instructions for sharing the calendars.
  5. Finally, I went to the other Macs, installed BusySync there, and followed the instructions for subscribing to the calendars.

It really was simple and took far less effort than I thought it would. Things just plain work. Make an appointment in iCal on one Mac and seconds later it shows up on every other one. Make a change to an appointment and it also syncs in seconds. The other obvious advantage is that, when we make an addition or change on the iPhone, it updates every calendar the next time we sync. Read/write capability everywhere.

It has only been a day or so but I can already see how much more functional this setup will be.

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