Updated: Nov 25, 2019
In the summer of 2016, still in the middle of getting my Masters at DigiPen Institute of Technology located in Redmond, WA, I worked for 2 months as a Unity UI programmer at 8th Shore, a local game development studio . However, the job was abroad, and I was lucky enough to get to travel to Shenzhen, China for the first time in my life. I'll always be thankful to them for giving me the opportunity.
It was my first game development gig while at school, and I wanted to make sure I was as successful as possible. So I asked myself, how will I communicate efficiently with my manager (located in Redmond) while having a 12-hour difference? I'm talking about the person who's actually writing my checks, paying for my traveling, giving me a monthly stipend so that I could get by in this new country, even if it's just for July and August. I decided to keep track of my daily tasks, and came up with a simple log template that I could easily fill out as the day rolls by, and at the end of every week(Fridays for me) I'd send the report to my manager so that she knew where my time was being spent and what I was concentrating on. To this day, I've kept doing this to increase communication, productivity and even efficiency in my work. It's impressive how a simple text file(yep, just that) can help you in the long run.
The Log File Structure
You can download a template here so that you can start using it, and/or view it while reading the rest of the post as I briefly go through each section.
The image contains the details, but yeah, here you'll fill out your name, your team's name(unless it's a personal one), the project you're working on, and any other category that you think will help you.
I recommend that you keep this log file to just 1 week and not 2 or more. But yep, pretty straight-forward here, just fill out the week that this file will focus on.
Week of 09/28/2019 to 10/04/2019
Planned Tasks and Goals Reached
Every developer knows that in a week, what you plan to do vs. what actually gets done can be very different. Bugs happen, additional meetings get scheduled, priorities can change, etc. This is why I like to separate these into 2 categories so that the person filling out the log can have a chance to write out why a specific task was not done, and what was accomplished instead.
The Day to Day
This is where the important details go. And I don't mean that you have to write absolutely everything that you do(breathing correctly is not a work task). Keep it simple, brief, and remember that it's just a summary of what happened during the day. What I usually like to do is to fill out an item or 2 every 1 to 2 hours. Every entry should last a few seconds, up to a minute. I usually put an average of 5 or 6 per day.
1) Solved Bug#300, found out that the data file was not closed properly by the export command. Submitted the changes to code review.
Also, feel free to merge the two sections and just list any meetings you have as tasks done. It's all good.
Benefits of Keeping Track of Goals
It'll a bit of time to get used to, but once you do It's awesome to see how much you've accomplished in the week. Challenge yourself and try fill it out as much as you can (no cheating though, task entries have to be valid, and brief).
Another nice benefit is that you have all of this information about yourself available at any time. Having a bad week? There's nothing like taking a step back, and be grateful of all that you've accomplished in the past, reading each line as it takes you back to those defeated challenges.
Definitely feel free to reach out and share if you're using this or if you've modified the structure with new sections.
And in case you read all the way through without opening it on a separate tab, here's that template link again, because why not?
Note: There are applications and websites out there that you can check out that let you keep track of this type of information. Some of them have nice gamification to it, that's alright if you prefer to use that, or other ways to keep you focused. This "system" works for me. It's simple, easy to fill out, and hopefully it'll help others as well.
Thanks for reading!