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Re: Work practices: log books, notes files...

by Limbic~Region (Chancellor)
on Apr 17, 2008 at 01:45 UTC ( #680974=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Work practices: log books, notes files...

Not me.

I had a coworker and friend over a decade ago who swore by them. On the cover, he always wrote "Shadow" and any time any one asked him a question, he always said "The Shadow knows" and would thumb through until he found it. This guy had journals going back over 20 years. He was an incredibly smart guy.

It never rubbed off. I rely on my memory almost exclusively.

I almost never walk into a meeting with a paper and writing utensil. If I do, it is likely for show. When I do spend the time writing down instructions, they are extremely detailed - but it is done for other people. I am going to be 2 ** 5 this November and people keep telling me that your memory starts failing you as you get older. Funny thing is, people have been telling me that all my life.

I remember being about 10 years old and quizzing my step-mother if she knew the order of the planets forwards and backwards. Her reply was - I used. Let's see if you still know them so well in twenty years. I was sure to remind her last year that I still knew them forwards and backwards despite pluto no longer being considered a planet. I am often the "go to" source when someone needs to recall something. I have a good memory and rely on it.

On the other hand, my memory seems to depend on adequate sleep. That's something I haven't really been able to get reliably in about the last 6 months. Recall time is slower and inaccurate. Sometimes it is worse to to misremember then it is to not remember at all. When I absolutely do need to write something down - it is in email. Email is the perfect medium for me.

Email for note taking allows you to "remember" using any number of hooks (Who, What, When, Where & Why). It also is useful if you want to break up a body of work in time intervals for the purposes of writing status reports :-)

Cheers - L~R

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Re^2: Work practices: log books, notes files...
by oko1 (Deacon) on Apr 17, 2008 at 02:49 UTC

    Ten years ago - even eight years ago - I would have responded exactly as you did; I was just as proud of my nearly-perfect memory as you appear to be. I could reel off long passages from books that I'd read years before (ones I liked, anyway) and I never needed an appointment book. Then, one fine day - more like over a period of a month, actually - my memory crashed and burned and died. I can't even begin to tell you what a painful and terrifying experience that is, every single waking minute for years afterwards, when that happens - and when you make your living by using your mind.

    These days, I have a memory that works pretty well in some aspects, is rather poor in others, and is absolutely horrible in a a few. I still feel like screaming, regularly, when I reach for something I "know" I should have and hit a blank wall.

    I don't know if this is a common experience for people who have good memories, but for your sake, I hope that my experience was an anomaly.

    Update: In case you're curious, I'm 46, and lost my mind (?) at ~39. No serious drug or alcohol usage of any kind, no brain injuries, no physical reason for it at all. Had a relationship die a horrendous death that year, but that was about all.

    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. -- HG Wells

      Very interesting post.

      Though I wonder if it happened quicker than usual for you - and that due, in part, to a dire year at about that time of life. I'm 36, and am slowly finding my memory is not managing everything. I'm sure it's partly because I've more projects/things on the go than I used to, but...

      Now what was I going to say? Heck, forgotten, never mind :)

      I'm sure another lesson is that life quality (health, sleep, happiness) affects our brain performance, big-time. Also, if I'm not interested, then my IQ does a bit of a downward slide. Reversible, I hope.


      When did it start to happen? Well, I can't quite recall ... :-D ... All kidding aside, it does happen.

Re^2: Work practices: log books, notes files...
by amarquis (Curate) on Apr 17, 2008 at 13:50 UTC

    I'm envious :).

    My memory is terrible. All tasks in school that relied on rote memorization were very taxing for me, and I can honestly say I remember very little of what has happened in the last week.

    At all times, I keep a small hardcover notebook with me, and use it to record everything. Thoughts I have, tasks to perform, all sorts of reminders to myself. If I didn't have it, nothing would ever get done, just thoughts drifting into the mist :).

Re^2: Work practices: log books, notes files...
by sundialsvc4 (Abbot) on Apr 18, 2008 at 14:13 UTC

    The next exponent is uncomfortably close now. It doesn't get any easier.

    I keep a paper log, in a loose-leaf binder that sometimes contains printed pages. I don't always keep it at the workplace, preferring instead to read it in the morning and to update the latest notebook in the evening. When I write in it, I use a number-two pencil and a big fat artist's eraser. It slows me down, and I do that on-purpose.

    You forget a lot of things. We all do. That's why documentation is so important. I was recently asked to unearth some code that I'd written in-preparation several months ago and to quickly put that code into service. Well, the first thing I had to do was (literally...) to find it. Then, I had to manage to understand it in only a couple of days. It was tough, but I did it.

    • “Find” it?
    • “Understand” it?
    • “In only a couple of days?”
    • It was “tough?” (Like, dude, didn't you write it?!)

    Yes, of course I did write it, but when confronting that work today ... it was the work of a complete stranger. I was at-first no more equipped to deal with that code than anyone would have been who was seeing it for the first time, as I for all intents and purposes was.

    Fortunately, “the person who wrote it” left lots of notes. In the version-control system there was a complete design-document, which I re-read. And there was the logbook. And finally, lots of comments in the code. These sources pointed me to other related systems that I had not at first (re-)discovered. Most assuredly I would have been floundering around for a week or more just getting my feet on the ground, and there was not “a week or more” to be had.

    I don't think that any of this has anything to do with that “next exponent.” Rather, I think that a lot of us have very sloppy, very slap-dash work practices (and plenty of excuses and plenty of books to say that this sort of thing is par-for-the-course, or necessary due to the nature of the work, or even brilliant because we're all such geniuses...). And, yeah, I say “we.” A self-inclusive pronoun.

    Engineers in other professions are taught and required to keep lab-notebooks. But we're not. Companies plying other professions maintain project-plans that are thousands of items long:   we attempt to substitute obstinacy.

    We should know better. They do...

Re^2: Work practices: log books, notes files...
by girarde (Hermit) on Apr 29, 2008 at 16:42 UTC
    I am going to be 2 ** 5 this November and people keep telling me that your memory starts failing you as you get older.

    Patience, Grasshopper. 32 is still quite young. By 0x32 you may start to notice some changes. Mostly to do with things recent. I still know the Main Sequence of stars (OBAFGKMRNS), resistor codes (Black, Blue, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet, Gray, White), planets (ha!), but don't ask me exactly how I set up the test learning management system on Sharepoint last week.

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