Creating a Plain Text Worklog

No matter what you do, it’s always useful to keep track of what you’re doing. Not only so you can show that you actually have been working on something (and, by extension, get paid), but also as an indication of your progress on a project or your growth as a professional. Or both.

You can do that using a timesheet or a spreadsheet. I prefer to use a worklog.

A worklog is more than just a timesheet, in my view. It’s a combination of timesheet and journal, making the worklog a bit more detailed than the average timesheet. It can contain more information, which can give you deeper insight into what you’re doing.

Let’s take a look at creating a plain text worklog.

Structuring Your Worklog

What does a worklog include? This information:

  • Who you’re doing the work for (if you’re a freelancer) or the project you’re working on
  • What you worked on — this should be one or more tasks
  • The amount of time you spent on the task
  • Notes, which can include:
    • Whether or not you completed the task
    • What you still need to do
    • How the task relates to a wider project
    • Any challenges you’ve faced or additional thoughts about the task

A worklog is a comprehensive view of what you’ve done on a particular day or during a particular week. It’s a record of your progress, and you can use it to do a review or a personal retro if needed.

Here’s an example of a daily worklog:

An example of a daily worklog

Naming and Storing Your Worklogs

How you do that will depend of whether you create separate daily worklogs or a weekly worklog. Here are a couple of suggestions for naming your worklog files:

  • For daily worklogs, include the word worklog in the file name, followed by the date — for example, worklog-2018-06-21.txt.
  • For weekly worklogs, include worklog in the file name, followed by the date of first day of the week — for example, journal-week_of_2018-06-18.

Feel free to come up with your own naming convention.

Where to put all those files? You’ll want them in a central location on your computer. That can be, for example, a folder called Worklogs in the Documents directory on your laptop. Or, if you use a service like Nextcloud or Dropbox to share files across your devices, put your worklogs in a synced folder the service uses.

To get you started, I’ve created a daily worklog template and a weekly worklog template. Feel free to download and use or modify them. I’ve released these templates under a CC0 public domain license that lets you do anything you want with the files.