The Value of a Project Manager Diary

Project manager diary

What is the value of a project manager diary? Why would you bother to make the effort to keep one?

How many times have you thought “I’ll remember that, it’s too important to forget and I don’t need to write it down”? Then promptly forgotten the details of what ever important fact it was. I know I have numerous times, that is why I got into the habit of keeping a project manager diary.

A project managers day can get pretty busy with meetings, planning, re-planning, following up actions and dealing with risks & issues. Add several days together and it can become difficult to remember what you did at the start of the week. So how do you remember what you need to put in the weekly, monthly etc. report? This is when a project manager diary adds value. If you have kept an up to date diary it becomes easy to flick back through and find needed pieces of information for reports. No one can remember everything.

What to use and how.

I have used several different tools over the years to keep my diary. I have used spreadsheets, text documents, advanced notebook applications and blog pages. It does not matter what you use, it’s a personal style choice which depends on the way you organise it. I prefer to keep entries organised by days and months so I can keep track of the chronological order of events. It is then easy to determine what goes in which report based on date.

How do you find time to fill in a project diary during your busy day? I use a calendar appointment at the end of each day and reminder to prompt me to fill it in. When you get into the habit the reminder becomes redundant as you will start making quick entries all the time. The prompt at the end of the day can still be useful to go back and fill in details of the cryptic note you may have left yourself.

What goes in the diary? Everything! Emails, conversation notes, decisions, actions, events that happened, ideas, options, risks and issues that arose, everything! I use it as a dumping ground and then go back when time permits and use it to update all the official project documents if I did not at the time.

What do the different methods say about diaries?

Prince2 advocates the use of a “daily log”. It describes it as a “project diary” with similar uses as I have described. AgilePM promotes only creating documentation that adds value to the project. As an experienced PM I believe a project diary is very valuable to an Agile project. Especially when there is minimal other documentation created. PMI PMBOK does not clearly refer to a project manager diary but does refer to work performance information notes. This could be broadly interpreted as a diary.

If a project manager diary is consistently kept it can be very valuable to a project manager. No one can remember everything!

by Lachlan Mollison – Project diary keeper

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