Keep A ‘What Worked Journal’

This is a trick I learned from a farmer friend of mine. This person has learned to log everything–and I mean just about everything–attached to growing his crops. He says it’s a lot easier to do today than it was twenty years ago, with computers able to automatically record things as minute as soil temperature and weather condition from his tractor, but the result is the same as if he were taking a pencil to his ledger in the 80’s.

Because he records just about everything, the farmer ends up with an incredible amount of data. Much more that the farmer would seem to need for the normal season. Until he finds himself facing a problem with a growing crop.

Once the farmer stops getting a decent yield from a crop, he goes back to his logs and studies the data. Piece by piece, line by line, step by step. If there is anyway possible to correlate one factor that is not being done that could be the difference in his current yield, this farmer will find it. Just about any good farmer would find it, because they have plenty of examples and information to test to make sure you were doing it right in the first place.

From this example, I’ve come up with the suggestion of a different kind of journaling. I have brought up the power of a journal many times before, and often steal a phrase from Tony Robbins, ’any life worth living is worth writing down.’ This time, I am proposing a mostly ‘work’ journal that will take a good bit of effort, but can save you time in long run in back research, and may prove to be the perfect tool to save you from a CYA situation.

This ‘What Worked Journal’ is simple in concept, but is a bit labor intensive. It requires writing down JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING that is relevant about a project as it happened and notating whether it actually succeeded or failed.

And then you let it sit for a while. You add a little more for you next project, and then it sits. New project, new inputs, then more sitting.

The usefulness of the What Worked Journal is the ability to go back to that place in time when you were working on a similar project, and compared what you are doing now to what you did then. If your current project is on a path heading for obvious failure, open up the journal and look back to the past, and see if you can find some step you missed that could have been the critical key to actual progress. If things going a little too well for you comfort, turn back to your similar projects that did end in failure, follow the road map backward, and find a way to not do it again.

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