A Free and Simple Way To Keep Track Of Your Day

Have you ever asked yourself after a busy day at the office “Where has the day gone? Did I accomplish anything today?” The fact of the matter is that the only way we will ever know the answer to these two questions is to keep a log or journal of how we spent the workday. Here is a simple, effective, and little known way to use the lowly text file to your great advantage.

More than likely you’re familiar with Notepad, Microsoft’s text editor. It comes with every version of Microsoft Windows. Well, did you know that this little gem can be used to automatically note the time and date every time you open it? Here’s how to set that up:

  1. Open a text file in Notepad and type on the first line “.LOG”. Make sure you include the period in front and enter the word log in capitals. Don’t enter the quotation marks.
  2. Click File, then Save and give it a name.
  3. For now, save the file to your desktop.

Your new file should look like this (before saving it):

Log 1

Now, double click the file’s icon on the desktop to open it and you’ll see that Notepad automatically added the time and date:

Log 2

After you make your entry, save and close the file. Notepad will add the current time and date every time you reopen the file. See below:

Log 3

By using this simple technique, you can keep a log of your time. I suggest that you don’t write the next great American novel every time you make an entry. Short, descriptive entries are best.

Even though this is a great tool by itself, you can do even better.

Gina Trapani from has devised a script that you can use to automate the process. Setup is super easy, quick and non-technical. Her script displays a single input prompt where you can enter your task that automatically adds it to your text file. It works great. Click here to learn how to set up your automated Work Log.

Incidentally, if you are not already a fan of the Lifehacker website — you should be. Lifehacker has a plethora of articles on how to work smarter, faster, and better. It is a great site to bookmark.

Using text files has its benefits despite the fact that they are not glamorous like Microsoft Word, Excel, or Access. Here are some of the advantages of using text files for your work log:

  • Text files are the most basic of applications. Every program has some way of importing or exporting data in text format.
  • They can be searched like any other file. In Notepad, just click Edit then Find, and enter your search term. Then click Find Next.Log 4
    Want to add some pizazz to your Log? Add a line of keywords to your entries, especially the important ones. Now your simple text search has become more powerful and efficient.
  • Text files can be opened and read by any Operating  System (i.e. Microsoft, Apple, Linux, etc.).
  • Text files are not dependent upon any proprietary program like MS Word or Excel. So, if you switch Office Suites or Operating Systems you’ll still be able to get at your files and data.

So, there you have it, a FREE, simple, quick and effective way to keep track of your day. Learning to effectively use the tools and systems that come with your PC will help you to minimize costs and work more productively.