Action Logging Again

Action Logr is Andy’s new blog on the topic of keeping an action log. Inspired by him and wanting to get my work patterns back on track after a busy teaching term I decided to start action logging again.

It’s been a while <cough – over a year!> since I posted anything here but I’ve decided this is still the best the place for reflections on my ongoing first person action research.

Action logging
Action logging prevents a downward spiral developing

For the last 5 weeks I have been keeping an Action Log . I’ve gone back to this practice, which I first used during my degree, several times over the last few years and always found it helpful. The basic idea is to keep a record of completed ‘actions’ rather than to focus on the overwhelming thing that a to-do-list can become. I’ve a poor record with to-do-lists that goes way back so I tend to do almost anything to avoid having one. However, flying without any compass can be deadly. I find it far too easy to get to the end of a week & have no clue what I’ve actually achieved. Being of a slightly negative turn of mind (stop laughing at the back!) I therefore assume that I did nothing and feel really rubbish. My ‘inner critic’ has a field day and I become too demoralised to get anything done. Not good.

Enter the Action Log. I know from previous experience that action logging can be used to get me back on track. So this summer seemed to be a good moment to re-visit it.

I’m going to use Gibbs Reflective Cycle in a fairly informal way to consider my month.

Description – What happened?

I started off using the Notes ap on my iPod Touch to record my day’s actions each evening and this worked fine for the first 10 days. It helped me to keep things short and avoid going into huge amounts of detail. I then decided that it wasn’t useful as a long term method as there was no easy way to access the data. I found a convoluted way of transferring everything I had so far to the mac and carried on using Voodoo Pad to record each day’s actions.

Daily actions varied wildly with some days having as many as six and others with only one or even none. Some things recorded as actions really weren’t, leaving  a total of 4 ‘working’ days with no actions at all. On the other hand after 2 of the 4 ‘non-working’ days  large actions (substantial blog posts) were recorded later in the evening. Otherwise actions tended to happen in the mid morning or very early evening.

My average is 1.5 per day for all actions but only 0.7 for substantial actions.

Feelings – what do I think and feel about it?

My initial feeling is one of surprise. After all this time mostly away from formal job structures I seem to have no clear demarcation between working and not working. As soon as I write that I think “Of course not, why would you? You and most of the rest of the world!” I wonder if this is what I want. Is this helpful? Will it move me forward?

Ironically I also feel that there really aren’t enough large actions. Although my average is 1.5 per day many of those are small. The average for large substantial posts is much lower at 0.7. This makes me feel uncomfortable and has my inner critic jumping up and down shouting “Lazy!”

I’m feeling that I’ve slightly fooled myself into believing that time spent on social media, specifically Facebook Pages and Twitter, are actions, all be it small ones. Discussions with Andy and re-reading the definition of actions suggest not. Sigh!

It’s good to be reminded that mid morning and early evening are potentially creative times. It is also worth remembering that late evening after a day of relaxation can be a very good time for me to get work done. I feel very positive about this.


Evaluation – What’s good and bad


  • The process has produced worthwhile insights
  • I’m feeling better about my work patterns
  • I can see a way forward
  • Overall I feel the Action Logging is proving useful and I will continue.


  • Too much time spent on social media masked as actions
  • A deep confusion between work and non-work times  leading to too much ‘pottering’ and disappearing down rabbit holes on line.
  • Too few substantial actions.

Analysis – What sense can I make of it

As ever Action Logging is reassuring. I have a strong suspicion that just the act of keeping a log makes me do things so that I have something to write down.

Working through the month’s log I have identified an underlying issue, a lack of direction, a tendency to react rather than act.This connects to the ease by which things like RSS feeds and email provide distractions.

Conclusion – what else could I have done

Protected myself from email & other distractions.

Clarified what constituted an action sooner

Made sure that I was at my laptop at the times I am most likely to be productive and was not checking email, writing morning pages or even doing yesterday’s action log!

Action Plan – What will I do differently next time?

1. I’ve already started a ‘no email on Wednesdays’ policy to provide one day with fewer distractions. My intention is to boost the number of substantial actions taken on that day I will report on this next month.

2. Find a better way of recording actions. I am pretty sure there are things I did do that were not recorded in the log. Using my browser history as an aide memoir is one of Andy’s suggestions. I will experiment with moving my logging time to first thing in the morning.

3. Use what I know (and forgot!) about the most productive times for me to make sure I am available to work at those times.

4. Remember that a draft post is NOT an action however long it might be!

5. Limit my social media and Rss usage to early morning, after lunch and some evenings.

That’s enough for now I think. I’m not going to reflect on the reflective process. No one is marking this 🙂










3 thoughts on “Action Logging Again

  1. Pingback: Linda Action Logging on Acting to improve http… | DARnet
  2. My problem with any process whose intent is to lead to higher productivity, or more efficient work, is that I always want to be doing something else eg artistic creations or studying. A butterfly mind perhaps, or an indication that I don’t want to be doing certain kinds of work, but I’m going with it for the time being, because I think it’s guiding me towards where I really want to be at the same time as learning stuff that I find useful or inspiring. I’d be interested to learn how +Andy Roberts fits his song-writing & singing in with his action logging. Perhaps I should ask him 🙂

    I recommend anyone reading this to go to the following thread to read more comments about the above excellent article from Linda Hartley:

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