German Gamboa

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Keeping an Engineering Daybook

A while back, I came across the concept of keeping an engineering daybook or notebook from the book The pragmatic programmer. I've since been keeping track of everything I do development-wise on various notebooks and it has been one of the best things so far this year (though it being 2020 that's not saying much :P ). Allow me to convince you to do the same.

First things first, what is an engineering daybook. It is just a notebook where you keep your day to day notes about work. That's it, there is not much to it. A few examples of things I keep in my notebook are meeting notes, especially if someone needs me to do something for them. I also like to doodle out how the specific thing I am working on is supposed to work as well as things that I learn while working on a task. Everyone is going to be different and there is no set structure about what to keep in your notebook.

There are always an insane amount of things to learn while working in development so it is crazy to expect to keep everything in working memory. This is going to be true both for institutional knowledge as well as technology-specific bits. Having something to refer back to is important.

One of the main things I keep in my notebook are mistakes that I have made as well as how to avoid making them in the future. It can be as simple as making sure to check the spelling of my variable names or as embarrassing as to make sure you don't accidentally take a server out by misusing useEffect.

Another thing I have been doing lately is rewriting tickets and tasks in my own words to make sure that I understand them. This helps me ask better questions to make sure that I am accomplishing my tasks correctly. I am still not perfect there since I often start working on tasks and realize I don't have the full picture causing me to waste time collecting extra information. Which as a side note, coding is usually the last thing in the whole work process.

So I encourage you to keep an engineering daybook. The book suggests using pen and paper rather than going for something digital which is also something I would encourage since it just feels more, special.