Topic: Logbooks

Logbooks are an old concept. I don't see many people who use a logbook in a similar way, so I thought I'd describe my process and my reasons.


When I work on a project which has no logbook, I begin one. I simply make a place where I can write about my progress in English. On this website, my logbooks live on my project pages. There's also a logbook on that page, so you can scroll down to see one in action.

I like plain text formats like Markdown and Org-Mode because I can write them in my text editor while I code.

I like to use headings to break up the narrative into chunks. This lowers the friction to reading. Markdown and Org-Mode both make headlines easy to insert, so they are great formats for logbooks.

For the headings, I'll use the first thing to come to mind. If I don't have any witty or useful title on the tip of my tongue, I will just use a timestamp.

I always write my logs in the past tense. Even when I write about tasks I have not completed, I write them in the past tense. This lowers the friction to progress because I never need to rewrite passages when I do exactly what I already said I would do.

My usage of the past tense lowers the friction for writing, but it does add some friction for reading. To distinguish for readers (I'm my primary audience) whether I have done what I've written, or whether it's a vision of a future accomplishment, I wrap my yet-undone statements in a <Future> JSX component. Here's an example:

Future: I climbed Mt. Everest

Then, when I actually complete that goal, I unwrap the now-true text from the component and it becomes just like any other statement.

If I never do what I said, I'll erase it. If I go another route, I'll try to explain why as I remove it. If it never gets done, it can stay there, lying forever.


Logbooks reduce friction for me to push my projects forward.

I often drop projects for some period of time. That time period varies from a glass of water to a decade. When I have a record of my thoughts and progress, it's easier to pick up where I left off after a meal or a month.

I used to keep all sorts of To-Do lists. I still to-do, but I used to-do, too.

  • Not Mitch Hedberg

Within a project, my next steps are contextual. I have goals, and I want to move towards those goals. I found that "to-do" lists work for me for one-off tasks, but they're meaningless when separate from the narrative which gave rise to them. Since I build and maintain such a narrative with logbooks, I want to keep my next steps there.


Sun Sep 3 10:53:14 PDT 2023

Future: I changed the name of this page to "effort: improve..." instead of "topic" to reflect that this is an idea I want to hone in on over time

I changed the phrase "Project Log" to "Logbook" everywhere on the site because I realized that every page on my site could grow and change, not just projects.