I maintain a work journal, which I urgently request everyone try. The best and foremost reason for this is that you can record your triumphs and personal victories—as well as the details of any trouble in the office—to support/defend yourself around review time. When these annual reviews come down, you know you've done a great job but the particulars of your invaluable support may have slipped your mind unless you've written them down in a work journal.
After that, it helps when you contract yourself to a place and need to record how much time you spend on a project. There are a few ways to do this, depending upon the requirements of your office:
Simply record the highlights of every conversation you have with everyone. Summarize the e-mail exchanges, record the results or indicate the results you're waiting for. Always, always track the names of everyone you've talked to. This isn't just to "cover your ass," this actually helps you do a better job when you need to follow up on the progress of a project.
And when you're unemployed, note all the interviews with all the businesses you're arranging. Get on LinkedIn, and before you go in for an interview, look up the person you're going to speak with and write down all the mutual contacts you share. It turned out my supervisor at one worksite was childhood friends with the creative director of the office I interviewed at. In this case, 30 seconds of research can pay off.
How to track projects:
|Job Code||Description||Time on Project|
|48045||Spring Email Blast||8:30-10AM|
Obviously, you can expand that table infinitely. My current place uses two job codes: one for the client, one for the project, and then I record the clock time as well as tally up the quarter-hours in decimal for easy reckoning at the end of the day. For my math I total the hours I was in the office, subtract the total time I spent on projects, subtract lunch (also I record lunch), and that leaves me with the time between projects which could've been anything from straightening my desk and fighting with a printer to non-client staff meetings.
But every row is one row in my Moleskine. I write in small handwriting and can fit two days of work on one page, usually. Every second or third page is my work journal where I record strange behavior of my coworkers, conversations I've had with my supervisors, questions for clients and their results, etc. Now, when someone says "Where's the S______ brochure?" I can say "I handed it to L______ two hours ago." That's not always required information, but in those moments when it's needed you distinguish yourself as the Lifesaver for having it. And I can record that, put a little star next to that line, and when I go in for my monthly review I can summarize all the stars I've accumulated to justify why I'm actually an asset and not a liability.