/ Management

My Manager Journal

I've been keeping a personal journal for about 7 years now. Four months ago, I decided to start a dedicated "Manager Journal" to keep track of my work at Product Hunt. It helps me quite a bit in navigating the big company changes and the team growth we've had in the last couple of months.

Process

I have a pinned note in Bear and fill it in with data during the week.

Every Friday:

  • Send my weekly feedback to my direct reports
  • Write in our #engineering Slack channel to recap all the "Code improvements" done by the team
    • (as the PH team grows, this might become an internal newsletter)

Every Sunday:

  • Review what happened during the week
  • Archive and reset the contents of the note
  • Plan for the next week

Template

I've been using this template since the beginning of November. I still tweak things here and there, but it has been fairly stable for a while now.

# 🅟 Product Hunt Week

Start: 00/00/2021
End: 00/00/2021

## 📚 What I did last week
* [copied from "What I worked on this week" from last week"]

## 🔜 What I plan to work on week
* [what I expect to work this week]

## ✅ What I worked on this week
* [what I actually worked on this week]

## ⛑ Concerns
* 

## 💻 Code improvements
*  

## 🗓 Notable events
* 

## 🗂 Team feedback

### Me
* Good: 
* To improve:
* Observation: 

### [Teammate 1]
* Good: 
* To improve:
* Observation: 

### [Teammate 2]
* Good: 
* To improve:
* Observation: 

Details

Let's get into some details about this format. 🤓

The first 3 sections - "last week", "planned this week", "done this week" help me focus on what to work on during the week, what I have committed to, and what I did in reality.

The items in the list are very high level. Like "Hiring", "Improve CI performance", "Audit our post scheduling system."

Keeping last week visible also helps me notice initiatives spanning multiple weeks or things that I'm stuck on.

"⛑ Concerns" is where I write about all my worries during the week. I got fairly good at recognizing when I'm anxious about something.

Examples are "Project X is late", "Public API performance is dropping", "People are confused about X process change", "We don't have good enough tools for e2e tests".

I often use those as a starting point for new initiatives and addressing core issues. Often, just writing those down makes me feel better.

" 💻 Code improvements" is the log of small system improvements done during the week by my team.

One of my team's core values is constant self-improvement. As part of the daily work, every engineer is nudged to extend our system while working on various features.

Those improvements can be small like "extract a new utility for number formatting" or bigger like "changed moment.js to date-fns". We have a special section in our Pull Request template to list such changes.

Every Friday, I share those with the whole team. It has the following benefits:

  • Not everyone keeps track of those changes, and it is useful to know
  • Shows how much progress we have made in the week
  • It is a positive reinforcement of team values

"🗓 Notable events" is a fairly new section. It is still in the "testing phase" for stuff not applicable in the other sections. Like "X launched on PH, and this lead to a lot of traffic from Y", "We launched Y feature", "The company switched from Trell to Asana"

"🗂 Team feedback" is the section this document actually started from.

I keep a log for everyone in my team, including me.

I have 3 sections there - "Good", "To improve" and "Observation".

I'm a big user of positive reinforcement because it is easy for people to continue doing things they are already doing.

For "To improve.", I try to focus on "action -> outcome" and how it could have been done better. Often this is a discussion.

"Observations" are neutral or fun things I notice during the week.

I share this feedback with my team, and feedback tends to be small and actionable. (I have a draft post about giving feedback)

It helps me spot behavior patterns, positive and negative, which I can later discuss in my monthly 1on1s.

I keep the feedback from myself, which comes from my team or observations about things I could have done better. It is surprisingly helpful.

Example - "I'm not clear enough with my requirements to the DevOps. For 3 weeks in a row, I've been getting some questions about naming and environment variables."

Conclusion

When working, it is far too easy to focus on daily activities and lose track. The "Manager Journal" helps me keep track of my week and helps me spot patterns across multiple weeks. It is almost passing the habit threshold for me.
If you have any questions or comments, you can ping me on Twitter.