Daily Activity Log & Benefits of Tracking Each Day [+ Free Template]

Yulia Miashkova, June 19, 2024

Daily activity log & benefits of tracking each day

Be honest, how often do you wonder where all the time went?

Not necessarily in a grand existential way. More specifically, as another week goes by, you realize you’ve had at least 40 “productive” work hours but find it hard to remember what it is exactly you’ve done with your time.

Or maybe you find that work deadlines creep up on you and it’s almost like you’ve no control over your time? Well, you’re not alone in this.

Most of us living and working in 2024 feel like our time doesn’t belong to us, at least not fully. We’re juggling priorities and competing deadlines, fighting meeting creep – all the while trying to keep up with incoming emails and Slack DMs.

And while you can check your browser history to try and reconstruct your online time, it only paints part of the picture. For one, you don’t see how long you spent in different tabs. In addition to that, you only see your activity in the browser, when in reality you’ve been switching between programs, files, chats, and meetings.

This is where the concept of daily activity log aka productivity log comes in. Think of it as your browser history, except you see your whole day and exact time in all apps, emails, meetings, etc.

  1. We explore what exactly an activity log is.
  2. We go over the benefits of keeping a daily activity log for work.
  3. We look at some examples of work activity logs.
  4. I share a free activity log template you can use right away.

Without further ado, let’s roll.

What is meant by activity log?

First of all, let’s define what we mean by activity log when it comes to documenting your work and productivity.

Not to be confused with a physical activity log, a daily activity work log is a chronological timeline of activities you’ve done during your work hours. It includes, but is not limited to:

  • Your time in meetings (online and in-person)
  • Your time answering/drafting emails
  • Your time working in web and desktop apps
  • Your time editing files and documents
  • Your time chatting colleagues on Slack
  • Your time answering personal messages
  • Your time doomscrolling taking breaks

All of this constitutes a normal workday and fills up the 8 hours we’re trying to be mindful of. A daily activity log is essentially a time management log meant to bring clarity to your time usage.

If you want to get better at using your time and meeting all deadlines, while also leaving enough energy for your personal time and meaningful activities outside of work hours, it’s essential to understand your priorities, identify time drains, and stick to the plan.

Let’s explore more benefits of keeping a daily activity log.

Benefits of keeping an activity log

Benefits of keeping activity log

As employees, our largest and most valuable resources are time and skills. This is what we sell to the employer in return for fair compensation. So if we sell our time in bulk, what are the benefits of tracking each day?

1. Identify time drains

The biggest and most obvious benefit of keeping a daily activity log is identifying all the time drains stealing your precious hours from you. And we’re not talking about doomscrolling (although if that’s a big issue for you, you might want to try single tasking and other productivity hacks that offset doomscrolling).

I’m talking spontaneous support requests, “quick revisions”, and meetings that more often than not exceed the allotted time.

Without keeping a detailed log of your activities throughout the day, you’ll never know how much of your time all of these small things are stealing from you. When your time drains become visible and quantifiable, that’s where you start taking control of your work hours.

2. Justify capacity

The second benefit derives from the first one: if you know that the actual time in your meetings is 1.5 h more than your planned time, you can justify your capacity and get better at planning.

If Slack chats with urgent requests from colleagues eat up an hour of your time every day, that’s an hour taken away from your allotted time for tasks and projects.

By looking at your work activity log day to day, you can identify patterns and set more realistic expectations for managers (and for yourself, if you’re a freelancer or a team lead). You can prevent being overworked and justify instances where you need more time or help to complete an assignment.

Justifying work hours

3. Back up billables

Speaking of freelancers and anybody who’s paid by the hour, including contractors, an activity log is indispensable in calculating your rate and invoicing clients for all of your time.

87% of businesses pay their invoices past the due date. This means that as a freelancer, you’re taking risks if:

  1. You don’t keep an activity log and eyeball your hours retrospectively
  2. You get paid weeks after the work is done and can’t account for all your billables

Imagine trying to justify to the client the extra hours that appeared on an invoice based on your rough estimate. Yes, you did the extra work but if you don’t have a detailed activity log to refer to, you’ll barely remember any of it, making your claim to the client unjustifiable.

4. Calculate utilization

Let’s say you’re not a freelancer but an agency employee, which means your work is also client- and project-based. You need to report on your time to reach your billable utilization target.

If your PMs really care about utilization (i.e., not using it as a BS metric where people report 40/40 hours and everyone is happy), your job is to give them realistic, actionable data. Again, without a daily activity log there’s no way to know exactly how many hours you dedicated to client projects. You act on guesstimates and that affects your workload and fulfillment.

Meanwhile, if you do have a daily activity log for work, you can report on project hours with precision. Then, PMs can calculate accurate utilization rates and distribute the workload in a balanced way.

5. Improve productivity

Last but not least, keeping an activity log means you’re keeping a productivity log. Together with time drains, you uncover focus streaks and figure out when you’re the most productive. Then you can build up on that insight and organize your work in a way that enhances your focus times.

Pro tip: an automatic activity logger like Memtime will even display your day in 15-minute increments, which is perfect for visualizing your productivity and amplifying your current work patterns (more on that later).

A daily activity log gives you a realistic picture of your workdays. Once you’ve uncovered all the time drains and built a more balanced schedule for yourself, you can improve your productivity in a meaningful way.

Work activity log examples

Now that we’ve covered the essentials of work activity logging, let’s look at some examples of daily activity logs.

Paper log

This one goes out to all the fans of the good ol’ pen and paper. The most rudimentary work activity log is a piece of paper with daily tasks and activities written on it. Every time you start a new task, you check the time, pick up the pen, and jot down:

  • Name of the task
  • Start time
  • End time

You proceed in this way until the end of your workday, and then you group your tasks by project and calculate your daily total. If you’re diligent with documenting your tasks, you can use the paper log to calculate your utilization rate by dividing your billable hours by the total number of hours you worked that day.

Another way to keep a daily log of your activities is to use a spreadsheet template – grab this one and get started with activity logging even as you’re reading this blog post.

Simply make a copy of the file and start logging your daily work activities. It’s a straightforward process – you type in the date, name of the activity, start and end time – but you also have the flexibility to select your projects from the dropdown and have your total task time calculated for you automatically.

Pro tip: use Smart chips / Calendar events to quickly fill your activity column with meetings and appointments from your calendar.

Free work activity log screenshot

Finally, a way to really elevate your daily activity logging is by using an automatic activity tracker like Memtime. It’s a desktop app that passively captures your activity in all computer programs and displays your day in a chronological timeline.

You can adjust the level of detail using the zoom feature and view your day in 1-60 minute intervals. Below is an example of what an activity log can look like, when visualized in 30-minute increments.

Work hours submitted on time

As you can see, Memtime automatically captures everything I’m doing down to the minute. I don’t need to remember when I start and end each task; moreover, I can multitask in peace knowing that all my activities are recorded.

The best part of using Memtime’s desktop app for automatic activity logging is that it keeps my activity data offline on my computer. I’m the only person who can see my activity across programs. No colleague or manager can access my data.

Here’s what you can do with your automatic work activity log:

  • Visualize your day in any level of detail
  • Analyze productivity and time drains
  • Create time entries and log them under projects
  • Manage your local Memtime Projects
  • Export time entries to connected software (Asana, ClickUp, etc.)

As you can see, automatic activity logging comes with additional features for more efficient time and project management, billing, and productivity. If you want to give Memtime a try, it’s free to use for 14 days with no credit card required.

Wrapping up

Daily activity logging is about taking control of your time, specifically the hours you’re supposed to be productive, so that you can enjoy your free time knowing that all your projects are on track.

The benefits of keeping a daily work log range from better productivity and work-life balance to increased revenue and profitability. There’s no losing in tracking each day – only learning and making positive changes based on your insights.

While there are many ways to keep a daily activity log, one that doesn’t require any manual input and guarantees accuracy is using an automatic activity tracker. It’s a zero-effort tool for keeping track of every minute of your workday, making the most of your productive hours.

Make sure you give daily activity logging a try. We might not have all the time in the world, but we can take full ownership of the time that we do have.

Meet the author:

Yulia Miashkova - post author

Yulia Miashkova

Yulia Miashkova is a content creator with 7 years of hands-on experience in B2B marketing. Her background is in public relations, SEO, social listening, and ABM. Yulia writes about technology for business growth, focusing on automated time tracking solutions for digital teams.

In her spare time Yulia is an avid reader of contemporary fiction, adamant runner, and cold plunge enthusiast.