Action Log examples

This is the third in a series of articles exploring the Action Log concept for 1st person research. The first article began to explain the practice of first person action research, and the second introduced the idea of keeping an Action Log

In the comments, Shelley asked for a real example of an Action Log and Bill Anderson has provided one already, which we discussed there. He also sent me his second day’s log which I can publish and discuss here, together with an example from my own. First let me repeat how I described the type of actions to put down and the purpose of the log.

The simple idea is to jot down on at least a daily basis, a list of the actions taken. By actions, I mean visible external steps which are intended to have a positive effect, to add to a movement in the desired direction.

The purpose of an Action Log is:

  • To make a useful record which may improve the chances of being able to detect the weak signals of a reproducible relationship between cause and effect, when there is one.
  • Motivation to increase the number of actions taken.
  • A pragmatic form of appreciative enquiry, focussing on the positive accomplishments.

Two Action Log Examples

So this is Bill’s Log for Tuesday, May 6, 2008

  1. Replaced air filter
  2. Tried to replace light bulb – need professional help.
  3. Contacted AD about his blog error about me.
  4. Contacted TB about TCDL presentation req’ts.
  5. Commented on JM’s FB wall.
  6. Contacted UIUC info sys prof about ASIS&T07 session on training curators of digital science resources.
  7. Phone call with DH.
  8. Note to AD about his blog.
  9. Memtester run on pandora (2x).
  10. Voted in city election.
  11. Minimal HD cleanup.
  12. Sent class times to ML R-L.

My comments

This is a great example of an action log, with minimal description of discrete tasks accomplished. My first reaction was to question #2 , which could be about decision making rather than action taking but if you think about it the act of trying to replace the light bulb has been done and it’s moved Bill forward towards solving the problem. The other one is the phone call at #7. If the action was to make a call to DH that needed doing for a specific reason then fair enough. But If it was just to receive a call and pass some time discussing this and that, then this is just accounting for time spent rather than logging actions.

Andy’s Log for three days

  • 7th May
  • PM: Posted News at LTB and updated category news and redir.
  • AM: added to Old WordPress blogs and blogged Shirkey extract to some blogspots and WPs with link-also on flickr. Added Rose’s stuff to cider wiki. blog2 redirection. Added MammaMia to blog post after seeing unsucessful searches. Finished setting up accounts for Social Bookmarking
  • 6th May
  • PM Changes to London Theatre Breaks blog – name change and blog tab. Posted Grease. Updated 2 blogspots. replied to comments.
  • AM tweaks to LT posts. Redirections added to blog2
  • 5th May
  • PM posted sneeze post. Edited a music page at zetnet. Added some tags and links in
  • AM blogged at ukcider. worked on draft at DAR


These entries are fairly typical, representing a number of small tasks and one or two larger ones. The descriptions are not very helpful sometimes, for exaple ” tweaks to LT posts” doesn’t help me remember what the tweaks were, but at least I know I was doing something useful, hopefully. “Worked on draft” is a giveaway, so I’ve caught myself out justifying time and recording an action prematurely. Not until the draft is published does it become an action of the type I am interested in, although I suppose I felt I’d made some good progress towards publishing.

General Points:

Not a timesheet.

Action Log is Not a timesheet

We are not trying to account for our time, in fact the actions which I log only represent about a quarter of the time I spend working online. The rest is research, interaction, reading, learning, and taking actions behind the scenes that may precipitate effective actions later on, but at this stage don’t yet count.

Not the Total Solution.

The Action Log isn’t a “Total Solution”, it doesn’t account for reflection, prioritising, decision making or lots of other essential tasks. It’s only intended to address one aspect of the personal workflow, not the whole thing.

In the next post in this series I shall reflect on the possible impact and implications from keeping the Action Log and also discuss briefly the idea of using twitter.

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