For the past 30 years I have kept a Management Log. I usually started a new one each year. The tools required for entry are a pen, and pencil and spiral notebook (cheap investment for such a large payback).
I call the entries “Liners” because when I wrote them it was usually just a couple of lines with dates, facts, figures, observations and comments from internal and external customers.
I always kept one on myself and for those direct reports that required constructive feedback for evaluations and some immediate request from above on how I see my people or some immediate accomplishments when putting a list together for performance appraisals downsizing and very rarely a bonus.
During the day I always had my spiral notebook in a handy drawer where I could open it quickly and make an entry. If I weren’t at my desk or out of town I would use Sticky Notes, Small Notebooks, Emails and Voice Mails to myself for entry later.
Speaking of Emails - When you receive good comments (bad too) and information you should save and print these emails in both an on-line and hard copy folders. This is a great way to document and best yet it serves as a reminder for someone including yourself when memory becomes an unreliable source of information and is open to debate.
The entries always had the date, subject and person if applicable. At the end of each month I would summarize my entries for each direct report and then by quarterly and then annually. This seems like a timely effort but it is not and it saved many a job from downsizing.
I was always prepared when an Email or phone call came wanting information on my team or one of my direct reports. Responding in a timely manner with dates, quotes, people, data and information put my folks first and foremost.
I also did it for those senseless rating and ranking sessions that are still common today. No one hates them more than me and there have been a number of times where I refused to join in on the party.
For more on Performance Appraisals read my post at http://qualityg.blogspot.com/2005/06/leadership-performance-appraisal.html
When I did play I was able to present information on my people where my peers could not. Speculative and verbal praise will not match up with objective and meaningful data and observation. I could go back to the first quarter and supply value-added information where others had a tough time remembering last week. This type of data and information is critical for Performance Appraisals.
Question --> Most people I encounter hate Performance Appraisals. When so many people hate the same thing does that not tell you something is wrong? "It inherently is wrong, it just plain stinks."
It is every managers job to support their people first even before themselves.
I still keep logs today for each person and student I work with so that I can learn and provide meaningful measures and objectives. It does not matter what profession you are in when keeping a Log.
P/S – I also keep a log on myself when I was reporting to upper levels because I knew they would not.
It's amazing what costs so little in time and money go such a long way.
Do it for your people, do it for yourself.