Every developer, programmer, engineer, whatever title you wish to use, should have a notebook of some kind. How can you progress without having the ability to jot down what’s on your mind?

Oh what’s that you said? You’ll just open a word processor or OneNote and jot down your ideas that way? Oh you fool!

A notebook on every engineer’s cubicle desk with a pen to go with it! That should be the chant of the modern activist programmer, more so than “Free that software from the confines of its proprietary masters” for those of you who are almost religiously loyal to the GPL…

What? You prefer pencil over pen? Oh dear God, I’ve got my work cut out for me…

So why the emphasis on a notebook? Well because I use one, and like any good person with a blog as an outlet for that occasional thought or rant… I’m going to rant a little.

Now if you don’t have a notebook, what have you been using to jot down ideas?

On my first day at Cerner, I was given a Mead two-subject, spiral bound, ruled notebook. Not the standard size notebook, but a medium sized notebook. About my only complaint with this notebook is that its cover is… pink. How did I get unlucky in that lottery?

But it has been with me since that day, and it has collected a lot of ink. Most engineers probably use their notebooks to jot down little quips, tiny notes, things to remember. They don’t necessarily write what’s important.

At home, I’ve become a Moleskine convert, and I like it much better than the sketchbook I had been using previously. And currently it’s being used only for ideas, notes, and the like. I’m not writing down what’s “important”.

So what is important if you’re keeping a developer’s notebook? Well, everything. Any idea, any question, comment, criticism, whatever is on your mind about whatever you’re working on is important. Details for test plans, awkward observations while running the application, anything that could be remotely considered important should be considered important enough to not only note in your notebook but also commentary.

Basically your developer’s notebook should be a very detailed developer’s journal. Now I know some will be apprehensive because that notebook would likely have to be turned over to the company if you’re laid off or decide to leave of your own will, meaning it then becomes bedside reading for someone higher up in the company, and that is certainly a valid concern, which is why you shouldn’t sound off about your coworkers in your notebook, only your projects.

Or make sure you drop it in the shred bin on your way out the door.

Just something to think about next time you look at your notebook. Could you be doing more with it?