[Dev Tips] Programmer Diary

in #developmentlast year


Are you learning development and find it hard to remember things you learn?

There is a simple technique you can use to drastically increase your retention of new ideas and concepts.

Get a notepad, or software package like Evernote/Day One and write down when you learn new ideas and modules.

Day One is a really good App for making diary entries on a regular basis unfortunately it is only for Apple products, but you can use email if you choose.

There is a very good quote from Edgar Dale I recite often.

We remember
10% of what we read
20% of what we hear
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear
70% of what we discuss with others
80% of what we personally experience
95% of what we teach to others
Edgar Dale

While he doesn't specifically mention writing, it is proven you remember far more when you write things down.

I am not suggesting you "take notes" when you learn things. It doesn't even have to be detailed, even just mentioning new technologies, modules, and ideas you learned will drastically improve your retention. It will also give you something to reference back at a later date.

Example Entry


Convict Module - management and validation module for config files
Pipenv - Pip replacement with npm like functionality
Pep8 Style Guide - Standardized formatting for python files
Autopep8 - Easily clean up python files to pep8
autopep8 --in-place mypython.py
Destructuring lists - a, b, c = my_list

Tags: Config, python, style, packages, lists

You can go as detailed as you like, but don't feel like you have to create full notes on every subject. You want to take action to commit an idea to paper (or virtual paper) so it sticks but also allows you to quickly review later.

I wrote a post in my Workflow Series about Increase retention and speed up learning, the idea is to revisit things frequently to retain knowledge. The better you know the idea, the less you revisit it. There are software packages like AnkiWeb that make this really easy to do. I would even suggest using this to quiz yourself on a regular basis to improve retention.

You can review your diary entries on a regular basis or just when you are looking for something you have done in the past but you can't quite remember. Has it been a while since you used a configuration file manager and want to remember what module you used? Search your diary for config and you will find the fantastic convict module you used in an earlier project.

Even if you never refer to diary entries after you write them you will still see a significant improvement in your retention as a result of this activity.

Give it a try for a while, let me know what you think.

I highly recommend using a software package designed as a "diary" that timestamps your entries and allows for tags. DayOne is fantastic as I said but it is limited to Apple products. I recommend Evernote as a free option with support for all popular platforms and easy of use.


I just downloaded DayOne and I'm stoked to check it out. To add to your great advice above - When you're trying really hard to understand a difficult subject, change the font that you're reading into a fancy font. This tricks your brain and makes it easier to take in whatever it is that you're trying to learn.

PS: Python tips are always good to post! :)

I need to do more of this. I am doing some online courses and should be making notes of stuff that stands out in the videos. At least it will give me some key items to look up later.

That's absolutely correct, though when I started, I used to write main concepts using pen and paper in the actual diary. That diary is still with me and I keep writing some of the important stuff out there.

I loved the quote. Then we should focus more on acquiring information and teach it to others in order to retain it better ourselves. Nice article!

 last year (edited)

I am totally in line with the quote. From my personal experience, I only started to master a topic after having written lecture notes and taught it life to others. That is the only way to test our deep understanding of the topic.

PS: I have some diaries too, but I am filling them too fast. From next term, this will become electronic (I bought this remarkable tablet that looks really great for that purpose).

Solid advice! I also recommend Google Keep for quick notes and checklists. It has less features than Evernote but it's simple and quick, especially when I have an idea and I've only got my phone with me. Also telegram has a saved messages function that works well for links and images.

I quite believe this is helpful. I am currently running an android development course on pluralsight and share what I learn once in a while.

Ah you know this is actually one of the reasons I started a blog in the first place. I tend to remember pretty much everything I blog about.