There is a brilliant talk and blog on this "invisible work" called Being Glue.
Every senior person in an organisation should be aware of the less glamorous - and often less-promotable - work that needs to happen to make a team successful. Managed deliberately, glue work demonstrates and builds strong technical leadership skills. Left unconscious, it can be career limiting. It can push people into less technical roles and even out of the industry.
If you don't track it, you can feel like you worked so hard all day, and then you look back and have a hard time figuring out what you ACTUALLY achieved. (You definitely get this feeling in management positions too).
A few ways I've used to track this invisible work and make it more visible:
- Use your calendar religiously. For example, you get a ping on Slack asking for help / some pairing. Instead of just jumping on right away, create a calendar invite for it, even if its 15 minutes away from now. This allows you to go back over your calendar and see when you paired with folks throughout the week.
- Use your teams work tracking system. For discovery style work, this should be tracked in your teams work tracking system (eg. JIRA). You want to be able to produce an artifact this work is done, eg. describing tradeoffs and what you learned. This not only makes the work visible, but it adds additional value to your team as they can understand your decision and tradeoffs you are making.
- Look for opportunities to pair with and teach others. Instead of spending many hours hidden away trying to debug a problem, is there anyone on your team that you could hop on a screen share and work on it together? Drop a Slack message in your team channel "hey i'm about to debug this bug if anyone wants to pair with me". Even if nobody joins, at least your work is visible.
- Keep a diary of what you are working on. Set a reminder every hour or so just to make some notes. Refer to this when you have your manager 1:1's or team standups to give people an idea where you have been spending your time. Giving specifics is much better than "I was busy speaking to a lot of people".
There isn't a lot of work that stays invisible if you are using these techniques!