Cutting the fluff from journaling

Work. Home. Chill. Sleep. Work. Home. Chill. Sleep. Most (all?) weeks lately have been stuck in this loop. It's easy to get caught here. However, as the business, team and tech grow I find that if I'm not careful with taking notes, I miss things. Mistakes that re-appear, places where I'm not feeling perfectly clear.

There’s a billion essays already on the merits of journaling. I don't want to sell you on writing a journal, but on how to structure what's written.

Several years back, I started by taking notes both in the morning and evening. The questions dealt with gratefulness, what I did that day, what I learned etc. I would dutifully write up my thoughts, and then re-read my notes at the end of each month. What I found though was that they were... boring. A sandwich with a lot of bread and not much inside.

After summer this year, I dropped the habit completely. It was taking too much time and creating too little value.

It took some weeks before I realised that I was swimming around with too much information in my head, and dropping balls left and right. The business was moving, but I was not moving with it. So, aiming to pick the practice back up, I thought through where I wanted to apply pressure.

I wanted to:

  • Be more experimental in my approach, not falling back into comfortable routines.
  • Make sure I'm working on high leverage opportunities/problems. As with anyone in a fast-moving company, there's always too much to do, am I doing the most valuable stuff?
  • Make sure I note down what I've actually been learning and doing. If I read something, how can I ensure I remember it?

With these in mind, I tweaked the points I cover each day. The headings I have in place check to ensure I'm running experiments, working towards the teams quarterly/yearly goals, and have space to note down things I learn each day. I also switched to having a running note that I have for each week. This lets me skip the large daily template, and have 4 crisp notes to check back up on at the end of the month.

These become more actionable. More in line with issues I'm actually having. It feels like far less of a chore to maintain the new format. It's a great tap on the shoulder to set what you need to get done, and push back against distractions and busy work to get there.

Just as your calendar = your priorities , your journal is your coach - helping push yourself away from nasty habits and towards growth.

© daniel everts, 2022