Micro-Journaling Needs To Be A Thing

Over two years ago I wrote this blog post about a productivity experiment I was conducting. The idea was simple: take short notes throughout the day about the things I was working on, what I was thinking about, places I went, people I talked to, what I had for dinner, etc. Then, at the end of the day, copy those notes into my DayOne Journal so that I could review them during my weekly and monthly GTD reviews. I mixed business and personal notes so that I didn’t have to worry about recording things in several places and I kept each entry very short (maybe a sentence or two) so that it didn’t take up a lot of my time.

I found that copying and pasting the entries every night became tedious, so I created a simple app that allowed me to record notes via Slack and save them into a database. On August 11, 2015 I wrote my first entry into this new system. Now, over two years later, I have 13,317 micro-journal entries that document the last 787 days of my life.

Other than a few days I skipped because I was away on vacations, I have detailed notes about practically everything I did since I started this. There were times when I had to go back a few days and piece together some things, but most of the time when I was sitting at my computer, I’d simply add an entry when I was done with a task. I’d often give an accounting of time as well, such as, “Spent the last 45 minutes working on the database schema for the profiling system.” I also added the ability to add hashtags which gave me the option of categorizing entries. Since all of this was going into a database, it made it easy for me to search and organize these entries into meaningful reports.

In my previous post I wrote:

I see this as a tool that will let me assess and better reflect on how I live my life. It will let me see how I spent my time and maybe even why I spent time doing the things I did. For me this means the clarity that I’ve been lacking. It means getting a better understanding of myself. It means being able to become a better husband and father, a better product manager and engineer, and hopefully, a better person.

What I’ve found is that keeping this micro-journal has enabled me to remember little things that would have been lost forever. I’ve used it to take notes about projects and ideas I’m working on. When I think of an idea or I am stuck on a problem, I log it. These small notes let me reconstruct my train of thought, oftentimes leading to new insights and better outcomes. I’ve used it for other things as well, like tracking my workouts, taking notes about the soccer games I coach for my girls, and tracking how much TV I watch. The combination of small notes and simple reporting create a very clear picture of how I’ve spent my time, what I was thinking about, and what I can do to improve.

I’ve been working on turning my system into a product. It’s changed my life, and I’m sure it can help others too. I’ll keep you posted.


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