My New Experiment: Journaling All the Things

At CocoaConf I attended a session from my fellow Big Nerd Ranch coworker, Mark Dalrymple. In this session he explored the questions we ask when looking for bugs — or more specifically their solutions.

At one point Mark showcased a text document that in glorious detail documented the assumptions, questions and answers he was going through to solve a problem. Now, this wasn’t a document Mark made for the talk, it was from a real journal entry he had. He was Rubber Ducking but documenting the discussion like a court reporter.

If you ever work with Mark you’ll quickly discover he is a relentless notetaker. This is just one more example of how it can pay off.

  • Need to step away to work on something else, here is a document to reload your context.
  • Need to invite someone else on to help solve the problem, here is your knowledge transfer.
  • Want to write up a blog post to help others in the future, here is your draft.

I left the session very inspired. As a result, for this week, technically my vacation week but I’m working on side projects, I’m starting an experiment where I try to emulate Mark’s journaling habits as best I can. I have 3 documents at the moment:

  • Daily Journal — Mostly flat list with GOALS for the day and then ACCOMPLISHMENTS of what actually got done at the end. If something in the list has notes in and of itself, it’s hot-linked to those on their own wiki page.
  • Company Journal — Documenting the efforts I’m putting into my side project and the company that encapsulates it.
  • Tech Journal — Starting with Apple, here is where I’m collection my thoughts, issues, and bugs relative to Apple technologies. I expect to make more for other stacks like web in the future.

I’m using VoodooPad for the actual files/wikis themselves. It works well letting me organize like a wiki and can handle screenshots too.

We’ll see how I hold up. I want to give it my all for at least a week and then will do a retrospective as to how it’s working out. There are challenges (like my current typing speed) but lots of potential benefits too.

Update: More from Mark’s own blog.

Do you journal like this? Any tips or other feedback? I’d love to hear it. Message me on Twitter @zorn or via email: mike@clickablebliss.com.