The Work Journal

The Work Journal

blank journal
For some time, I resisted the hot new trend of the Personal Knowledge apps that productivity bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters have been promoting. Why did I need yet another place to put information? I already had Evernote for web clippings and show rundowns and archived emails. I had Day One as my personal journal and social media archive. I used Ulysses as a place to write and store text files. But I started to find dissatisfactions with those tools.

Evernote has been evolving into a more general purpose, team-focused business tool1. DayOne’s security features make it great as a personal journal, but it’s little cumbersome for popping in and out throughout the day. Ulysses has enough remaining friction points 2 that while I continue to use it for some tasks, like writing blog posts, it doesn’t really work well for other tasks for me.

So I gave Obsidian a try. I chose it over options like Notion and Craft because it’s lightweight, supports Markdown, and creates text files that live on my computer. What they have in common is that they allow you to easily create linked content, kind of like a wiki. But in this case it’s a wiki for your information.

But what would I use it for? After watching some videos and reading some blog posts, I realized that it could help me with a work-related problem: remembering what I have said. Here’s the thing: I am basically a sole proprietor who collaborates with about a dozen people regularly in my work. I am the only whose primary day job is making these podcasts and so I make a lot of decisions that I need to keep track of. Some of those decisions are tasks and projects that can go in Omnifocus. But others are just bits of data. In the past, I would have stored all that in Evernote, but Evernote is only so-so at cross-linking. Obisdian is much better. The problem is that I have a tendency to forgot important decisions I’ve made or even less important agreements on what we’re doing or how we’re going to do it.

What I’ve done then is create a Work Journal in Obsidian. Every day, I create a new dated note that has subdivisions for “Show Releases”, “Show Recording, Editing, and Scheduling”, “Patron and Sponsor”, “Other”, and sometimes “Review”. In the note, I record everything that happens each day: recordings, posted shows, conversations, emailed tidbits, stuff from Slack, the results of all my work activity.

In addition to the dated journaling pages, there pages for each show where I can collect more general and/or evergreen information (i.e. regular panelists, Google Meet links, etc.), pages for SQPN people, pages for sponsors or particular donors, notes about technical matters (servers, social media, etc.) And what’s great about Obsidian is that I can link the notes automatically by putting a note title in brackets. For instance, if I write something about Secrets of Doctor Who in my daily note, I just put it in double left and right square brackets: [[Secrets of Doctor Who]]. The same with people’s names or any other note. And then when I’m in the Secrets of Doctor Who note, I can examine all the backlinks to find out where I’ve referenced the show in my daily notes.

I also create a special note each month for the next board meeting, which I fill out as the month goes along with information I will want to present to the board, with links back to the daily notes or other notes for supporting information.

That barely scratches the surface of what I’m doing. Obsidian has a plug-in architecture that allows for things like Note Templates; to create Review links, e.g. on this future date, come back and review this tidbit; a Calendar so I can click on a date and go right to that note; and more.

I’ve been keeping the daily work note since mid-April 2021 (it’s not beginning of September), and I can see how my journaling has evolved. And I know that while I don’t very often go back to look at previous entries (although it does happen), the act of recording the events as they happen helps fix the ideas and information in my memory. I am less likely to forget decisions now.

In future posts, if there’s interest, I can perhaps go into more detail about the system and work journaling as I’ve developed it.

  1. It has changed so much that I’m sticking to the Evernote Legacy product because it still supports Applescript, which the newer app does not. ↩︎
  2. Like the way it does Markdown links and the separate licensing and cost for iOS apps ↩︎

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
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