Long Live the Work Journal

A window onto green grass

Keep a journal for work, champions.

It’s pretty easy to get started—just create a text file.

Throw in a new heading each day and write down whatever you did—a single line for each task is usually enough. I put the newer dates at the top so it’s less scrolling to get to the most recent content. Over time you end up with your own little private reverse-chronological blog-in-a-file.

Each day, dump in commands you’ve run; links to documents you’ve created, reviewed, or read; tasks you want to get done; or goals you want to achieve.

You’re building a little outboard brain where your work history is just a short grep away.

When that Friday afternoon ennui kicks in, and I’m trying to work out what I’ve contributed, I go back over my work journal for the week.

I’m the rigorous1 type, so each Friday, I summarise my achievements and impediments of the week in a separate note.

When it’s performance review time, I run over these weekly notes and pull together the story for the year.

My journal used to be a bunch of text files saved to a folder in Dropbox. That’s honestly all you need. Use Markdown or Org mode or whatever, and opening a window into what you’ve done is a ⌘f keystroke away.

NotePlan as a work journal

I used text files for years, and then, about a year ago, I switched to NotePlan.

I switched to it mainly because it has built-in daily and weekly notes2, search, sync, an iOS app, and stores everything in plain Markdown files.

It integrates with your calendar (not that I use that feature much) and includes tasks and tagging in the style of Bullet Journaling.

I’m more accustomed to the GTD productivity approach but have found having tasks alongside my journal to be worth tolerating some of the rougher edges on the task management side3.

Eyes on the prize

Knowing that I have a home for all the minutiae of work leaves me more space to dedicate my brain to what’s actually important. 🫡

  1. Ahem obsessive, perhaps? ↩︎

  2. It also has quarterly and yearly notes, though I tend only to use quarterly notes to record what I aim to achieve that quarter. ↩︎

  3. I have knocked together a few Alfred workflows to help me capture tasks into NotePlan from other apps. ↩︎