My Journaling Practice My Journaling Practice

Updated: December 2023

Management work usually revolves around helping people with change, but it’s the problem-solving that really rewards me. Journaling is my way of stepping back to see the big picture. It’s thinking through the twists and turns of the forest and figuring out how to reach that castle on the hill, all while making sure I’m prepared for the journey. It’s my way of ensuring work is fulfilling and not endlessly reactive.

three journal setup
It might be odd, but it's mine.

The magic of a pen in hand

I like to start a “thinking block” with a quick one page sketch roughly about whatever is on my mind that day. I am not a good artist, these are just for me. It helps me get into a mindset of visualizing my concerns in a new way, and find new approaches to issues that I’m stuck on. There’s something about sketching that kickstarts my creative problem solving mindset. I usually do this in the morning, but often it’s after lunch once the morning rush and check-ins are done.

It’s a good delimiter for the change between reacting and actually working.

Note moments that resonate

Each meeting gets titled with a name, who’s there, and the date, that’s about it to the structure. Instead of trying to take minutes, in meetings I write down resonant moments. To me a resonant moment depends on the meeting: In smaller meetings I record personal insights, in bigger meetings, I record more of the the goals and vibe. This helps me process what’s happening in the meeting and be a better participant (I can record and particpate with a pen better than typing).

But it is an important record. At the end of the week, I create a “digest page” that summarizes everything from my meetings into one place. Collecting throughts on individuals, projects, myself into one place. When I review my notes those moments are touchpoints to recall more of the details of the meeting. That page is gold when flipping back and digesting the digests, and it really helps with…

Plans are worthless, planning is everything

At the start of each week I transcribe my day by day calendar for the week into a notebook. Then I take the digest page of notes, and other things I know I need to do and plan out:

  1. Key priorities for the week
  2. Where the time to work to those priorities fits into the week
  3. Seasonal things that need attention (eg, nudge people for 360 feedback)
  4. What I’m doing to take care of myself this week

Keeping my week’s outline constantly in view on my desk anchors my focus on what’s important and equips me to gracefully adapt whenever something disrupts my plans.

Using good tools

It really mattered for me that my journal and pens brought me joy. The feel of a good pen on good paper does good things for my creativity. I started out functional with some nice but cheap notebooks and pens. Finding something that had a playful spirit made a big difference in the consistency and quality of my journalling. On the off chance you feel the same way, I’m a fan of Scribbles that Matter journals and their productive weeks planner (link gets you $5 off) and JetPens for the great variety of quality art supplies they offer.