The Journal

I keep a journal at work.

I’ve written in it every working day for the last 7 months. I know this because it’s all there in the journal.

I have busy times and I have relaxed times. I know this because it’s in the journal.

I have numerous goals that I’ve met and numerous goals that I haven’t. I know this because it’s in the journal.

I’ve worried about many things that ended up being unimportant. I know this because it’s in the journal.

The Beginning

I made the transition from an engineer to an engineering manager a few years ago. I’d often find myself wondering: what did I accomplish today? Did I really do anything? Or did I just float from conference room to conference room without providing any value?

Managers don’t have an issue tracker for their tasks. I can’t see a list of things that I need to accomplish and a history of the things that I have accomplished.

For me, that changed with the journal.

The Journal 1.0

The journal helps me reflect on the past and look towards the future. I dedicate one page to each day.

On the left side, I keep a list of tasks that I need to accomplish. Some of these tasks are concrete and well-defined. Some of them are goals with a fuzzy path.

On the right page, I write down everything I do. When I have a 1:1, I’ll write it down in the journal. When I chat with someone in the hall, I’ll record it in the journal. When I send an email, I write it down.

I reflect on the right page at the end of the day and this provides the sense of accomplishment that I miss from engineering tasks. I can also refer back to previous days to see what I’ve been able to do.

Every morning, I move to the next page. Write down the date and, here’s the key, copy over the goals from yesterday. Each day, I re-write my goals so that I cannot forget about them and they are top of mind.

Most of the time, the list of goals I copy over are the same as yesterday. Sometimes things drop off and sometimes I add things.

The Journal 2.0

I’ve changed how I use the journal over time. With each change, I’m using it to do more.

Now, I keep a section at the bottom of the left page for goals that I must do today. The top has long-term goals or tasks that I don’t want to forget about. The must do today section helps me to remove the fear that I will forget an essential task.

I’ve also written more and more on the right side as time goes on. Instead of just writing about a 1:1, I’ll capture something important that happened in that 1:1. Or, if I come across a quote or piece of advice that I like, I’ll record that on the right side too. This helps me to reflect on things that I come across in my day and provides a lot of value as I look back in time.

The Future

I don’t know what’s next for my journal but I only see myself using it more. There have been days where I’ve forgotten it at home and I feel lost. The journal has provided me with a sense of clarity, accomplishment, and reflection that I don’t want to be without.