365 Journal Entries

Capturing life's momentary events

Work Journal

I keep a hand-written work journal. Book journals are all the rage now. Everyone is talking about hand written journals. (see Journalisimo, 43 Folders, and of course Moleskinerie a company that makes all kinds of journals.)

I've tried electronic journals. I used colors to help identify key categories such as: meetings, dates, bugs, ideas, and techniques. I once kept a Microsoft Word doc for this. When we started developing in UNIX (Sun Solaris) I used electronic text with VI tags.

Eventually though I moved to a book-type work journal for several reasons:

1) More immediate access in meetings
2) Could draw diagrams and system flows (pictures) and write text
3) Easier to share with others on the team
4) Never have to recharge it
5) Can quickly flip through weeks and months at a time
6) The drawings help me remember more

Over the years I've perfected how to find stuff in the journal even though I don't have a "search" ability like I would in an electronic journal. Before I tell you the methods I use let me explain the reason I went to a hard copy journal for work.

I was working in a startup located on First street in San Jose. Now that I think about it, how appropriate, it was First Street. Did I mention it was a start up?

We rented half of the building from the Hondai Company. We would receive various visits to instruct about copyright and patent laws. The instructor said that in order to back a patent in a court of law, the idea would need to be recorded. He strongly urged us to purchase a lab book and number the pages and date stamp the entry. I found a Record Book by National Brand (56-231) of about 300 pages. These pre-numbered books with acid-free paper cost about $30 each but last me about two years.

The real power is the index I create in the back. It's simply a list of major meetings, events, diagrams, and conclusions and their corresponding page numbers. I use key phrases so that if the subject comes up again I place a coma after the page of the first entry and add the additional page number. This is my "quick search" feature for the analog journal.

Journal diagram and index

I've got about eight years worth of journals now. I rarely reference one older than two years. It's amazing how, paging through the diagrams, I remember so much of the circumstances and events of the time. I can even remember details of The Team.

(I later contributed a more detailed article at DIYplanner.com.)

I never travel without my notebook. One always needs something sensational and exciting to read on the train. - Oscar Wilde


2 Responses to “Work Journal”

  1. # Blogger Tim O'Brien

    I appreciated this post on journaling with the 56-231 from National Brand. I use the same notebook for my work journal. I even use the same sticky-tag to mark my place as you have in your photo. I actually found this post while I was searching for a less expensive source for the 56-231 than I used last time.

    I have used a work journal since 2001 for all of the reasons you discussed. Even though I am a die-hard tech geek, I am also a visual learner. The tactile experience of turning pages and writing in a journal and the visual experience of seeing the layout of my thoughts helps me greatly to remember the meeting / conversation / project. Also, I am a fountain pen fan and this notebook stands up to all but the wettest of pens.

    I am curious about the index you developed and use. It looks like you keep it in back. Do you start one or two pages from the back and hope that you won't run out of space or do you start at the very end and write the index in reverse order?  

  2. # Blogger dave terry


    Thanks for the comments.

    I have since moved to a standard Art Book journal. You can pick them up at Barnes and Noble Bookstores or an art store. They are much cheaper, about $12 and bigger, 8.5 x 11.

    I actually like them better because they are standard paper size and this size allows me to paste things into the journal I might want to keep. Such as an email or diagram someone created in Visio.

    I bought an auto-numbering machine from eBay (but you can get one from OfficeMax) so that I can number my own pages. I use it for all my journal books, work and art as well as pocket sketchbooks. If you want to go all the way, you can keep a spreadsheet of the numbered pages and what you have on them. I just keep the number machine going. I'm at 1023 now.

    As far as the index goes, I start on the last page and work backward. It works out just fine.

    Hope this helps.


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