Friday, January 28, 2005

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

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