On having and using notebooks.

Last week, Austin Kleon wrote about how he uses his notebooks and why he uses them. This caused me to think about how I use my notebooks in my newsletter. Here’s a little more detail into how I use my two journals, and a document on my desktop.


Scrapbook: I have some small pocket notebooks, right now I’m using a imitation Moleskine my mother gave me. In the past I’ve used Word Notebooks. I call this my scrapbook. In it I write notes to myself, incidents, observations, editorials, inventories, shopping lists, reminders, thoughts, drawings, and scraps of things from my day. Sometimes it’s many pages of me talking to myself in circles. This is probably the truest form of diary for me.


Then there’s the Bulletjournal which I use to journal my day in short form. It’s a overhead view of my day condensed into bullet points. First thing in the morning, I set out a daily plan bar, an idea I got from Mike Rohde that Cal Newport also uses to a certain extent. (Sorry for the hyperbolic lead in that post.) I set out the plan bar to create blocks of work, writing, and tasks and errands. Then I usually bullet out what I actually end up doing over the course of that day. I use my scrapbook to make this latter part. And make little notes on what I read or wrote about that I’ll want to include longer reflections in my…


Daybook document. This lives on my desktop. That document is my diary, but rather than it be a repetitive document filled with everything I did on that day–I keep it to longer thoughts on things I learned over the course of that day. Sometimes there are multiple days where nothing interesting happened or changed or I didn’t learn anything that’s worth thinking about at length. It’s usually in this document that I come up with blog posts and I track breakthroughs and important details.

I only update the Daybook Document once a week, for about an hour during nap time.  It’s just the essentials and nothing more—not what I ate for lunch or what I did for exercise, because that’s boring. 

Five things I learned from Theft by Finding by David Sedaris.

Five things I learned from Theft by Finding by David Sedaris.

One: That diaries are not that interesting.

Two: They are necessary as a collection of your experiences that can be mined for better writing.

Three: They’re good to reflect on after years to see how very little you’ve changed and see that and develop strategies.

Four: his index will be helpful— and hopefully not too time-consuming—to see repeated themes and life events for easy reference. That’s something I’m going to work on this year.

Five: Quote:

“That’s the thing with a diary though. In order to record your life you sort of need to live it. Not at your desk but beyond it. Out in the world where it’s so beautiful and complex and painful that sometimes you need to sit down and write about it.”

I think the Visual Companion to this book will be super-interesting.