We have a whole new #labrat experiment to try, and we need your help!

There’s been a lot of buzz this year about a new productivity tactic, one that helps you recognize and fix bad habits, avoid burnout, be happier at work, and have real, tangible progress to keep you moving towards your goals. It’s called journaling, also known as keeping a diary or, our personal favorite, a “logbook.” As Austin Kleon, whose daily logbook inspired us, explains:

From the Wikipedia entry for “logbook”: A logbook was originally a book for recording readings from the log, and is used to determine the distance a ship traveled within a certain amount of time. The readings of the log have been recorded in equal times to give the distance traveled with respect to a given start position…. The distance the ship traveled. I like that.

At the end of every work day, take five minutes to jot down the main events of each day. It can be a bulleted list, have doodles, or not. But getting at least five facts of the day down is the only goal. 

The idea of having a tangible “I was here, I conquered” list sounds wonderful and all, but at the end of my work day, usually the last thing I want to do is spend even five more minutes in the office, much less trying to pull up the mental energy for reflection then. But it’s hard to ignore all of the smart people who have shown it to be a good idea.

So for the next week, Monday, April 7th through Friday, April 11th, I’ll be keeping and sharing my own logbook with you. By the end, I hope to find out if keeping one is actually feasible, and if looking back on that data is actually beneficial as well.

Monday:

Starting was a little uncomfortable. How much do I share? It was hard to decide what was a noteworthy event of the day and what was just noise. Kleon, one of my main, earlier mentioned inspirations, doesn’t include emotions in his — just events. I’d like to use my data to fix issues of stress/bad repeating patterns though, so the clear-cut emotions (this went badly, this was good, etc.) seem important to me.

Side note: feel free to keep your logbook online, on your phone, or whatever kind of medium you prefer. There’s a lot of good suggestions in the comments, and writing it out by hand is just how I remember things best.

Tuesday:

Today I updated my logbook in the little spare chunks of time that presented themselves, instead of the end of the day. This made for an end-of-day wrap up that was much more reflective and less of a scramble to get it done so I could finally leave work. Plus, it meant I added things as I finished them, which also helped to decide what was worth recording.

Wednesday:

Definitely into updating throughout the day; it gives such a sense of validation, even if the entire project itself isn’t complete yet. Also, it’s only been three days, and already it’s becoming clear that mornings are not my thing. For any #labrats who have followed along before, this shouldn’t come as a total surprise though. Have you started to notice any trends you weren’t entirely aware of yet?

Thursday:

I had a lot of juggling to do today, more reactive work, which made filling this out a lot harder. I didn’t really find time to do it until 6 p.m., which at 7:30 p.m. now, was basically the end of my day. I have the itching suspicion that I forgot a lot of smaller tasks or busy work — how many times can you really write “email” though? However, I also know that keeping a more detailed log than this would immediately make me drop it entirely. How specific or exact do you try to be?

Friday:

Last day! I was able to take some data from the other days (like how, by 6 p.m., I’m too burnt out for creative work) and restructured my day today to do all of my creative-producing work in the a.m., with the more mindless, reactive tasks later in the day. Made Friday much more enjoyable, and my work flow totally manageable! I’m thinking now of continuing on on my own, and checking back in a month to see if I can crunch some real big data to then share with everyone the next step of getting the helpful info out of this whole practice.

How did your day go? Keep your own daily logbook and share your progress + photos in the comments, on Twitter, and Instagram with #labrat. Every day I’ll pick my favorites and share it with your fellow labrats.

  • xaigo

    I’ve been keeping a logbook for the last 2 years steadily. My format is: 3-5 events of the day (only main facts and achievements “been there, done that, took me x hrs y mins” without emotions or reflections (tried to capture them at first too, but found it useless and timeconsuming after a while)), then a weekly summary, then monthly results based on the main weekly achievements. Then one every 3 and 6 months and then the results of the year.
    Sounds tedious, but it’s actually very easy to keep the records once you’ve established the habit.:) The results are that soon you start to feel amazing clarity about your life and can always tell your main achievements, priorities and goals of your last week/month/year and track the progress you’ve made. It gives a very clear perspective on future plans and kills most of the doubt and anxiety that usually accompany them. So for me it’s definitely worth the work.:)

  • Tara

    I’ve been spending the past year studying abroad and that prompted me to keep a daily logbook. Because I jot down the main things I do every day, I feel productive and have tangible records of what I’ve done, even on days where otherwise I might be lamenting the feeling that I didn’t get much done.

  • http://www.wabisabiwife.com saraspunza

    This is a fantastic idea. Now if I could just doodle like the example above I would be all in!

    • Sasha

      No doodling is required! It’s whatever helps you remember/reflect best🙂

  • EncoreVoyage

    Hi! I have been keeping a journal/logbook for the past year and four months. It started with the purchase of a beautiful leather bound blank book. On each page, I wrote the day’s date at the top, one page per day. Then daily, I write a short log which contains two things. 1) a brief account of the happenings of the day, and 2) something I’m grateful for on that day. The entry takes only a few minutes and is less than a third page long. On January first, I started through the book again, recording this year’s events directly under last years. Seems to be a nice way to tell how far you’ve come. It remains to be seen whether I’ll continue this on our journey!

    • Sasha

      That’s lovely! Personally any nice, beautiful looking books make me feel pressured to only put very well-written, nice things in them, even if it’s only for a daily log. Oof!

      • EncoreVoyage

        Sasha, you’re probably right! Now that I think about it, I’m not really fond of making mistakes in my journal. On the other hand, it causes me to be more reflective before I write, and the beautiful feel of the leather makes me want to continue!

  • http://manicanaday.wordpress.com Mani

    I’m in! What a great experiment. I used to be an avid journal-keeper, but I’ve fallen off the wagon. I’m excited to switch it up and try keep one logbook style, rather than my usual lengthy narratives.

    • Sasha

      I’m the same way Mani, if you give me an inch, I will take a mile and go all the way — and then quickly get tired of all the effort my rambling takes.

  • http://www.peterbella.com Pete Bella

    I don’t journal or keep a log book, but I’ve been considering it for some time. I think a week is a good test but I’ve also heard that it takes more like 30 days to get a complete reflection. What do you think? Is a week enough time to make a justified reflection?

    • Sasha

      I try to focus on #labrats that people can give a try without seriously committing, but I am contemplating continuing on for a whole month after it ends on Friday and seeing if there’s any new/further interesting info that can be gleamed from it!

  • http://www.standingoutinaseaofsameness.com/ Dave Rothacker

    Yes Sasha! I’ve been doing it for 14 years. (most days but not everyday). I really wish I had started earlier.

    I cannot say it’s wonderful, glorious and the next best thing to whatever. But like the Snicker’s commercial, I’m not me unless I am doing it. It just plain feels good. I’m pretty sure my benefits cannot be qualified with data. For me, journaling adds to the Stew of Dave. Things happen at the unconscious level for me. Stuff brews and then it comes out in my writing.

    I think no matter what you do (school, work, play), journaling will help you at this level. Of course you can employ your left brain, collect data, analyze and learn too!

    Two suggestions. Read How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci. It’s not specifically on jounaling, but it’s pretty darn good. By the way, DaVInci was a prolific notebooker too. And then do Morning Pages (especially if you’re trying to decide whether or not to journal in the first place!!!). Google: Morning Pages Julia Cameron.

    • Sasha

      Thanks for the suggestions! Will definitely give those a read this week.🙂

  • http://aquaholical.tumblr.com Alison

    I use 750words.com to journal every day. That site has saved my sanity. There really aren’t enough words to express how helpful it’s been to write daily; As a commenter below pointed out, daily writing brings amazing clarity to your life. It’s amazing what we can keep bottled up from ourselves and having a daily minimal limit of 750 words gets it all out without taking too much time (I generally take about 30 minutes to write mine each day). When I tried it on my own with no word limit I would just write a sentence or two some days and it did not give me the same results. Something about that 750 word count is magical; forces elaboration therefore more feelings to come out.

    • xaigo

      Wow, thank you very much for the link!:) I always wanted to properly try the 3 pages thing, but it never worked for me without the word limit either. I’m totally giving it another try now.:)

      • http://aquaholical.tumblr.com Alison

        No problem!🙂

    • Sasha

      Thanks for the suggestion Alison! My problem is with keeping diaries/journals is that with no word limit, I’ll feel like I have to fill pages, spend too much time/effort writing a ton… and get burnt out and not keep up, bc I’ll always feel like it will take a lot of time to sit down and do it. I’m hoping that keeping it short will be just as motivating for me!

    • fmd123

      I love 750words too!

  • Vicki Brown

    A daily log is definitely worthwhile (in my opinion), especially for Work. When your next annual review comes around and you ask yourself “What did I do over the last year?”, you’ll realize that those few minutes of jotting down notes were not something you were “too busy to do”. They were critical.

    If you can’t save time at the end of the day, log your notes in chunks. Make a note before you start. Make some notes when you do something important. When you get back from a meeting, make some notes. Make notes before lunch. Make notes at your afternoon break.

    When I started logging work, I began with a simple paper desk calendar, adding some notes to each day. Then I bought a “weekly journal” book with one dated page per week. After that, I moved to a blank book so that I wasn’t confined by the pre-defined space for a given day.

    These days, my journal is in software. The medium doesn’t matter. What matters is to do it. Do it for a while until it becomes habit.

    Mac users may want to try “DayOne” – a handy app that can be set to remind you to write something.

    • Sasha

      I like the idea of logging notes in chunks! Might try that tomorrow..

  • Janusch22

    Great to see myself featured here! I did a lot better today than yesterday, which is motivating in itself, but seeing my log here is definitely an added push in the right direction😉 Thanks!

  • Jaime

    Downers: It doesn’t take 5 minutes, Organization and retrieval efficiency are not trivial matters, best done ‘in the moment’ or just after a positive or negative work experience–at end of day the energy to re-remember and accuracy degradation in doing so weigh on benefit.

  • http://www.innervy.com Innervy

    Hi there everyone – I have been on this ages and I found it difficult to keep work log for more than 2 weeks, I am usually too busy or too tired to actually sit after all day haunting my dream and write the progress down and it doesn’t take a 5 min at all,,,

    What works for me is “5 year journal” – I like to see how I progressed during the years in business which I run. What is good on this diary: you have only 5 lines for each year, so this takes 5 min to write down the most important stuff happened during the day. Here you can write the number of followers or sales of your on-line shop etc.

    But I discover TalenCove app – that is absolutely the best, very simple and therefor fastest way how to track the progress during the day. It allows you to track your “small wins” during the day, anytime you like, I found it very easy to use and it works, you feel much better if you see the number of your small wins each day and it grows and grows… Each month I download full report as pdf and I see all my small wins, you can even share this between your team members and ask for feedback. I love this app. I started using it in March and as you can see I have 49 small wins in March and I have been using TalentCove like no other work log tool I ever tried. Believe me you will sleep better to seeing the number of your small wins each day growing🙂

    Give it a try, it is free.

    I hope this will help you bit guys, cause it is effective and takes a minimum time!

    be good all of ya and happy tracking

    Hana – Innervy.com

  • Rob

    Hmm, I don’t see much actual “work” bing documented…and lots of effort making the notes look pretty.

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jmcaddell/lets-publish-the-mistake-bank-book?ref=home_location jmcaddell

    Sasha, thanks for doing this great exercise! In my experience (disclosure, I work with an app called 3-Minute Journal), one week is not enough time to either see the benefits of logging or certainly to build a lifelong habit. A month is minimum, and the real benefit comes if you can keep it going for a quarter year. The quarterly reflection is where you can see real patterns – understand what you like/don’t like about your work, how much progress you’ve made, typical mistakes. If you can do it for 90 days, you’ll have enough material to motivate you to keep it up forever.

    I’d also recommend you keep metadata (things you can count) in addition to textual and graphic content. That can add to your reflection. Things you can count include accomplishments, days of gratitude, different moods, etc.

    One thing i’ve learned from your project – there certainly a lot of ways to do this, and they’re all good!

    regards, John

    • Sasha

      Thanks, John!

  • http://manicanaday.wordpress.com Mani

    Hey Sasha,

    Thanks for launching this experiment, and thank you for including my journal entry! It was interesting to discover that even in just five days, I could see some clear patterns around when I am the most efficient and when I’m apt to screw around.

    And also, just because I’m anal, I’d like to point out that my log page is actually a partial page, because the whole thing won’t fit on Instagram’s cropping tool. I’m self-employed, and typically start my work day at 4:30 a.m. Also, when I write, “Taking a walk and answering texts,” or “Effusive thank you to guest blogger,” or “Wrote blog post,” that’s actually all work stuff. I’m very lucky to have a job that looks like play on paper!

    • Sasha

      Thanks for participating, Mani! It was wonderful to see how differently people logged out their days. Don’t ever feel like you have to defend your tasks though — even the moments that might not look like “work” to you might end up adding to the bigger picture. For example, taking a walk or even just a break every morning might prove to be a better creativity-energizer for later than just “work stuff.”🙂

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