I recently wrote an article entitled, How to Get Started with GTD, on this blog. That post was picked up by several of the most popular GTD blogs, including GTDTimes and Did I Get Things Done . . . and generated a great deal of interest. Several readers have requested that I provide more details on a part of that article that discussed the use of a Daily Journal.
To briefly recap, after years as a Covey planner user and trainer, I switched to David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) system early this year and experienced a significant increase in productivity. The switch was all the more dramatic because I traded in my paper-based planning system for Nozbe, an all electronic, online GTD system.
There was one hold over from my paper-based planner that I didn’t give up – the Daily Journal. You can read the details about why I retained it in How to Get Started with GTD. I’ll use the rest of this post to provide details on how I use the Daily Journal to enhance my GTD.
The Journal accomplishes several important things.
- In a minimum of 15 minute increments, document what you did throughout the day. This will provide evidence to yourself that you did, or did not do something productive throughout your day.
- Document the details of your activities throughout the day, who you spoke with, when and about what.
- Document the discussion points of your meetings directly on the journal page, for later reference.
- Write down what you, and others agree to do, in a meeting, on a phone call, or even an idea you come up with when not convenient to put it directly into your system.
- Place a checkbox beside anything that needs to be entered as a task in your GTD. When you get back on the computer, enter each task and check the box indicating that you’ve got it in you’re trusted system.
The Daily Journal Page
The form that I use for this page is simply lined paper with some identifying information at the top, a column to record time on the left side and some space for project information at the bottom of the form. I created a pdf file by scanning some lined paper from my previous planner pages, and then edited it with the information you see at the top and bottom of the page, including the column headings. I simply print copies of the pdf and punch them for a three ring binder prior to their use in my writing pad.
Writing Pad Holder for Journal Pages
The holder I use to carry my journal pages has a spring clip on one side to hold my active journal pages and a flap on the left side to store additional journal pages and business cards.
Storing my Journal Pages
If the meeting or other notes in the journal apply to a project for which I maintain a physical folder, when I return to my office, I make a copy of that page, draw a diagonal line through any unrelated material on that page and place it in the project folder. I always leave my journal pages intact for later reference.
I maintain only the current and past week’s journal pages in the writing pad for reference. As I remove a week’s pages, they are placed in a three ring binder in chronological order with tabs for each month. That way, I can go back to the pages if needed. I have all journal pages stored this way, one notebook per year, back to 2002.
Retrieving Journal Entries
Since journal entries are paper-based, you might wonder how they can be searched for later data retrieval. Two years ago, I was spending inordinate time indexing journal entries in a spreadsheet. Since converting to an electronic GTD, all of my important tasks are already in the system. Now, when I need some crucial detail, I simply search my GTD, and if for some reason I need more information, I simply use the date from the GTD entry to go to the appropriate binder and journal page for all the details.
Hope that clears up the details on the Daily Journal. Remember, this is a crucial component of any planning system, GTD or otherwise, and will prove what you’ve done to be productive throughout your work day; provide documentation of important meetings, conversations, phone calls and thoughts; and provide a simple and effective way of capturing all the details and tasks until you can transfer them into your trusted system.
Ira, a coworker of mine who long ago passed on, used to say, “a short pen is better than a long memory.” He was right, and my journal is that “short pen.” Thanks for reading, John.