On Keeping a Log

About a month ago, right after reading the chapter about “Engineering Daybooks” in The Pragmatic Programmer, I not only set out to be a bit more detailed in my work logs but also started to keep a personal log of all the things and feelings I experience day in, day out. It is more than a diary, though. Using my log I keep track of things like when I took which medicine and what movies I’m watching. I do all that for a couple of reasons:

  1. I want to aggregate the things I learn on a timeline and not fragmented in various places. In general, I want to have a single notebook for all my personal note-taking.
  2. I write most of my notes in English in order to improve my vocabulary for daily-life-topics.
  3. Medication apps haven’t worked out for me but somehow having a little pill-icon being absent on a daily-notes page in my notebook does.

The structure I’m using here is pretty simple: Every day I start a new section with a slightly fancier heading. Whenever I then add something new I prefix it with the current time. Important topics receive some coloring and icons to set them apart from the rest.

The result looks like this:

Layout of a day-segment in my log book

Sketchnoting complex stuff

Recently, I’ve also picked up on something I had admired at multiple conferences throughout the years: Sketchnoting. It’s a way of taking notes with drawings, complex typography, and in general a focus on the visual supporting the textual.

I’m still very early in my learning efforts having only just read “The Sketchnote Handbook” by Mike Rohde but I already enjoy putting putting more visual and more cues in things like travel plans, gift lists for friends and family, and party arrangements. These notes usually start off on their own page in the notebook so that I can have at least one whole page to draw and experiment around the given topic. For notes of conference talks I usually even reserve a double-page simply because I don’t really know where the speaker might be going.

Book notes

I’m now also dedicating at least a double-page to fictional books I’m reading. I’ve always been someone who has a good memory when it comes to times and places, but bad when it comes to people’s names. Because of that, whenever a new character is introduced in a story, I add them to a list. Just writing their name usually helps me remembering them and making quicker associations throughout the book.

Combined with sketchnotes this has helped me to finally enjoy stories with lots of characters that previously frustrated me. If necessary I also include timelines here 🙂

My current setup

I’m currently using the following pens and notebook:

My current setup

That being said, my next notebook will be a dotted Leuchtturm 1917 of a similar size since I’m not all too happy with the paper quality of the Moleskine. The paper is too thin for fountain pens and most coloring pens and also too rough for finer gel pens. After changing notebooks I’ll also probably use a Uniball Eye Micro with the Leuchtturm which does not work on the Moleskine paper … and I can not even begin to describe how much I’m looking forward to this change 😄

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