January, 20234 min readjournalmental-healthgoals

The one about the positive effects of taking daily notes

Why I worry less, remember more and am a tad happier.

Photo by honza_kahanek

There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes, it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.

Ernest Hemingway.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was helping to get a new product off the ground at Addepar. It was not a "greenfield" application, but we were pioneering a new design language, and it was the first product to be built by a 100% remote team.

I have worked remotely before, and it was not my first product development venture, but it got overwhelming a few weeks in. My wife and I never left our apartment during the first month of the pandemic, and the "new pandemic life" took its toll: days started to blend in, and it became harder to focus.

It was during that time I started taking daily notes religiously:

  • Things I wanted to get done that day;
  • Meetings that happened that day;
  • Notes about the ongoing development and follow-ups;
  • Summaries of days & weeks.

Getting into the habit of writing daily notes was tough: just like Mr Hemingway said, "drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges." But the results were worth it.

It helped to keep my head empty: I did not have to remember anything (almost); I had it written down. It helped me track multiple work streams: plan, follow through, repeat. It was liberating, and I remained sane!

My guiding principle while taking notes was, "Think of talking to your future self. Make implicit explicit. Provide hints and context. Make it a good story to read." So daily notes had more depth than a TODO list.

After that product was shipped, I stopped for almost two years. Partially, because I did not learn the tool well enough (Obsidian) to make it worthwhile for me personally: I did take notes for work purposes only after all. Partially because it felt like "a lot of work."

While reflecting on 2022, I realised I needed a better recollection of all the events during a given year. So at the beginning of 2023, I started taking daily notes again.

I have updated my Obsidian notes' templates and write every day: habits, goals, what I read, what I wrote, etc. The setup warrants another post.

I have found it to be a great way to set goals (no matter the time horizon) and follow through on them, reflect and adjust my behaviour (i.e. nutrition & diet) quickly, and be more conscious of time.

I want to wrap up with another quote.

The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.

Stephen King.