Journaling Week: The Daily Logbook

For this midweek post in the Journaling Week series, a hybrid productivity/journal method, the Daily Logbook will be discussed. It’s one method for short notetaking, allowing for lots of creativity.

Austin Kleon's daily writing log book (Via Steal Like a Writer)
Austin Kleon’s daily writing log book (Via Steal Like a Writer)

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.

From yesterday’s post I’ve shared the origins of the word “journal“, from the French journee, meaning from sunrise to sunset.

Consider the daily logbook a journal of the distance traveled today.

For me, a daily logbook sketchbook/list/journal is not a new concept. It was introduced to me over a year ago, by writer Austin Kleon from his supporting website for his first successful book, Steal Like an Artist. At the time, there was also an adjunct – Steal Like a Writer, which shared several images of famous writer’s notebooks. In fact, Kleon first wrote about his logbook way back in a 2010 post: On Keeping a Logbook.

In Steal Like a Writer, Kleon shared his own daily logbook, and that of Nick Cave. I shared my own findings on the concept, my first attempts in keeping my own logbook, and some other information on journaling in a post at that time – J is for the Writing Journal.

My Daily Log - hand-written in Penultimate app, synched through to Evernote for digital storage. To the left is my attempt to maintain a daily logbook. I was unsuccessful at the “daily” part of this, possibly because I found I was scraping for ideas on what to list out of a long row of pretty mundane days. But given the capacity for quick note-taking combined with the ability to doodle and insert images, the logbook method is one which does work quite well for me on a reasonably regular basis.

Note: the example of mine above uses a free iPad or iPhone app, Penultimate – there are several apps which offer similar functions. Of importance, when choosing one, I wanted an app which allowed for handwritten notes – most of mine are rudimentary, created with a stylis or finger-tip.

I went with Penultimate because of the sketch noting features, and the fact it is integrated naturally with Evernote – my daily logbook entries sync across into Evernote for posterity. Or I can occasionally jot a log entry down in an old school notebook, and scan/photograph that into Evernote, so they are all kept together.

Part of the working concept of keeping a daily logbook is the use of handwriting. When I started using Day One as a daily diary app (Day One is one of the most popular diary apps available) I found my creativity hampered by having to type.

Many daily logbook users consider the format good for documenting a daily review and suggest we take five minutes out at end of day to list five things we’ve done/completed that day. As a productivity method this works for reviewing progress (and as I learnt yesterday, progress documented by creative types leads to motivation for further creativity) but this is only one way of using a daily logbook journal.

In this April #labrat post, the writer and several other 99U readers experimented for a week on using a Daily Logbook as per Austin Kleon’s recommendations. Sasha VanHoven, the writer of the post, shares some images of her logbook entries – which are mostly analogue – alongside others by participants sharing on Twitter or Instagram – both analogue and digital forms.

There are a few interesting points we can deduce from the labrat experiment –

  • VanHoven herself found it difficult to operate each day with an end-of-day list review, and ended the week having hacked the method into one of documenting progress through the day.
  • General comments agree that the review or progress mapping function in listing is what makes the logbook journal powerful.
  • One commenter, who disclosed he works for a 3 minute journal app, suggested that trialling a daily logbook for one week would not set the habit or benefits. More than a month was recommended, with quarterly reviews. John also suggests –

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.

Whereas most participants in the labrat experiment viewed the journaling method as being particularly relevant to work and office progress reporting and review, John’s comment above, towards capturing metadata such as moods or gratitudes emphasizes the original concept via Austin Kleon where in 2010 Kleon explains –

It’s not a diary or a journal. It’s a book of lists. The lists are simple facts.

Why not just keep a diary?

For one thing, I’m lazy. It’s easier to just list the events of the day than to craft them into a prose narrative. Any time I’ve tried to keep a journal, I ran out of steam pretty quick.

But more importantly, keeping a simple list of who/what/where means I write down events that seem mundane at the time, but later on help paint a better portrait of the day, or even become more significant over time. By “sticking to the facts” I don’t pre-judge what was important or what wasn’t, I just write it down.

Kleon’s examples show a couple of average days, where one list item starts off with “nice breakfast @ Mi Madnes“, and the later – “Big fat woman sat on my Jung paperback @ super cuts“, both obviously not something you would find in a daily work logbook, but possible inspiration in the hands of a creative artist or writer.

DAILY LOGBOOKHe also explains the logbook approach as being the reverse of a future calendar where events are listed and scheduled into a calendar. Instead, the daily logbook is, in essence, a calendar of the past.

The term “logbook” is used through many industries with varying definitions. Tradesmen log work items in notebooks, used to report work done, mileage covered and other chargeable items. Cars have logbooks documenting servicing, mileage and general life-events. Some study courses require a logbook of work or study progress from students to allow for reflective studies.

The later example above comes closer to the Daily Logbook journaling environment discussed in this post.

For quick reflective journaling, consider simply listing out the main points of memory from your day. Capture your day with bullet points, very quick doodles, colours, and metadata. If you’re looking for creativity, make sure you list down that odd character you noticed at the bus-stop. Or take a quick secret photo.

Many apps now offer amalgamated notes, images and drawing functions like this, but a Daily Logbook for creatives is also equally well captured in a notebook with a pencil.



2 thoughts on “Journaling Week: The Daily Logbook

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