Daily notes: a journal by a different name

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I’ve tried keeping a journal and find it useful (and fun) to record my thoughts but the habit hasn’t stuck.

I’d like to try again and may have found a way to do that.

There’s a new breed of note taking apps (Roam, Obsidian, and others) and I’m trying out one of them.

One feature is a “daily notes” page that automatically appears (unless you turn off that feature), with the date and plenty of room to write. You can also set up templates to prompt you to record whatever is important to you.

Yes, it’s really a journal with a different name. But it might work because the daily notes feature is built into the app. I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to go write in my journal, I can simply add some thoughts or notes on my daily notes page when they occur to me throughout the day.

In that sense, the daily notes page work like an inbox—a place to deposit ideas and notes to be sorted, filed and worked on later.

A daily notes page also works like an “outbox”.

At the end of the day, you can record notes on what you did, what you thought, and what you plan to do later. Because it’s built into the app, it’s easy to drag or copy/paste notes written elsewhere onto the page.

What can you record in your daily notes? Anything you want:

  • What you did today, what you learned today, what you want to remember
  • Goals, plans, ideas
  • Quotes from books you read, a list of books you want to read
  • Websites and apps you want to check out
  • Questions you have about something you’re working on
  • Habits you want to track
  • New clients, new prospects, new marketing campaigns
  • Earnings, expenses, debts you need to pay, money you need to collect
  • Ideas for new projects, notes about improving your workflow, your attitude, your skills, or your well-being

Anything you did or want to do, anything you want to remember, in as little or as much detail as you want.

Some days, you’ll write hundred of words. Other days, you might write a single sentence, or nothing at all.

This morning, I wrote a few questions about the notes app I’m trying, and a few thoughts about the concept of daily notes.

At the end of the day, you can add comments and additional thoughts, and tags or labels or links to related notes. You will no doubt want to move some of those notes to other folders or pages or other apps.

Daily notes allow you to memorialize your journey and build a repository of information you can go back to help you manage your work or personal life.

Daily notes also help you hold yourself accountable to doing what you said you would do, and what you need to do to achieve your goals.

When I look at what I did and didn’t do last week, I see what I’m doing right and what I need to improve.

Yeah, I’m not sure I like that part.

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I’m a professional quitter

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In eighth grade, I joined the wrestling team. I gave it a semester and quit when I realized I wasn’t good enough and didn’t like it.

But isn’t quitting for losers?

Everyone says

  • Work harder
  • Give it time
  • You’ll get better with practice
  • You’ll learn to like it
  • If you quit, you’ll never know how good you could be
  • Do it anyway, it’s good for you

Well-intentioned advice, I’m sure, but is it right?

Ozan Varol says that sometimes quitting might be the best thing we can do:

I’m a professional quitter. After serving on the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, I quit rocket science and went to law school. After practicing law for a few years, I left to join academia. Most recently, I decided to quit that as well and give up the security of tenure to double down on popular writing and speaking.

I quit things I don’t enjoy. I give up on ideas that fail to live up to expectations. I jettison projects that no longer serve me or my mission in the world.

He acknowledges that many people quit too soon and never find out what they might have accomplished. “Yet many people persist when they should quit,” he says.

If you continually fail at something, or resist doing it, it might be a sign that you should stop doing it.

Varol notes that when we continue doing things that aren’t working for us, aside from being unhappy, we pass up the opportunity to do something else, something we might be great at and love.

Those of us who have changed careers and found success doing something else know this is true.

And what’s true for careers can also be true for work projects, marketing methods, and marriages. Quitting may not only be a viable option, it might be the best one.

So, what would you like to quit today?

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Two clarifying questions from David Allen

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I spoke to a lawyer yesterday who told me he wants to continue building his practice (which is doing well) and find something he can do on the side that might one day lead to bigger and better things.

He has an itch and wanted me to help him scratch it.

Most of our time was spent talking about ways to find ideas. For now, that’s what he’s going to focus on.

At some point, after he does a lot of exploring and researching and thinking, if and when he finds an idea he wants to pursue, he’ll need to decide what to do about it.

When that time comes, I’d tell him to do what David Allen suggests in Getting Things Done:

“Ask yourself two questions: What’s the successful outcome? And, What’s the next action (logical next step) to make it happen?” Allen says, “These provide fundamental clarity for Getting Things Done, and they lie at the core of most everything I teach.”

These questions are equally valuable for parsing a task or project list as they are for choosing your future.

Whether you’re starting a new chapter in your legal career, a new work project, or a new business, ask yourself what “done” looks like for you.

As Stephen Covey said, “start with the end in mind”.

In my work, especially when I’m struggling to start a project, or complete it, asking myself, “What’s the next action?” has been a game changer.

I ask that question and it helps me figure out the best (or easiest) place to start. I come back and ask that question again and again, and it helps me figure out what to do “next”.

Go ahead, think about something you need to do that you’ve been avoiding. Look at the list of all of the tasks you need to do and ask yourself, “What’s the next action?”

Start there.

How I use GTD in Evernote

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Easy is as easy does

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You’re a professional. You done this many times before. You know what to look for, what to ask, and what to do.

Let’s face it, most of the work you do is easy for you.

And you want it to be that way.

When your work is easy, you don’t have to think about it, you just do it.

You do it quickly, without second guessing yourself, making errors, or eating yourself up with stress. You get better results and happier clients, and you make a good living.

And that’s a good thing.

But you don’t want all of your work to be easy.

If things are too easy for you, you’ll get bored. You want at least some of your work to be moderately challenging, because that’s what keeps things interesting and allows you to grow.

Cases of first impression, opening new markets, new marketing initiatives, writing a book, hiring new staff, starting a new business or investment, things that take you out of your comfort zone–this is how you take your practice to a higher level.

And some of your time should be dedicated to that.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you”.

If you’re fresh out of ideas, write and publish something. Put yourself out there for the world to see.

It will get your juices flowing and could be your ticket to the next level.

How to grow your practice with a simple email newsletter

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Practice makes pregnant

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In college, I lived in a dorm. If the nickname “El Konk” sounds familiar to you, you know the place.

Like most dorms, we had a rec room where we played cards, read, talked about life, and occasionally do homework.

Just outside the rec room was a hallway. The walls of that hallway were about 6 feet apart.

No, I didn’t measure them. I know how far apart they were because I’m a little over 6 feet tall and I was able to “walk” up those walls.

By putting me feet on one wall and my hands on the opposite wall, I was able to push my way up the walls, all the way to the ceiling.

Some people thought it was funny and called their friends to come look. Some thought it was cool and wanted to try it. Some thought I was nuts.

Why did I do it? Because I was curious and wanted to see if I could.

So, what’s the point of this story?

That I was in better shape when I was in college? That I was an unmitigated clown? That I drank too much?

None of the above.

In fact, there is no point to this story. It’s just something I remembered recently and thought I’d write about.

And that is the point.

Writing down memories, however pointless, is a good way to improve your writing. Any skill gets better with practice, so if writing is important to you, I suggest you write something every day.

Not legal work, something creative or fun.

You might keep a journal and write down your thoughts about the past, what’s going on in your life right now, or your dreams for the future.

Writing regularly will improve your ability to come up with ideas (because there’s no pressure to write something pithy or useful). It will also improve your ability to put your ideas into words.

Writing every day will make you a better writer.

Do it enough and who knows, you might get lucky and write something with a point, something you can use in an article or blog post.

Like I just did in this one.

Ideas you can use in your blog or newsletter

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A simple way to feel better about the future

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I spent extra time doing my weekly review yesterday. I dusted off some projects I had planned to work on last year and prioritized them to work on this year.

I consolidated blocks of notes I have been accumulating and made new lists about what to do next.

For a couple of hours, I ignored the current state of the world and planned my future. When I was done, I felt good.

I have things to do and I’m looking forward to doing them. No matter what the world delivers to my doorstep, I will adapt and move forward.

Because that’s all anyone can do.

I encourage you to go through your apps and lists and notes and make a new plan or update your old one. Make it simple and focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.

When you’re done, you’ll have a renewed sense of purpose and a picture of a better future, and you’ll feel good about that future, because you have a plan.

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Your idea stinks. Congratulations.

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Your lists are overflowing with ideas. Ideas for growing your practice, managing your investments, raising your kids, places to see and things to do and thousands of other things you saw or heard or thought.

You have pages of notes and “someday/maybe” tasks, deferred projects, techniques for getting more organized, strategies for increasing your productivity, and ways to find inner peace.

You have lists of books to read and videos to watch, ideas for blog posts and articles to write, courses to take, and websites to explore.

Am I right or am I right?

I know I’m right because I have these, too.

Let’s be honest. Let’s admit that most of these ideas aren’t very good and (thankfully) we’ll never do most of them.

But that doesn’t mean we should stop collecting bad ideas because out of that massive list of bad ideas come a few good ones.

And a few good ideas is all we need.

The thing is, if we only pay attention to good ideas, we stifle our ability to find the good ones.

Seth Godin said:

“People who have trouble coming up with good ideas, if they’re telling you the truth, will tell you they don’t have very many bad ideas. But people who have plenty of good ideas, if they’re telling the truth, will say they have even more bad ideas. So the goal isn’t to get good ideas; the goal is to get bad ideas. Because once you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones have to show up.”

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

The lesson is simple: if you want more good ideas, write down more bad ones.

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Why will this year be different?

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When you’re making plans for the coming year, the first you should do is review the previous year.

Take 30 minutes and think about what happened last year and what you can do to make this year better.

Tim Ferriss does an annual review by going through his calendar, week by week, and noting everything that was positive and everything that was negative. He uses this information to create a list of what to do more of in the new year, and a list of what NOT to do.

Another method is to go through your calendar, your project and tasks lists, your journal, and anything else you use to manage or document your life, and ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. What worked? What did you do that resulted in progress towards your goals? Which strategies were effective? What did you do well? What are you happy about?
  2. What didn’t work (and why)? What didn’t go well for you? What strategies didn’t bring good results? What disappointed you? And why?
  3. What can you do differently? What did you learn about your situation or yourself that can help you this year? Where can you improve? What do you need to stop doing? What new or better skills can help you?

If you need more prompts, here are some additional questions to ask yourself:

  • What did I discover about myself–my strengths, my challenges, my beliefs, my methods?
  • What did I discover that will help me this year: websites, podcasts, ideas, books, channels, people, methods?
  • What new habits helped me improve? What new habits can benefit me this year? What habits do I want to eliminate?
  • What did I appreciate about last year? (Experiences, opportunities, relationships, etc.) What made me happy? What was I proud of?
  • What kept me up at night? What have I/will I change this year?
  • What goals did I fail to achieve? What will I do differently this year?
  • What will I focus on this year? What are my “activity” goals? What are my “results” goals?
  • What else can I do to make this year better than last year?

To make this a better year, let go of the things you can’t change, your regrets, negative thoughts, and find a few positive things to focus on this year.

You might ask yourself the “focusing question” posed by the authors of The One Thing–“What is the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

If that “one thing” is “improve my marketing,” let me know what I can do to help.

The Attorney Marketing Formula is a good place to start

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Building your law practice 90 days at a time

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Art Williams was a high school football coach who became a billionaire building an insurance company from scratch. One of the things he taught his organization was the power of short-term bursts of effort. It can be difficult to maintain enthusiasm and stamina for a year, Williams said, “but you can do anything for 90 days.”

Williams built his business with a series of 90-day sprints. He put in all out effort for 90 days, never stopping or slowing down. At the end of 90 days, he was so confident and excited about what he had accomplished, after a short break, he was ready to do it again.

I’ve gone on many 90-day runs in my law practice and businesses. When you get laser-focused and work hard at something every day, momentum builds, your results compound, and you can accomplish amazing results.

Right now, you may spend 15 or 30 minutes a day on marketing. You can accomplish big things that way, if you do it consistently. But imagine what you could accomplish if, for the next 90 days, you went crazy and worked on marketing two solid hours every day. Total immersion, total focus, total effort.

90 days from now will be the beginning of April. It will be here in no time. You have a choice. You can go about your business the way you usually do usual or you can go on a 90-day run.

Where would you like to be 90 days from today?

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The perfect time management system

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If you ever find yourself driven by the need to get organized, if you continually try new techniques or apps only to abandon them in favor of something else, if you are on a never ending quest to find the perfect time management system, stop.

Just stop.

Many productive, happy people don’t use a system.

The have a calendar. They write down what they need to do for the day. They have files they can turn to when they need something. And. . . that’s about it.

They don’t make elaborate lists with tags and contexts for every task. They don’t use digital reminders. A post it note is more than enough.

They don’t set goals or write detailed plans. They don’t make ‘New Year’s Resolutions’. They know what they want and spend their time taking action.

And their “system” works.

They don’t forget things. They never worry about having too much to do, or stress out about what they haven’t done.

Their system works because they trust their subconscious mind to know what they want and show them what to do to get it.

I know, you’re life is complicated and you want more. You can still use your favorite tools and techniques. Just don’t obsess over them, or spend so much time tweaking them that you don’t have time for anything else.

The new year is upon us. It’s a good time to re-think your system. Get rid of things that aren’t necessary or don’t serve you and simplify everything else.

You might want to start over. Pretend you have no system. One by one, add back things that work.

And ignore the rest.

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