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2 Experts Share Exactly How to Use a Productivity Journal (& Increase Productivity by 23%) FS099

First of all: Christopher Walken performs the intro for the show this week. If that’s not enough for you, how about this: I rolled my eyes at the idea of productivity journaling until I heard from the two experts on the show today.

In this episode we explore why it’s so easy to get distracted and ignore our most important work. The answer might be way easier than you think.

If you want to do more work you’re proud of and less bullshit, then pour yourself a cup of tea and click play. (Shawn’s “I’m doing it!” story is contagious.)

Listen to the episode:

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Josh:Hello? This Christopher Walken and welcome to the Fizzle Show.

Chase:Wait he’s not even finished yet.

Josh:In this podcast we prevent ideas, raps and rich tips to help you build a sustainable business that you can be proud of. Now if you’ll excuse me I got a fever and the only prescription is more Fizzle Show. Take it away Chase.

Chase:Thank you Josh Shipp for that one. This is the Fizzle Show conversations every entrepreneur should have especially if you want to support yourself build a thriving business and not turn out. Every Friday we publish another conversation about entrepreneurship, building a thriving audience in the battle of supporting yourself doing something that you care about.

Your hosts are if we were Buzzfeed articles Corbett would be thirteen unexpected ways to get inspired. Chase that’s me would be twenty one ways to embrace your inner weirdo and Barrett would fifty three lesson you learned from watching too much Home and Garden television. All of those are actual Buzzfeed articles thank you Zack Haden.

In this episode we got a great question from a listener and I did some sort of interviewing and exploring to answer it. Maybe we’ll just get right into it in this one. Eve wrote in with a question. She mentions progress logs as a practice that we have inside the Fizzle members’ area. Where Fizzlers keep track of what they’ve done, what’s next etcetera. Often they’re really great threads with Fizzlers chiming in with encouragement or a tip about upcoming task mentioned or something like that.

Here I’ll read Eve’s question. She says I’ve been writing my progress log in the Fizzle forum every week since I joined in June last year. I was listening to another podcast where they discussed journaling as a tool for productivity. I realized that my weekly reviews are lacking a sort of proper structure so do you have any good, compact journaling questions to ask yourself? Or other ideas for a structure for a progress log that gets you closer to where you want to be? Thanks love Eve.

Now here question is specifically about the progress logs within Fizzle but I wanted to take it sort of out of the membership area and into a broader context because I thought her question was interesting. You know I’ve heard people talking about this productivity journaling. You can find articles out there, I certainly did. They were decent but they didn’t feel substantial enough. I wanted to hear what others actually did and what results they were actually getting. I asked around found some names of folks who actually do it and turns out they were actually pumped to talk about it. They’re stories in a moment.

First I want to tell you about this study from the Harvard Business School. The gist of it is this; these researchers went into a company with lots of people going through training processes. There were two groups; group one there was no intervention you go through the training like normal. Group two you spend the last fifteen minutes of the working day writing the main lessons that you learned that working day in a journal pretty simple. In the training process there were already a series of tests before workers could pass into their new jobs. Group two the reflection group they’re like I’m going to write in my journal for the last fifteen of each day. They ended performing twenty three percent better than group one.

Taking that fifteen minutes at the end of their day to reflect out paces using those fifteen minutes at the end of the day to keep working. The researchers as they talked about this they used words like greater confidence and greater competence. The big word that they use is this psychological word that’s really important it’s called self-efficacy. Okay and here is the definition of this self-efficacy is the extent or strength of one’s belief in one’s own ability to complete tasks and reach goals. The researchers believe that this confidence, this self-efficacy, this strength of your belief in your abilities to complete tasks and reach goals is the real secret ingredient in the better performance of the group two. Okay and that reflecting in a journal at the end of the day actually nourishes somehow that self-efficacy, it bolsters it.

Okay now I want to hear the [inaudible 00:05:02] this is an interesting study and I like it because it’s like oh look science, it’s like science. Science supports journaling at the end of the day but let’s hear what are the stories of people who are actually doing it.

Mike:Hey man?

Chase:Hey Turkey how are you?

Mike:I’m doing good. How are you?

Mike:This is Mike Vardy from productivist.com and as soon as I read Eve’s question I thought. Mike probably knows something about productivity journaling.

Chase:You do some productivity journaling, tell me about your process as is it right now?

Mike:Okay so basically for me when I do journaling for productivity sake is that for me I find that the journaling process at the end of the day this is how I do it. I wrap up my day with a journal entry and I don’t do it with any particular kind of format or formula in mind. I don’t say okay here are the five things I did things I did today and here are the five things I plan on doing tomorrow all the time. I basically, my goal is to you know recap the day so that I make that review process at the end of the week already started, do you know what I mean?

Chase:Yes.

Mike:For example when I journal I mean if it’s Wednesday and that’s the day that I’m with my kids I’ll talk about the things that were awesome about that. Then say oh and tomorrow I’m back at it again and you know there is a lot going on and I need to do this and this or I basically acknowledge the successes and the kind of the fall downs or the roadblocks I’ve come across during the day. That’s kind of what I do every day. I’ve been doing this now for a year and a half consistently in Day One. I even did it when I was on vacation because it was part of that routine that I’ve established at the end of the night.

When I journal it kind of kicks off that whole thing where I will look at my journal I’ll say okay it’s time for me to do my journal entry. Then from there it leads me into the picking of the three tasks that I’m going to tackle the next day or my three absolutes. Then when I write those down look them over on a sheet of paper because that’s where I put them I close my laptop down. I start my next day I don’t journal to start off my day because what I’ll do to start off my day is I’ll read a little bit then I flip over that sheet of paper that has my three absolutes.

Chase:By the way did you catch that. In his journaling process at the end of the day he includes this one step where he writes down the three most important tasks for tomorrow, what he calls his three absolutes. On a piece of paper that he kind of closes on his laptop.

Mike:It’s kind of like getting that letter from an ancestor.

Chase:Yeah.

Mike:It says like hey this guy says that we should do this to start the next day. The reason I trust that guy, that ancestor is because he journalled the day before. He kind of like did an overall recap of what kind of went down or how I was feeling or whatever and this is what you should do now to make sure that this day is as much of a success as possible. That’s kind of the process that I use and I find it to be simple and because it’s not rigid it gets done. Do you know what I mean? Like I think a lot of people they say I want you know I love the idea of the five minute journal I think it’s a great idea.

For me it kind paints me too much into a box I don’t like to be in that box par see. For me I know [inaudible 00:08:22] uses the five minute journal and I think it’s … I do love the idea of it but for me I want to be able to have a bit of freedom to wrap up my day because I’ve been working hard all day. I want to be able to say okay this what I did and this is how I felt, this is what I didn’t do and now let’s get ready for the next day because every day is a lifetime. That’s kind of how I look at it. Every day is kind of a day is a life and the next day I get to start all over again, a whole blank slate.

Chase:Are there any questions that you sort of ask yourself in this that you answer in every one?

Mike:Yeah I mean the question I ask myself generally are okay what worked today? What didn’t work today? It doesn’t matter whether it’s you know family related, personal, professional and what’s next?

Chase:Did you catch that? Yeah we’ll replay those three questions again.

Mike:What worked today? What didn’t work today? It doesn’t matter whether it’s family related, personal, personal professional. What’s next? Those are the three things I kind of ask and they’re very … Again they’re very loose. I don’t write the questions down and then put the answers in like some kind of like short form long form answer. When I write in my journal those are the questions I have in mind.

I mean I want to go into this drill with some form of intention because again if you don’t have that intention there then how do you know what to pay attention to later. For me it will be like hey here is what happened today. Here’s what sucked about today because that happens or like hey I didn’t get this done or I really need to get this thing done or why I am not doing this thing. Kind of that self-talk.

Chase:Yeah.

Mike:Then okay what’s next? What’s tomorrow look like?

Chase:One of the things that was fascinating to me about Mike’s practice of this productivity journaling is that I heard him mixing sort of business and personal family life stuff in this journal so I asked him about that.

Mike:It keeps me really grounded to make sure that I’m not just working like a maniac and not paying attention to my family. I mean I’ve created these themes as well which kind of help with that but the fact that when I’m journaling on a Wednesday night and the majority of the stuff is family oriented it actually kind of bleeds over to the days to follow. Like for example today is Thursday I’ll have like my son is home with me all day and he’s like obsessed with the fact that we have Apple TV now so he’s like … He was very modest he comes in today and he goes “Daddy can we watch Apple TV anymore?” Those are things that kind of … They permeate their way in because the journal is … I don’t want a constant reminder. This again when I go back and look at my weekly review to say okay all I did was work this week because the reason I do what I do isn’t to constantly work is to build a better life for myself and my family and so on.

It does inform me a lot especially when I’m working and the family stuff comes into play there. Like when I see hey tomorrow is Saturday and it’s a family day and we’re going to the Board game Café or today I bought … I mean las weekend some buddies came over and we started doing this board game night stuff about two months ago. All over sudden I got hooked and then on one thing that went into my journal entry Sunday night was bought four board games on Amazon. Can’t believe how much more they are expensive here in Canada than they are in the US. That’s going to … All over sudden I’m going to ha

ve these board games show up at the house and it creates this kind of path. I think that any road that you’re kind of paving has to be paved with both the stuff that’s allowing you to do the things that you want to do so the work and all that stuff as well the reason you’re doing which family or personal freedom or whatever. When it comes to your productivity journal I think it’s important to include all aspects of your life because productivity isn’t just about work or about doing a bunch of stuff, it’s about acknowledging whether you’ve done the right stuff for that day whether it’s personal or professional.

Chase:One of the things that Mike said that he did was he does a weekly review and this is straight out of the pages of David Allan’s Getting Things Done. Where he talks about if you don’t do this weekly review your to do list just grows weeds and it’s all unactionable. You start to, inside your body kind of resist and resent that to do kind of without you even knowing about it you’re just avoiding it. Which is I felt that in my own life maybe you have too. He talks about how these journal entries day after day after day after day after day Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday so on Friday when he does his weekly review it’s really simple it doesn’t take four hours like it can in some situations. What did I do this week? Okay how am I doing? It’s here is exactly what I did. Here’s how that plays in with my goals and my current projects are.

Then the other thing that he said is that now he has this weekly reviews built off the daily reviews every January for him that’s when he does he sort of year planning. Every January the only book that he reads is his journal.

Mike:For me that’s a big part of my process. Again the weekly review I look back at my journal entries and I have that triggered task that’s says go ahead and do it. Monthly right now I’m doing the same thing although again I switch it to quarterly and all I’ll do for that is again create a task and say hey it’s time to look at your past three months’ worth of journal entries. Then of course in January I just read the book of Mike Vardy and it gives me a real sense of okay what do I want to make this year this new year my now year I guess.

Chase:One of the things I’ve been interested in is like how do you write these things? Are you using prose? Are just walking in and doing bullet points? Are you going long form like today I went to the store and then I saw Cathy and we talked for like thirty minutes. It was wild and then I started working on this one thing but I didn’t finish it and then … Are you writing like that or are just doing bullet points? I had to hear from Mike like what does he do?

Chase:Prose generally prose like a stream consciousness kind of stuff. I mean sometimes like when I’m listing the things that I need to do the next day I’ll write bullet points for that. Here are the things I need to do tomorrow one, two, three, four, five. Then I will say of course I have to do absolutely three of these things so I need to figure out how … It’s kind of like that stream consciousness stuff. I think that that’s helpful because sometimes I’ll actually read out my journal entry.

Chase:Sure yeah.

Mike:Right and that really helpful as well.

Chase:Like any sort of tricks with the remainder. Is it just the task that sort of that just pops up and you just know to do it or is it a calendar event or what is it? How do you remind yourself to do this?

Mike:I’ve got Due on my iPhone D-U-E so there are certain tasks that are kind of… The reason I kind of started doing this is because when I was using To-Do lists one of the things I did was I put every task in there because you get points for every task completed. I realized I got a lot of low bandwidths routines in here that don’t need to in here. I use Due on my iPhone because it’s like remainder on steroids. It’s the one that says start your morning routine, start your evening routine so it’s just start evening routine and I know instinctively that starting the evening routine is write journal entry, write three absolutes, close laptop, done for the day. Like that is what I know it is.

For me that’s kind of how I do it, is I create these triggers with this external apps whether it’s something like there are Apple Remainders you can even do with it, obviously on Android you can do the same thing too so.

Chase:Mike also talked about doing this productivity journaling even when he’s on vacation. What he doesn’t do however is write like three absolutes down.

Mike:I didn’t write down my three absolutes because my three absolutes for the day would be get up, to go claim beach chair, go to swim up bar, like those would have been my three absolutes right. For me it was just but the journal was important because it chronicled what was going on in mind and throughout my day.

I think that journaling is actually a really big building block for productivity and for routinization because it creates that awareness that so many of us are not lacking but some of us take for granted because we have so much coming at us all the time and so much that we’re putting out.

Chase:Finally I asked Mike what’s your advice for a total newbie with this whole productivity journaling thing?

Mike:Kind of set it up as a beginning of a routine to end your day. I think that that’s the big key thing. Kind of like Julian Smith talks about flossing and making that part of his routine. Like journaling should be like the kick off for going to bed like it wraps up your day. I think and the other thing is like were talking about don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be a process. It just has to be something that you work towards. The nice thing is once you start doing this more and more you get more and more honest. You start to say things that you know like I sucked today or this thing that I should have done I haven’t been doing it, why? You get to become more introspective.

The big thing is just make it part of your routine. If you need to put it in your calendar to start things off, go ahead like make it something that schedule appointment with yourself to do. The thing is once you start doing it and you start seeing these things add up and Day One is great for this because you can see the string of don’t break the chain you’ll see like an empty spot and you will be like oh I got fill that with something.

For me it’s again make it part of that routine kicking off you end of night. Then again kind of don’t put too much pressure on yourself just do it and don’t try to make it perfect because you know the pursuit of perfection is idiotic. I mean what you want is excellence and in this case the excellence is just in the doing of it.

Chase:What you want is excellence and in this case excellence is just in the doing of it. I love that? Here is what I’m hearing from Mike. First of all he uses the Day One app which is an iOS Mac app that is really great. If you’re in those platforms you’re so … Don’t use anything else it’s awesome. You can also use EverNote is really easy you set up a whole new notebook within EverNote that’s just for your journal okay. He also uses a do app or any sort of reminder app on his phone outside of his calendar. Out of his To-Do list to remind him at what point in the day to start his journaling process.

Another thing that he does is that he writes in long form; today I started doing this and got distracted but lunch with the kids was great etcetera kind of like a stream of consciousness thing. Then don’t feel a lot of pressure about making this great just sort of keep doing it. The excellence is in the doing of it. We asked Mike who else does this productivity journaling? He said this guy called Shawn Blanc.

Shawn:That’s my three year old upstairs probably banging a wooden spoon on the stairway railing.

Chase:Shawn has a number of projects like toolandtoys.net and his book Delight is in the Details. I know him mostly from his blog Shawnblanc.net. I was really interested to hear that Shawn does this productivity journaling thing because Shawn is guy that takes very seriously the productivity stuff. He’s a fellow designer type like me and I want to hear not only what he had learned from doing it so far but also what were some of the challenges that he faced early on with getting started with this. Tell me about your productivity journaling, how long have you been doing it?

Shawn:Let me see, let me look.

Chase:You can just look and see?

Shawn:I mean it’s only been a couple of months.

Chase:Okay.

Shawn:I can look back here and go okay yeah because I do it all on Day One.

Chase:Yeah okay go it.

Shawn:Let’s here. I’m going to say January thirtieth maybe. It’s about two months now.

Chase:Okay about two months. What’s been like the hardest thing of getting started with it?

Shawn:It was just remembering to do. Then being willing to so like here is yesterday’s journal yeah alright today’s progress I recorded my podcast, I wrote three hundred words for my focus course, I read two chapters in these book I’m reading. Like that’s it boom boom boom. Took me sixty seconds to write that because it took me a little while to get comfortable with you know what all I’m going to do is I’m just going to make a note to myself I did something today that is what I wanted to do. That was important.

Chase:Have you found ways to like help you remember to do that?

Shawn:Yeah so I have … I use Day One for all this stuff so on my Mac you can set this reminders and so they pop up. I try to be done with my day by five o’clock so at four fifty five I get a pop up reminder it’s like you know ‘time to journal’ whatever so I’ll write in there. A lot of times that kind of helps me at first but now I’m thinking about it because as I’ve been going back like it’s just been amazing. I’m looking back and I did this at the same time I also kind of changed my morning routine. I stopped like I don’t do email or Twitter or any affiliate income stat. None of that. I don’t look at any stat or inboxes at all until 9AM. I usually start my day at 7:30. I’ve got like a ninety minute window. Put my earphones and I have the Money Made Value soundtrack.

Chase:I love that. It’s all ping.

Shawn:It’s so good for writing. I’m like, “Okay, I’m writing. I have ninety minutes and I have to either thing or journal or write.” I’m not checking any stat or inbox stuff. I went kind of like this. Average, daily, I was writing about five hundred works a day which I write for a living. Five hundred a day is not a lot and now I’m average seventeen fifty. Just the amount of work that I’m doing just skyrocketed by kind of having that initial ninety minutes set aside.

Now I’m getting so excited, I want to write down. I did it. It was another where I wrote a bunch today. I have been journaling like those actual stats. How many words did I write today. I go through and count they up. You can have ByWord or iWriter. I use them both and they just tell you right at the bottom. This is twelve hundred words. This is seventeen hundred words, whatever. By side there that write in. I kind of got addicted to tracking those numbers because for me I’m like, “That means I’m doing …” Whatever. The Stephen Covey, Quadrant Two.

That’s the important work for me. Is that I’m actually writing everyday. For me that’s showing up everyday. I did it. It’s whatever. You know Jerry said, it puts the X on the calendar. This is my way of doing that.

Chase:Shawn mentioned this Quadrant Two thing briefly. I asked him to explain what he means by that. It’s from this old Stephen Covey construct about urgent versus important. Here is how he put it.

Shawn:Even just having the revelation of that, there exist important work that’s not urgent. Revelation number one. Are there something that should be done that’s important, right, like what can I do today that’s going to move me towards the body of work that I want to have in five years from now.

Chase:Yeah.

Shawn:That realization that there is important work that doesn’t have a due date attached to it. Actually this is the most important work and then realizing that, that work is passive. You have to act on it as opposed to waiting for it to act on you. If you know that, you can just focus all your energy on that because … Then the important and urgent things, like your kids crying, your kitchen lights on fire. Those are going to come find you. You don’t have to worry about them. Then when you know what important work is.

You’re able to draw that line in the sand and when something that’s not important but urgent comes and find you. Like that [inaudible 00:23:34] version, you can know. I’m saying no this. I’m going to get rid of it from my life. I’m going to turn off this distraction off. I’m going to find someone else to take care of this or I’m just going not acknowledge it and just say. Sorry I’m not available. Then you’re basically are able to draw this line of, this is where I want to spend the vast majority of my time. Then you know what you can allow in and what you need to shut out.

Chase:One of the things he said in there was really interesting me. Once you identified what the important work is. I’m just kind of wondering, like how do we even do that. Do we have a trick for that?

Shawn:Well I think … A lot of people want to define it as … I want to define important work as a task. Okay, here is how we focus. Nine hundred things to do today. Which one of these is the most important one? Like it’s not a task. A task is just simply, now you’re walking out the action of the important work but the important work is like it’s your lifestyle goals. It’s like who you are, who you want to be. It’s the things kind of like, how do you define success?

Do you want your kids to love you? Do you want to have good relationships, do you want your body to be in sharp, do you want to be reasonably prosperous so that you can pay your bills and have time to do meaningful work and things like that. If these are sort of the areas that contribute to my baseline happiness, my physical health, my mental health, my relational health, spiritual health. These things. If these are areas, like what am I going to do that’s going to push the need go forward? Like what are kind of the rituals or the habits or the practices that I can put in place.

What does that look like on a day to day basis? For me it’s like, yeah writing is one of my most important things because that’s going to push the need forward on my business, it’s going to push the need forward on my creative expressions, my values of helping other people reaching out to other people. All these things. Writing is, that’s an activity, it’s a habit but the actual task changes every single day. I’m writing about different topic every day. You value … I know the task of writing is important. The action of writing, whatever, the habit.

Whereas the individual topic, it can be a bazillion different things. At that point it’s details but most people are going, “What is the one thing that I need to write about today that’s going to burst my audience?” You pull back a little. Ask a higher level question.

Chase:I asked Shawn, you know I can kind of see the seen of you doing this Quadrant Two kind of work that … Not urgent but important work and I asked him. What does that feel like?

Shawn:It feels … It feels kind of great. It’s kind of crack. I’m doing it. I’m thirty three years old and I finally … What’s crazy, is I quit my job four years ago. I worked from home. I feel like if there is any one in the world who has zero excuses to do what he would consider his most important, it should be me. I work from home. My wife is a stay at home mom, I got my kids upstairs. I get to see, all three meals. We have all three meals together as a family. Literary, I can do anything I want. It’s really, really to actually do that important work.

It’s easy to just get hooked to Twitter, email and responding to what seems urgent or even just pacifying my with the news feeds or the Twitter’s trends or whatever. Quote on quote, I’m beta testing this new iPhone game for work, whatever. I have all these reasons that I don’t do meaning work. It feels good to be like, I’m doing it. Like actually I’m doing it. The circumstances doesn’t matter what your circumstance are, it’s just hard to do meaningful work.

The feeling of, I’m actually doing it. I’m writing here in my journal, I’m making a note of it. Like I’m reminding myself. I did it. I’m celebrating that victory, that Quadrant Two victory, whatever. It’s a win for the day. Let’s celebrate it and let’s remind … I’m going to remind myself that, hey you did it today, let’s do it again tomorrow, let’s do it again the next day. I’ll try to do this every day for the next sixty years and see what happens.

Chase:Wow, I want a little bit of that in my life. If I get a journal to get some of that, I think I might just start journaling. The urgent, important thing comes up a little bit more in the conversation. Here, let’s get back into

Is there any specific question you ask yourself in the journal?

Shawn:No it’s just what did I do today? What was something that I made progress on, what was like a small victory. What is the general things that I consider to be important work? For me, I’ve got a podcast. I try to put out every Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Did I do that today or not because I don’t always hit it. Sometimes I don’t. Did I write today, anything else that was important. Did I have an idea kind of light bulb, something clarified. Like a couple dots got connected.

Did I do research or whatever and it’s reminding myself that. I’m not going to write on this journal, I’m not going to say, I spent ninety minutes checking Twitter this afternoon. Boy did it feel great. I don’t want to put that there. When I’m feeling the distraction of like, hey I’m going to check Twitter. It’s no, because I don’t want to … Then I’m not going to have anything to say I made progress on today.

Chase:You just kind of are hoping that you remember at the end of the day at 4:55 all of the things that you did. Do you ever find that like … I can picture myself remembering to actually journal but then not remembering what I had done that day.

Shawn:I think that is … Really it’s like one or two things. I showed up and wrote this morning and I read a chapter in this book that I’m trying to go through and research from. I recorded my show. I had lunch with my kids and it was fun. I mean there a lot more that I do. I still have a lot of the admin and the busy work from my job. I have a team that works for me. I’m checking with them, I’m responding the emails. I’m still doing other work that kind of keeps just my business moving forward.

That’s the maintenance of today, it’s not the investment for tomorrow if that makes sense?

Chase:Yeah.

Shawn:Those few little things that you do … You only do one or two more in a day. They’re easy to remember.

Chase:It sounds like you have seen a change over time. You think you’re like sort of seeing more of those Quadrant Two behaviors since you’ve started journaling?

Shawn:Absolutely. I think just by recognizing what they are and just by the fact of saying I did this today. Like that’s recognizing … Like this was valuable because so often we … It is the terrain of the urgent stuff. Like we think, if there is a deadline or it’s important to somebody or there is emotional anxiety surrounding this task. Then this must be important. It’s the conventional reason why we’re here a million times but is really true. Like the most important stuff usually is very passive and we have to be active about making sure we’re doing it and so …

I guess I am doing it, more because I recognizing it, I’m training my mind to recognize, this is the important work, this is what you should be doing. It’s interesting to see is kind of how things have shifted for me. I have a blog that I have been publishing for years. I used to kind of really focus on making sure that I had links to interesting stuff on my site every day. I have been spending a lot of time, head down reading paper backs books. I texted that picture.

Chase:Yeah.

Shawn:I’ve got like twenty of them on my desk right now that I’m going through. I’m no longer publishing all these interesting links. Maybe it’s just a season of work that I’m in right now but I’m like, you know what, I’m doing a different type of work. I’m building something for that’s going to be I think longer lasting, have a better impact and be far more valuable but right now it’s all being done in secret. It’s kind of behind the scenes but that’s okay. It’s still the most important work and it gives clarity to that and it kind of helps pacify my inbox addiction, my urgency addiction and say, like it’s okay to do meaningful work and you celebrate it. You celebrate that progress.

Chase:If you could give any advice to someone out there who is similar to you but hasn’t started doing this yet, what would you say?

Shawn:I would say, you book end your day. At the beginning you write down what is like the one thing that you want to do today. That you think it’s super important. You can go crazy and you write it out the night before, that’s what I prefer to do. I write my day …

Chase:That’s is very wild. That is just crazy.

Shawn:It’s living in the edge right?

Chase:Yeah.

Shawn:You write it, you say tomorrow this is the most important thing that I want to get done. I want to write five hundred words or I just want to write for twenty minutes straight even if it’s one word. I sat there with a blinking cursor and I wrote for twenty minutes and I didn’t do anything else. Or whatever your one thing is. You book end, you start with identifying what’s the one thing you want to do and at end of the day. You basically write. Like what did I do today that was important. What was that small victory that I had. Maybe it was some bug in a software you finally squash it. You have been working on it for six months.

Or you did, you just showed up. You said, I want to write five hundred words and I did. Or I had a meaningful conversation with my three and I told him that I loved him or I took my wife out on a date. There is so many … It’s far more than just work. These important areas of our life. I took a break, instead of checking Twitter, I took a five minute break and I just found a quiet spot and put my phone on do not disturb and sat for five minutes and kind of listen to my imagination or whatever. You just celebrate it. There you. You do it for a couple of weeks you get hooked on it.

Chase:Shawn mentions the perspective here that journaling gives us. Folks like us who are own business and an entire business just normally has one or two people. He says, for a lot us our to do list kind of never ends and journaling can give us a whole new perspective on that.

Shawn:It gives you perspective right. It says that … The never ending to do list like guys like you, guys like me, the folks who are listening to the show. We never have a to do list that finishes because we’re inter-rating on what’s the next thing. Okay, I’ve got version one done now. Well now I’ll work on version two. Like it never stops. Is this journey as opposed to trying to get to a specific fixed point of success rather it’s just going. I just want to do my best creative work every single day. That’s the goal. Is just show up every day, have fun and really have the journey. It’s so easy to just get ripped out of that.

Say, no, I’m going to define happiness as attaining this goal or I’m going to define happiness as completing to do list or getting to inbox zero. These targets they’re always moving, you can’t hit them, you’re never going to find them. You step back and the little journaling stuff like the progress. You know Trish Annabelle she calls it the progress principle. That when you’re recognizing that you’re making small meaningful progress on meaningful work. Like you’re just boost your creativity, boost your motivation, it makes you happier and all those things.

It’s like you know what? Today is not about checking out the to do list. It’s not about, I can’t clock out until I’m do. It’s about, hey, I’m going to have fun, I’m just going try to do one really important thing and then keep everything else from burning up, whatever, put out the fires but really try to do just one meaningful thing that’s going to progress me a little more for tomorrow, that’s going to set me up for the next, that’s going to set me up for the next day.

Do you get to share version one and you toast and you celebrate it but it’s just like a mile maker on the journey, it’s not the end goal if that makes sense?

Chase:What I’m hearing from Shawn has been understanding the difference between urgent versus important and how journaling helps him kind of stay towards the important instead of the urgent. The apps that he uses, he uses Day One and has a reminder in his calendar to start his evening routine just like Mike. The only question he asks himself. What went well, what could have gone better and another thing he really did talk a lot about the personal life stuff too. I like the way that both these guys talked about that. It’s so funny that Shawn’s son was banging on the banister at the beginning of our call.

Because it really speaks to the kinds of lives these guys want to led the way that Mike says. It’s not just what we’re doing, it’s what we’re going it for.

I was reading through the research paper for that Harvard Business Review Study that I mentioned earlier. By the way I’ll put that in the show notes. Here is some tip bits from that study. Between the years 1973 and 2000, the average American worker added an additional one hundred and ninety nine hours to his or her annual schedule. That’s nearly five additional weeks of work per year. Assuming a forty hour work week. Between 1969 and the year 2000, the overall index of labor productivity per hour increased by 80%. I don’t know what that means but that sounds like a pretty big increase.

They also say, productivity and time efficiency have become significant concerns in the modern Western societies. With time being pacified as the ultimate scarcity. A valuable resource to guard and protect.

You know this journaling stuff is really, really simple. It takes Shawn just a few minutes to say, here is what I did today, here is what to do tomorrow. Mike sort of seems like he is almost falling in love with this little process of his. Where he kind of gets to relive what happened today. When I first heard of this productivity journaling, I’ll be honest. I absolutely rolled my eyes. Yeah, cool, let’s add another thing, another thing to my day. Who has time for just one more thing but after reading the research and then talking to these guys.

I think it’s becoming pretty clear why this simple of journaling can be so powerful. Here is how Mike Vardy already puts it.

Mike:When it comes to a productivity journal I think it’s important to include all aspects of your life because productivity isn’t just about work or about doing a bunch of stuff. It’s about acknowledging whether you have done the right stuff for that day. Whether it’s personal or professional.

Chase:Here is how Shawn Blanc put it.

Shawn:I mean, it’s the conventional reason why we’re here a million times but is really true. Like the most important stuff usually is very passive and we have to be active about making sure we’re doing it and so … I guess I am doing it, more because I recognizing it, I’m training my mind to recognize, this is the important work, this is what you should be doing.

Chase:The most important work is passive. It won’t come find you, you have to go find it. When you compare how valuable our time is to the number of distractions we have available today. When you take your hopeful idea. Your chance of creating your own business and actually succeeding and you compare that to the amount of companies and people and desires competing for your attention. In your mail inbox or in your Facebook feed or on your to do list.

When you take all that you dream of doing, how delicate those dreams actually are, how easily shoved around by this urgent need over here and the fire that needs to be put out over there. It’s a wonder any of us get anything truly important done and in the massive noise and movement of the modern world. Journaling is like a secret weapon where you can go into yourself and be still enough to ask. I am I doing it.

Shawn:I’m doing it. I’m thirty three years old and I finally … Like actually I’m doing it. The circumstances doesn’t matter what your circumstance are, it’s just hard to do meaningful work.

Chase:Today’s show brought to you by fizzle.co the community of entrepreneurs that won’t let you quit. Get in for a dollar and see if you don’t learn something great from the latest course on making images for social media and blogspots. I dare you not to learn something from that course. I made it. Show notes and links at fizzleshow.co/99 [inaudible 00:40:13] study and all the other little tide bits. Also, hey, our goal here is to help you build a livelihood that you’re truly proud of. If you leave us an iTunes review, it can help other entrepreneurs find the show.

It doesn’t cost you much, it means the world to us because it helps others find it. Simply search for the show on the iTunes store and click write a review. You know I’ve actually started this journaling and little trick I’ve started doing. I don’t know if it’s good or bad but it’s what I’m doing. Is to put the things that I’m going to write on the journal post in the headline itself. One after the other and then in the actual writing I can kind of look. What was I going to write about? Oh yeah, that, that, that. Just for the sake of the argument. Here is my recent journal title.

Don, Betsy, Journaling, Interviews, Run, Sex. I’m guessing that a little in-sighting to not just what I do but why I do it. I’m not exactly sure how though. Find care, take care, serve hard and dig in. Thanks and I’ll talk to you next Fizzle Friday.

We appologize for any innacuracies in this transcript. We are still looking for a transcript vendor that can, let us say capture our unique way of doing things 🙂


“2 experts share exactly how to start a productivity journal (and increase productivity by 23%)”


Show Notes

Mike Vardy – Productivityist

Shawn Blanc

Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance

Self-efficacy – Wikipedia

Day One | A simple and elegant journal for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Evernote – The workspace for your life’s work

Monument Valley soundtrack



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