My New Journal Mashup

I’ve been struggling a bit with my journal. For the past couple of months I’ve been using the Bullet Journal method. I like it, but it is restrictive. Sometimes I find myself just not writing because I don’t want to decide how to categorize or add something to my index. I appreciate some aspects of the system, but not all are for me. I am coming to the end of a notebook and I wanted to make an adjustment so I can make better use of the new one.

I also ran across an article recently that mentioned the 5 Minute Journal . I always like the concept behind that. The issue for me was that I didn’t want to buy a journal that was only 5 Minute Journal entries. (It’s a combination gratitude journal and basic daily planner. Useful, but hardly able to function as a catch-all.)

So I made my own mashup.

On the left is the outline of a 5 Minute Journal entry. On the right, a slightly more structured BuJo page. This means I’ll be using one spread per day, which will use more notebooks, but I’m actually excited to write in it again. The past few days have been excellent, both in terms of capturing the things I need to do, and in terms of allowing me to evaluate my day and make improvements.

The other change I’ve made recently is carrying around a small field notes-sized notebook with me. I think of it as my “everyday carry” notebook. Anything fun or interesting that I hear or see goes into it. There isn’t intended to be lots of meaning here, just a place to jot and doodle. When I’m back at my desk I can transfer over anything significant into my main journal.

I also added a larger notebook that my writing goes into. Everything from blog posts to presentations to talks start off in the big notebook and are written by hand. The second draft happens when I type them into the computer.

H/T to Austin Kleon and David Sedaris for the idea of using multiple notebooks together in a loose system.


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Start to Protect Your Privacy with These Two Steps

We all need to be a bit more invisible on the internet. I’m in marketing and I can tell you that the number of ways you are tracked around the web are as scary as they are creative.

Luckily there are some simple things we can do to avoid most of the tracking (and speed up your browsing at the same time).

Step 1: Block trackers and ads

  • Install a tracker blocker on your browser. The EFF’s Privacy Badger works really well.
  • Instal the HTTPS Everywhere extension. This tiny but mighty add-on helps to ensure you have a safe connection to websites you visit.
  • Install uBlock to block ads on most sites.

These extension are available for most browsers. If you want an all-in-one solution that includes these things by default, try the Brave browser. It’s based or Chrome so the majority of Chrome extensions work with it.

The second thing you can do is stop using Google as your search engine. Part of the reason we are tracked so effectively is because we use Google search. In many ways it is the beginning of the tracking cycles. Using an alternative search engine gives you a similar experience without the pernicious tracking of Google. It also helps avoid “search bubbles” where you see the same type of results based on things you’ve clicking on in the past.

  • Startpage.com is my go-to search engine. The results come from Google but are filtered so that Google doesn’t see you as the searcher. Excellent search results without the tracking.
  • DuckDuckGo.com is my other favorite. They have an excellent browser extension on desktop which blocks trackers and ads as well as setting DuckDuckGo as your default search engine. Their mobile app has become by default browser on my phone.

These are small steps you can take to help safeguard your privacy online. They don’t take much effort but over time can make a big difference.


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Back to Pen and Ink

In the last six months my wife and I have been going through boxes of old books and papers from years past. You see, we have made some major moves in our 16 years together, including two international moves that basically forced us to start over from zero. the one place we were able to keep some mementos was in my parents’ basement. This spring my Mom, who allowed us to keep the stuff there for years longer than it should have been (Thanks Mom!), finally told us it was time to come and reclaim our stuff. Fair enough!

We took eight boxes of thins back to our house and they landed in our garage. A few months later we spent a Saturday going through everything, deciding what to keep and what to let go. That in itself is a group experience. Thank Marie Kondo for teaching us how to thank things for the joy they brought us and then let them go!)

College textbooks, old novels, and other stuff that seemed important at the time but isn’t really now all went to the thrift store. Photos, journals, important books and letters, and childhood mementos were taken out, experienced again, and found a new home. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

One of the interesting thins I discovered was that I used to take a ton of notes. The time in my life when I experienced the most personal growth and positive changes was the time that I also took the most handwritten notes. Agendas from meetings were filled with notes. I filled the margins of books with notes. Every scrap of paper seemed stuffed with my handwriting. I was frankly amazed—I don’t remember being a person who wrote much, especially by hand.

That time in my wife was before I had much access to technology. My cell phone was just for calls, my computer use was either in a computer lab or on a family computer, and the most important possessions I had were books and musical instruments.

I subsequent years I would start to acquire digital things like a laptop and a PDA, then later an iPod, a smartphone, etc. I lived overseas and, though I loved to read, couldn’t always afford to buy English books. Ebooks became one of the most precious thins in my life. It also led me to learn about Linux, some computer programming, and eventually to the awesome job I have working at a software company. I love all of this and am so grateful for it.

I also miss my analog life.

That day, going through the memories and remainders of my pre-digital life, I wanted so much to reclaim the part of me that spent hours taking notes by hand. I know I lost a bit of myself when I decided to going all-in on a digital life was the thing for me.

I started with small steps:

  • Having a pen and notebook with me each day
  • Reading physical books

Has my life drastically changed? Not in major terms but it has in some important small details. My memory is better. Things I write as handwritten notes stick in my mind better. (This was one of my biggest concerns! No search functions in a paper notebook.) I won’t go into the details here of the system I use, but I can say it has made me more efficient rather than less.


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