How I use Daily Notes

I use Daily Notes as the backbone of my KMS. The reason is that I find time to an important context for storing information. “When I do something” can be just as important as what I do.

I’ve configured my Daily Notes plugin like this:

Here are some details:

  • The Date Format is configured to give me the first three characters of the day. For me, this is important because I tend to remember things by what day I did them rather than the date. In my example, my note titles look like 2020-07-10_Fri
  • I store all my daily notes in separate folder from my archive. I have tried (and mostly succeeded) at removing folders as an organizational construct in my KMS, but given the sheer number of notes I’m going to be creating in this one format, a separate folder made sense to me. I reserve the right to change my mind in the future.
  • The last line is where I store my template… and what’s that look like, you ask?

The Template

`Breadcrumb Trail`

## Tasks


## Communication Log


## Work Log


## 0000 Meeting
- Tags:
- Meeting Link: 
- Attendees:
- Tasks:
- Notes:

The Breadcrumb Trail

I put that at the top of all my daily notes, so I can quickly get to the surrounding day’s notes. I do this through a text expander app called espanso. How I do it can be found here: Fun with espanso

The Task List

This is a list of tasks that I need to accomplish. Any task that I don’t complete this day, gets manually copied to the next day. That in and of itself isn’t that special, but I have a couple of processes that help me keep track of things over time.

The first is the use of a Shame Meter. Every time I carry a task forward, I add an ! to it. The more times a task gets deferred, the more !!!! build up.

The second trick involves backlinking. If there’s something that I plan to do another day, I include a link to that day’s daily note. When I finally get to that day, there will be a backlink to the task waiting for me. I don’t carry these tasks forward like the other tasks because I’ve already decided when I want to act on it.

As I move through my week and check off tasks, I have a running record of what I did and when based on where it got checked off on my daily notes.

The Communication Log

I keep a record of almost every conversation I have with people in which I share some sort of responsibility. This includes Slack messages, emails, phone calls or in person. I briefly summarize what we talked about and include any thoughts I have about the conversation in the moment.

Again, this isn’t that special, but again, I have a cool trick: I create personal notes for everyone I communicate with. This allows me to keep a database of my interactions with them. For example:

My note for John Smith contains things I know about him and the backlinks include every time I’ve mentioned him. If on a daily note, the title of the note tells me when I talked to him and what it was about.

The Work Log

This is pretty self explanatory. I simply link every note I worked on that day. The side effect is similar to the Communication log. If I work on a note (read: Project) for more than one day, the backlinks for that note include a timeline that could be interpreted as a level-of-effort for a particular project. It’s not as detailed as a proper time-tracking app, but it works for me.

The Meeting Block

At the beginning of every day, I create a Meeting block for every meeting on my calendar. I do this with espanso. This section is also pretty straight forward but here are a few details:

  • Tags: This is where I link notes that pertain to this meeting. I also add tags if I feel I need to come back to this via search or I want to bundle this meeting with other thoughts.
  • Meeting Link: The Zoom/Hangouts link, just in case I get disconnected
  • Attendees: A link to every person in the meeting, when it makes sense. For example, I don’t link to everyone in a large departmental meeting. That would be ridiculous.
  • Tasks: If the tasks doesn’t get done or is not deferred, it gets added to tomorrow’s Task list.

Daily Routine

  1. My daily notes are pinned, so first thing in the morning, I click the “Daily Note” button and it copies my template and opens right next to the previous day’s pinned Daily Note.
  2. I use espanso to create the breadcrumb trail
  3. I scan yesterday’s daily note for Tasks that didn’t get completed or deferred. Those get copied into the Tasks section and I increase the Shame Meter
  4. I check the backlinks for anything that’s been deferred to today and copy them into the task section.
  5. Check my calendar for meetings, create a meeting block (with espanso) for each one and fill out any information that may be pertinent (e.g links to projects, the Zoom meeting link)
  6. I pin the today’s Daily Note and close yesterday’s

Future Updates

I’m working on a python script (that may one day be a plugin) that will monitor Daily Notes for uncompleted tasks and forward them to a legit task manager application.

Conclusion

This probably doesn’t work for everyone, but it works extremely well for me. It allows me to use time as an index into my KMS and helps me from letting things fall through the cracks.

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Thanks for sharing! This is nice! I particularly like the idea of keeping a dossier on people about their interests and something interesting that they mention. I also keep. checklist in people notes about things I want to talk to them about but aren’t time critical. Whenever I am speaking with them, I always have their note open. I used to use the notes inside of contacts app before but this seems more flexible and reliable.

How do you manage to assign tasks for future dates? Does espanso support generating dates in +1, +2 format or do you type those manually?

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Tasks assigned for future dates are handled through backlinks as described above. I the “Fun with Espanso” forum post I linked, I give examples on how to create them. My favorite is :>1w which, to me means “Next Week”, adds the link to next Monday’s daily note.

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This is very nice, I like how you use Obsidian for productivity. Mine is only notes of my reading and writing, I try to put anything related to productivity in Notion.

@mitzimbj I used the code for the daily note formatting. However, when I used the “:bc” without the columns, it flashes a blue screen for a second. But it does not show the date and yesterday like in your example. “:meet” works but not “:bc”, what could be wrong. I used Notepad+++ to edit the default file. kindly assist. I am using a windows 10 computer.

I may be presenting a different problem here. I’ve used @mitzimbj’s espanso script and I noticed that typing :bc does not work unless I immediately add a space after it. So I type :bc then press space bar, only then does it work how it’s supposed to.

Idk why this is though, even the script didn’t include a space for the trigger.

I don’t know if this could help, but with Espanso you are not obliged to use the :bla format of trigger, you can use any letter combination. I use 3-letter combinations that are not used in any English words so I don’t accidentally trigger Espanso.

Example: I use dyx to trigger today’s date 2020-07-11.

The scripts from mitzimbj use the command “word: true”. Just remove this line and it will immediately trigger.
For details: https://espanso.org/docs/matches/ - section “Word triggers”

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Oh yeah that does the trick, thanks!

but how is :bc considered a word though? And what does that have to do with having a simple space at the end?

Espanso does not recognise words as such, it recognises words by a separator. This separator may be e.g. spaces or commas. So, “bc:”, followed by a space, is recognised as a word.

I think using Daily Notes as a ‘work journal’ is a cool idea. So thanks for the effort put forth in this topic.

I do want to give a warning for those that want to make notes on European people: this kind of logging is probably illegal under GDPR.

That privacy directive explicitly states, amongst other things, that:

  • Handling personal data needs a legal basis,
  • The purpose of the data processing needs to be specified explicitly to the people involved (i.e., people need to know you log your conversations with them),
  • Data processing is limited to the purpose explicitly stated,
  • Data need to be stored securely (not plain text Markdown files),
  • People have the right to have their personal data transferred, modified, or deleted when they request so,
  • And people need to give their consent for information processing.

Unfortunately the Daily Notes approach from this thread doesn’t seem to do any of this.

This doesn’t mean the Daily Notes approach cannot work, but I’d urge you to take care and watch out.

Also, if you make notes about customers of the business you work for, you need explicit permission from your company for handling customer data in this way. So that’s also something to keep in mind.

Happy note taking. :slight_smile:

@JkNML Thanks for sharing the details on that. I’ve worked with a British BPO long back and they had strict rules too. We weren’t even allowed pen and paper to take notes inside the working space, only in their official CRM were we allowed to note things down.

While most my clients won’t mind (actually appreciate) my writing down their preferences/choices discussed on a call, you bring up a good point to consider for many especially those who are dealing with customers of a client.

This brings up a bigger argument I think. Does the data collected by a worker/employee manually for convenience/to help with remembering have the same status of privacy as data collected by systems like apps on phone/computer? If I visit a café regularly and the barista there remembers my choice of drink the way I take it even if he notes it down somewhere for regular customers with specific drinks, does it hold the same as an app tracking my searches to find out which drinks I like? I think most people appreciate the difference and would welcome the former even if they oppose the latter very diligently.

But anyways, that’s not the topic of this thread and we must not deviate from the title. I’m still thankful to you for bringing this up and if you should chose to, I welcome further discussion either on Discord or private message.

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I use a midnight cron job to create the new day’s note from a template and create links to next/prev day’s notes. @mitzimbj post gives me the idea of copying all - [ ] lines from prev day’s note to new day’s note and add leading !. May need another script to see how many days a task remains undone. While this won’t fix the underlying problem, I will see which jobs I procrastinate more on!

Another thing I haven’t done yet is to remove boilerplate sections (sections that remained empty). These do help me in that they remind me what I should be looking at every day and where to put related stuff.

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None of the date expansions will work in Windows 10, as they are written. This is because I use the linux/macOS shell command date which isn’t the same on Windows. If you look in this forum thread Fun with espanso, @chopivy gives an example on how to do it in Windows using Powershell.

This is very close to how I manage my Work vault! My personal one doesn’t include meetings and replaces them with a Gratitude section where I put one positive thing that happened each day + a few other similar tweaks.

One note about this:

Did you consider using a tag rather than a backlink? I use #humans instead of [[Humans]] on people pages, and I was wondering if you had any rationale behind using the internal link rather than the tag. (I didn’t really think this through, so if you didn’t either that’s fine - I just use the tag because it’s prettier than the link and doesn’t end up with one big empty page that so many pages refer to.)

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What font is this? Its very pretty

Looks like it’s the Red Graphite community theme. Font seems to be Avenir.

Links replace folders in my system, so where I would have a person folder, I have a [[person]] link,

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Thanks for sharing this @mitzimbj .

It helped me set up my daily notes and gave me a few ideas to add to my usual routine, by combining this with ideas shared in the “fun with espresso” thread.

@lexane : I also use #person with a tag instead of a link. It’s just a personal preference I think. + It keeps the graph cleaner. However, @mitzimbj do you have any use case for using a link or is it just your preferred naming convention ?

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I use links in any place that I would have used a folder. For example, in an Evernote organization example, I would have created a People folder and placed all my contacts in it.

Tags can work the same way too.

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