Sampler #4: Why I use reviews (Part 2: Even better journaling)


👋 Hello everyone, Lucian speaking.

Last week we looked into the why behind journaling, now let's look into the how. This edition covers some tips you can use in your own Daily Jots to make Journaling more lucrative.

If you haven't read Sampler #3, I strongly recommend that you do so before reading any further 👌.

You can jump ahead to the most interesting sections using these links:

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Reading time: 7 minutes

linkEven better journaling

link⚙️ Tag your journal entries by their category

Remember that Journals and Reviews are not the end goal here. Instead, reviews should assist you with getting more things done in real life, while investing as little time as possible into the meta-work surrounding it. Some of that meta-work is always required, but if it's tedious and it will take a lot of time, you will eventually stop doing it altogether.

As an example, if you're using Amplenote for your journaling, you might have a Jot per day. For your Weekly Review, that adds up to seven hefty pages of rambling ruminations that you're expected to pore over. I wouldn't blame you if you chose to kindly do something else with your time 🙂.

To address this, we can get more clever with our journals by leaving a "bookmark" of sorts whenever we find that a log entry relates to something specific we'd like to revisit in the future. In Amplenote this means creating a Note Reference and nesting your logs underneath that reference:

The remaining seed tubers were planted today in Blocks 1 & 2;

The earth around the rows was pushed over the tubers to make small ridges;

This should help prevent greening and lodging.

You can think of Note References as a way to group together related notes. Indenting a list of bullet points under a Note Reference is like referencing that note in each individual bullet (but much faster to do).

The other way to tag your logs is by using headings:

link[19:04:17] Meeting with @Alexander today over tea

He's planning to do a working trip to France this summer.

Should ask him about this the next time we meet.

Decided to stay accountable by checking in once a month with our fitness goals.

Writing paragraphs after a heading that contains a Note Reference is like referencing that note in each individual paragraph (but much faster to do).

Whether you choose bullets or headings, during your review you can visit the note associated with any particular goal/person you are tracking. Once in that note, scroll down to the Backlinks section and browse the most recent journal entries surrounding that goal/person:

link⚙️ Every big Review is a recap of the smaller Reviews

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Spend some time with your journaling and reviewing habits and you'll quickly get a sense for the things that are really worth writing about on the one hand, and what you may skip, on the other. That particular list of things may change with time, but it's what will determine the structure of your Retrospective.

For example, you might realize that Alexander isn't your only friend and that you tend to write about other people too. In that scenario, you can start grouping together all people-related logs if you tag them with a second Note Reference, as seen below:

link[19:04:17] ✍️ Meeting with @Alexander today over tea

He's planning to do a working trip to France this summer.

Should ask him about this the next time we meet.

Decided to stay accountable by checking in once a month with our fitness goals.

The only difference vs the last example is that the word "Meeting" links to a separate note called "Meeting". This is cool because...

Generally speaking, every time you find a new "area" of your life that you've committed to journaling about, you can create a dedicated Note for it. For example, if you're mostly logging about Health, Projects and People, your Weekly Retrospective template might look something like this:

Weekly Retrospective:

Revisit ✍️ Health logs for the week:

Revisit ✍️ Project logs for the week:

Revisit ✍️ Meeting logs for the week:

Insert this template in your Daily Jot to start your Weekly Retrospective.

But what about Monthly, Quarterly or Annual Reviews? Well, if the Weekly Review is a summary of the past 7 days, the Monthly Review is a summary of the past 4 Weekly Reviews. Similarly, every bigger review is a recap of the smaller reviews preceding it in that interval.

Monthly Retrospective:

Revisit ✍️ Health logs for the month:

Revisit ✍️ Project logs for the month:

Revisit ✍️ Meeting logs for the month:

Monthly Retrospectives need only look at Weekly Retrospectives.

link⚙️ The Achievements/Losses approach

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While having a list of areas that you're always journaling about (and creating a "tag" for each of them, eg. "Health logs", "Projects logs", etc.) works great, this is but one format that you can introduce in your logs.

In his 15-minute course called "Your Annual Review", Francesco D'Alessio goes over a really cool technique that involves creating a note for each Month of the year and updating it with Achievements and Losses as soon as they happen.

Enumerating your top Achievements and Losses can be a great way to recap your Year. With Francesco's technique, your Annual Review is simply a digest of your Monthly Wins and Losses.

Another similar approach is Anne-Laure Le Cunff's Annual Review Worksheet. Anne-Laure's framework can easily be applied on a monthly basis, and her model serves as good inspiration for how to think about the areas and categories that you want to write about:

Whatever the overarching structure you end up choosing, make sure to include your Wins/Losses in your Review Templates:

4-day gym streak!

Prioritized me-time over social appointments.

Improved my weekly planning strategies.

Had one day of late working.

Couldn't eat at regular intervals as planned.

Including a prompt for yourself to keep writing about the most notable wins and losses in your Reviews ensures that every bigger Review properly pays tribute to the smaller, more frequent reviews preceding it. So, anything that you Log about on a daily basis gets revisited in the weekly review and distilled into wins and losses. Consequently, your weekly reviews are summarized in your monthly reviews.

linkAnnual Reviews write themselves

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How did 2022 go for you? What do you want your 2023 to look like? These are important questions to ask, but you might find that only asking them once a year may not be enough.

The argument for more frequent, smaller reviews is rather convincing. Firstly, the limits of human memory make it tricky to recall all of the nuance and detail that described your previous year. By implementing Monthly Reviews, you're more likely to remember the highs and the lows, the challenges and the progress.

Secondly, on average, 12 months of your life will probably see at least 3 or 4 major shifts in core priorities, values and aspirations. Checking in with yourself as often as possible means you can reconcile those variations and make everything work in your favor.

Finally, estimation is a skill. More frequent reviews allow you to hone that skill and steer clear of the overzealous optimism that is characteristic of December, when most people feel inspired to plan their year.


The first two parts of this series have focused on Journaling. Tune in next week for Part 3: An Introduction to Planning.

See you around!

Plot twist

Thanks for stopping by the Amplenote blog. Did you know that the content of this "blog post" is just a plain old note, lifted from the author's Amplenote notebook? Rich footnotes, industry-leading to-do lists, and a security-first mindset make us a solid option for modern writers. Try it out yourself.