Field Notes Journal

December 10, 2014

Recently the Field Notes Ambition edition was released as a part of their quarterly color series. I liked the idea and swiftly incorporated the ledger (for expenses), and the weekly journal (for future events), but I’ve always kept a Field Notes book on me at all times and that hasn’t changed. All three of these fit perfectly into my favorite Indie Cover.

For the most part, I use a minimum of one page designated for each day. In the following passage I will lay out the process I use for different aspects of my life to fill the day’s page. I also try to use a second page everyday to sketch or draw something just for fun and practice. I usually take inspiration from the hundreds of artists I follow on Instagram for this.

To start with the basics, I write the name of the day in the top left and the date in the top right. In an attempt to improve my own word art, each week gets a theme that I incorporate into the written name of the day. One week might just be cursive, another might be blacking out parts of squares to build a letter in the remaining white space, but in the end, every week gets its own style.

After putting the date in the top right, I make sure to leave some space Even further to the right of it where I do a tiny little sketch or doodle. It is never more than a couple centimeters tall and wide. One day it was just a cloud with a little lightning bolt coming out of it, another I sketched a little computer mouse. The goal of the little sketch is a quick snapshot of something I was doing or thinking at a certain point in the day, nothing too elaborate.

Below the header I incorporate a little of Patrick Rhone’s Dash Plus system as well as Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal. I’ll start out with the main tasks I have for the day with a dash to the left of them. Once a task has been completed, I turn the dash into a plus. If there is an event or someplace I have to go it gets indicated with a circle that will be checked in after it has taken place, just like the Bullet Journal. This may bring up the question of How to handle incomplete tasks. To indicate a task did not get completed, I turn the dash into a simple arrow pointing to the right. Now it consists on three lines (something like this ->). When I either a) finish the task or b) move the task to another days page I will connect the arrowhead and fill it in. If I know a page has a task that hasn’t been completed or moved forward I will put a circle at the bottom of the page. This way, I can see any days with open tasks by quickly flipping through. Once the task from that page has been completed or moved I can check in the bottom circle.

To go along with tasks or events, I have incorporated what I like to call sketchnote labels, inspired by Mike Rhode, to signify different things that occur on a regular basis that I want to notate. When I fill the gas tank, I draw a little car and write down the number of gallons along with how many miles since my last fill up in order to get an idea of the MPG and how much I have driven in any given period of time. If listening to podcasts, a little microphone is drawn on the left side of the page along with whichever podcasts were listened to that day. I use an asterisk, like Patrick Rhone, to indicate a thought, a little book to indicate the book I was reading that day, a book with a grid to indicate any comics that were read, a film projector for movies, a TV set for any television shows, a pair of eighth notes for any music that may have been significant throughout the day, a dollar sign for any financial events that occured throughout the day that were abnormal, a fork for any special food that may have been eaten or a beer bottle for a new beer that I got to try, a dumbbell for a Workout (I also keep an extra Field Notes to log workouts), and then there is the occasional basketball if I watched the Bulls game or other things I feel garner a sketchnote as a one time deal.

This, however, does not make up my entire daily page. Sometimes I’ll tape in a movie ticket stub as a reminder of the movie that I went to, but the important thing is the grub.

Everyday, usually at the bottom of the page, I will dedicate space for that days grub, which can be seen in the Grub tab of my site. Most days I will do something unique to indicate something about the day that made it different than the rest. There will be days when nothing comes to mind, or that I just want to play around with different ways such a simple figure can be drawn. For the most part, I have been able to remember what I did on a specific day just by looking at the Grub I put at the bottom of my page.

I’ve also added a few digital tricks into my journal workflow that were inspired by Josh Ginter at The Newsprint and Rodrigo Franco from his Medium article. First, I use a pair of apps, Launch Center Pro and Day One, to do a quick log of the day. Launch Center Pro allows me to answer a few quick questions about the day, which have been evolving over time, as well as the Field Notes book and page number that I filled that day, and then sends it to Day One. This way I can always look through Day One and get a snapshot of the day, usually with a picture for good measure. If I want to know more, I know exactly which Field Notes book page to go to. The other digital trick comes from being able to record digital media that I like throughout my day. For this I use Bitly and my custom short domain to create a short link that I can easily record into my notebook. So if there is an article that I like one day, take for instance Jason Snell’s article about App Store rejection, I will use bitly to make a short link, it will spit out which allows me to remember how to find the article without a long URL. This way I will write down /1BuWF02” in my notebook and be able to look it up later. I use Pinboard and Instapaper as well for saving pages and articles but this way, if I wantto remember a specific item about the day In the news I can without much hassle.

Each day, filling this page has become a ritual that my days feel empty without. If not much happened during a day, I might sketch out the logo of the restaurant that I went to, or other tidbits from the day that stood out to me. The whole process has made me more aware of the time I let pass by without meaning and the days where not much has gotten done. If I get to the end of the day and realize a page is close to empty, I’ll pick up a book to read or maybe I’ll just remember to enjoy the day that I got to relax and do an extra drawing in the available space. Maybe most importantly, this gives me a reason to use some of my favorite pens that I enjoy to write with so much. Between the couple of fountain pens I have, and the Fisher Bullet Space pen that I keep in my notebook cover, there is always something delightful to write with which makes the process even more enjoyable.

Below I have included some pages from some of my recent Field Notes to give you an idea of the nonsense you read above.