How We Use Daily Journals

AUG 2, 2016 • Written by Nickie McCabe

As part of our training for new hires at Corgibytes, we have a list of expectations that we share with our new team members to help them understand both what to expect as they start working and what we expect of them. One of the most important requirements we have for all team members is that he or she keep a daily journal. At the end of the day, each team member is asked to post a link to that day’s journal in our Retrospectives channel in Slack. The format of the journal is free form, and styles vary from journal to journal, but the goal is to document one’s perspective from the day, capture random thoughts, and put ideas in writing so they have a place to grow. Simply writing and reflecting often has personal benefits, but we’ve found the biggest benefits have come from sharing these journal entries with our whole team.

Provide a Company Wide Pulse

Our CEO Andrea is amazing at keeping the wheel that is Corgibytes spinning. Her days are filled with sales meetings, operations related discussions, spearheading recruiting efforts, coding updates to our website, and more. She often isn’t able to be in the trenches of every single one of our projects or touch base with each person on the team on a daily basis. Our journals are her lifeline to the company. Reading them each morning allows her to get an overall pulse on the company. I know how important our journals are to Andrea so I prioritize publishing my entry each evening so it will be available to Andrea in the morning. Once, when I wrote that I was struggling with JavaScript issues, Andrea reached out with JavaScript resources she had previously used and offered to pay for any additional training I thought would be helpful. Through our journals, Andrea is able to make good decisions for individuals and the team as a whole. She can reach out individually if necessary because she has knowledge of what is happening in each person’s day-to-day life.

Share Technical Knowledge

The format of our journals varies greatly between team members, but one common theme for many of us is sharing technical details. Sometimes, it’s simply a link to a resource we found helpful that day. Other times, it’s a detailed play-by-play of an especially challenging debugging experience. I always enjoy when Scott writes a particularly technical entry because it gives me insight into how he approaches technical problems. On occasion, when I’ve successfully solved a tricky problem, I have captured the relevant bits of knowledge by simply labeling them with “writing this down so I can remember it later”. Capturing this information, especially in a searchable format, not only helps spread technical knowledge amongst our team, but it also provides a helpful reference for future questions and issues.

Normalize Daily Experiences

Imposter syndrome is present in most fields of work, but it can be especially prominent in the tech world. Everyone else appears to be a coding “superstar”, know the “best” and “correct” way to implement a task, and can complete said task in half the time it would take you. Guided by the work of Brené Brown, vulnerability and openness are encouraged in our journals. We share not only the highs of the day, but also the lows. We’re open with our struggles, both technical and not. I’ve often struggled with imposter syndrome and I’ve found that sharing my difficulties, and especially reading those of my teammates, has really helped to normalize these experiences and minimize their impact. Thanks to the openness of my colleagues, I know that I’m not alone in fighting with CSS, not quite understanding the best way to test a piece of code, or even having writer’s block when it comes to creating a blog post.

Practice our Core Values

As discussed in a previous post, our core values are the cornerstone of our company culture. Our values weren’t developed for the sake of having something nice to list on our website. We strive to live our values and use them to guide each of our daily decisions. To that end, daily journals are vital in helping us practice our values. Through the benefits listed above, every day we see that communication is just as important as code. If someone is struggling, we’re able to reach out and offer support and help them calm the chaos they’re facing. When we can get a glimpse into what our team members are thinking and feeling we’re able to act with empathy when we respond to their needs. It’s easy to feel isolated on a distributed team, but through our journals, we embody our core values, and our team feels very connected.

Unexpected Results

As you’ve likely guessed, I’m a huge fan of our daily journals. They may seem foreign or uncomfortable to other developers, but they’re a vital part of our daily lives at Corgibytes. I know I was skeptical when we first started our journals, but now I can’t imagine our team functioning without them. They’re a huge component of the connectedness of our team, and I’m grateful they’re one of the top daily priorities for everyone.