Interstitial Journaling

Time-stamped lists of thoughts.

August 19, 2022

3 minute read

For the last 30 days, I have been writing time-stamped lists of thoughts and ideas into a note for the day. I’ve noticed a big improvement in my mood and focus, and I spend less time trying to pick up where I left off.

Productivity nerds enthusiasts recommend writing a journal entry, or daily note, every day. Some apps, like Logseq, are built around this idea, and Obsidian (the one I use) has a core plugin for this.

However, a daily note in the style of a journal entry at the end of the day didn’t work for me. I often missed days, or struggled to recall the events of the day. I switched to a method called interstitial journaling, and I’ve been able to stick with it for a month so far, which is huge!

The idea

My daily note starts out with a list of goals I want to get done today, not necessarily everything on my todo list for the day. Just big ticket items or things that would make a huge difference in my mood if I got them knocked out today.

Then the rest of the note is a bullet-point list, with each list item starting with the current time.1 I write about whatever I’m feeling, what I’m working on right now or think I should be working on, random thoughts, references to other notes, etc. I don’t worry about wording or spelling; it’s just a place to offload.

These notes get rather long, so to help keep me on task, I put the daily goals underneath the notes. That way they’re always visible.

Notes

  • 03:09 writing a blog post on interstitial journaling
  • 03:15 wow it’s after 0300, why am I still awake

Goals

  • Finish up post on interstitial journaling

It’s important to note, is a phrase with four words. You don’t have to use a PKM app like Obsidian to take these notes, you can use anything at your disposal. Text file, a crumpled back-pocket notepad, napkin, body tattoo—these all work.

Where apps like Obsidian come in handy is the ability to link to other notes. So when I’m writing down thoughts about a project I’m working on, I add a reference to a note for that project. Same for software I’m thinking about, blog posts I’m writing, and people.

These daily notes then show up as backlinks in Obsidian, and part of the local graph, so you can go back and look at your thoughts or events about a specific subject. I keep the backlinks and local graph as a sidebar in Obsidian, here’s what this blog post looks like:

Screenshot of the Obsidian app showing this blog post. On the right, there is a sidebar showing a list of notes and quotes that reference this post.

Results

It’s helped me stay on task and resume where I left off when I return to my desk. I found myself exploring fewer rabbit holes, because writing down a brief thought about it is enough most of the time. And at the end of the day when I feel like I haven’t gotten much done, I can squash that feeling by reading through the day’s events and helping me realize, actually, I did a lot.

Another way to think about it: it’s like live-tweeting into a note. Like when I used to tweet 100+ times a day in 2012.

A few of these daily notes are huge—the first day’s note had roughly 1,500 words and 8,000 characters. There’s been several more that have reached 1,200+ words, but my average daily note is around 400-600 words. Similar to my blog’s average word count.

Anyway, I recommend giving interstitial journaling a shot! And I would love to hear how it went for you.


  1. Obsidian makes this easy with a keyboard shortcut to insert the current time ↩︎


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