How I use my Daily Note:
One thing I should note upfront is that I’m a retired person. I have a lot of commitments connected with the non-profit work I do, with the adult education I’m pursuing, and to my extended family, but I don’t have a jobby-job. I’ve found that I actually have to be more intentional now than I did when my paid work was organizing my time for me. I’m also the kind of person who will chase after any shiny object that wanders into my line of sight (Squirrel!), and who is prone to the sort of doomscrolling that’s deleterious to both mental and physcial health. My daily note is my tool for intention. It’s also mostly a tool for the day, and isn’t intended to be something I refer back to.
I open a new Daily Note in Obsidian shortly after I get up in the morning. It’s the first thing I do at my computer each day.
First, I list all of the appointments that are on my calendar for that day in a section labeled “Apppointments.” If I’ve teed up a museum visit or a performance from my syllabus it goes here along with the zoom calls and the dentists’ appointments. (When I was a child I didn’t need to commit to joy; sadly, as an adult, I do.) Fitness activities I’ve planned go here too.
Then I list the tasks, chores, and errands I plan to get done over the course of the day in a section I’ve labeled “Punch List.” These include items I’ve pulled from OmniFocus as well as the little tasks of daily living. (This is a checkbox list.)
The third section, labeled “Syllabus,” is where I then list the items I’ve pulled from my syllabus that I plan to work with that day. (It’s also a checkbox list.) I used to put these items in the Punch List, but I’ve decided “thinky” tasks need a separate section. I always try to include something done for love (photography or the performing arts), something done out of duty (e.g., researching any updated GAAP standards for non-profit accounting), and something done to keep up with current events. An aside: I’ve had mixed success managing “thinky” work in OmniFocus. It’s good for thinking and research I’m doing on a deadline in connection with a specific project, but fatal to serendipity, too.
A note re: the “Appointments,” “Punch List,” and “Syllabus” sections: I make it a point to update them throughout the course of the day with things I actually ended up doing that weren’t originally on the list. I put a little “plan forward” arrow next to something I put on the list that didn’t get done and needs to be put in another day’s Punch List.
The fourth section is where I list the books I’m currently reading, with a note about what I might have started or finished reading reading that day. I include a link to the “Cardfile” markdown note I made for each book. (That Cardfile note will itself have links to other things, like reviews, author interviews, bibiliographies, etc.)
The fifth section is where I list any exhibits I visited, performances I saw, videos I watched, podcasts I listened to, articles I read, etc. with links to any notes I might have made in connection with them. This section exists for one reason only: it’s kind of like a food diary that a dieter might keep—i.e., a way to catch myself consuming empty content calories.
The sixth section is where I put the citations I created for items I put in my Read-It-Later app. I’ve made this a checkbox list as a way of committing to processing my RIL queue.
The seventh section is my place for ubiquitous capture. Here’s where I’ll make a quick note about a book someone mentioned, or an idea that suddenly struck me, or commitment I made during a phone call, or whatever. I set some time aside at the end of the day to decide if any of these items need to become something else, e.g., a calendar entry, a task, an entry in the syllabus, a permanent note, a part of a project plan, etc.
In short, it’s a tool for intention.