Interstitial journaling


What is interstitial journaling?

I think my first time seeing the phrase interstitial journaling was at the Obsidian Discord. Someone had posted a picture of their daily log and they had time stamps with short notes about projects or plans. They called it interstitial journaling. I was intrigued.

Googling led me to Anne-Laure Le Cunff who pointed me towards Tony Stubblebine and I fell in love. With interstitial journaling that is. Stubblebine talks about the interstice (meaning a small intervening space) between projects or tasks. He says that since it can be hard for your brain to switch from one task to another this process of interstitial journaling can help you switch track with less resistance.

What he suggest is that when you leave a task you jot down the time, write a bit about what you just did and what you’re planning on doing next. This helps your mind leave the task you were doing and prepares you for the next. Or, if you’ve gotten side-tracked, it can lead you back to what you were supposed to be doing.

How do I use it?

When I learned about this technique I saw it mainly as a mindfulness technique. I’m not working on big projects, switching from task to task or handling massive amounts of information or meetings. What I do though is get off track. So when I have a natural break I go to my daily log in Obsidian and add the time. Then I write about what I’m doing, what I should be doing and what I want to do next. It’s a nice re-set and it keeps me honest about procrastination and time wasting. But also shows me that sometimes getting off track means getting on a cooler track where I might want to hang out a bit longer.

I also like to track random things I do. Sometimes I do it with an inline field so I can check my Dataview query pages. I mostly do this for what I’ve been reading or watching, or if some special event occurred. But tracking smaller things, like mood or caffeine intake, is also a good way to go back over your day and see if there are any patterns. Am I extra productive if I have a calm morning? What time of day is it easier for me to get back on track?

The difference between other journaling habits

Since I have a habit of navel gazing and really not getting anywhere when I journal I find this technique to keep me short and sweet. I jot down a sentence or two, but even when I feel something needs a paragraph I still keep it short and don’t spin into something unproductive. I sometimes write about something that triggers a negative emotion but I keep it short, I describe the event, what feeling came up, and then I move on.

If I do start to go on a tangent in my daily log I read back and most of the time I turn the text into a new note. I then leave the link at the timestamp instead of leaving the big block of text. Sometimes I start typing something that I think will be a short entry but I have thoughts. When this happens I don’t stop myself and start up a new note to continue the thought in. I write until I’m done and then I move it to it’s own note by highlighting the block of the text, then right-click and chose “extract current selection.”

Me explaining extract to file because I was blown away when I found this very much not hidden feature

How can you use interstitial journaling?

You can use interstitial journaling in both an analogue and digital environment. I find it very easy to use in Obsidian. I always have Obsidian open when I’m at my computer and I have the app in my phone so it’s always close. But it’s equally easy on paper. You don’t have the bonus of being able to make clickable links with what you write, but for some people, just getting stuff out is all that’s needed.

The intended purpose is to keep your day flowing and keep you on track. For some people that’s projects and meetings. For me it’s rapid thoughts that might escape and a check in with myself to keep me grounded.

That’s the beauty of a lot of the productivity hacks. You see it, pick it up and make it yours.

3 thoughts on “Interstitial journaling”

  1. I also love how I can backtrack and check why a certain decision was made in a project, or to really digest the learnings from a project thanks to the record. I do mine in Obsidian too 🙂

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