Captain's Log

Captain's Log


I’ve journaled on and off in various formats throughout my life.

I kept a paper diary, shifted to a “4 lines a day” style daily journal, moved to Day One’s electronic journal, and also do a personal review and quarterly updates to friends. Plus I write a monthly update for my investors for my business.

I’m trying something new that I wanted to share — a digital journal powered by voice.

Think of it like a captain’s log. The original term (sometimes ship log or logbook) was used to document a ship’s position, wind speed & direction, and anything unusual that happens to the ship itself (cargo, crew).

They were often dry, CYA-esque narratives, though one major exception is the Captain Walther Schwieger, whose U-boat sank a steamboat and killed over one thousand passengers and crew. His detailed narrative of witnessing the carnage wrought by his torpedo is covered more in This American Life.

The term became popularized in Star Trek, where it was used as a way to deliver exposition on a situation or fast forward through a storyline.

It’s also can be used to deliver humor when the log entry does not match up with actual events and has become a bit of a trope.

The Need for a Captain’s Log

At the time of this writing, our planet is facing an unprecedented pandemic (COVID-19) that will have a lasting impact on the global economy, trade, migration, and public health for years to come.

It can be a bit overwhelming as new information comes in daily on the rate of infection, new policies or restrictions, and how the disease is affecting society. Plus all the microdecisions about whether it’s safe to do something or go somewhere.

Part of how I’m handling all this is by returning to journaling.

My plan is to carefully document the next 100 days, which I think will be a critical period for the US and the rest of the world. It also happens to be a crucial period for my company as well.

Point of View

The idea of a captain’s log appeals to me because captains are not just observers: they make decisions and take action. This pandemic is not one we can watch from our living rooms, it’s something we all have to deal with every day.

Keeping this journal is a reminder to be proactive about my sphere of influence. It’s also a way to hold myself accountable to the person I want to be in a crisis situation (which I believe we are moving into).

Voice Dictation

If you have a smartphone, you have a pretty good microphone and powerful software for turning your spoken words into text. Both Apple and Google have done a great job on this.

While saying “comma” and “period” can be a little awkward at first, you can get used to it pretty quickly and it’s easy to start adding notes as the day goes on.

This technique is particularly useful now that many of us are working from home. This kind of documentation might be disruptive or feel too personal to share in an office environment, but should feel easier to do at home.

I’m keeping mine in Evernote, but might switch over to Day One. There are tons of journaling options so if you want to try it, just figure what works for you. Just like the best camera is the one you have on you, the best journal is the one you use.

This idea is not original by any means.

In his seminal Harvard Business Review article Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker talks about how keeping a decision journal is a way to better understand yourself.

The only way to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis. Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations. I have been practicing this method for 15 to 20 years now, and every time I do it, I am surprised.Peter Drucker (Managing Oneself)

Tony Stubblebine, of Better Humans and, uses a similar method called interstitial journaling that helps him stay focused throughout the day.

Studied have found that even mundane moments that one documents are more valuable later on than we believe in the present. Which suggests that more interesting times would be even treasured.

So if you’re looking for a way to capture the insanity of this coming COVID-19 crisis, consider using voice dictation to capture your thoughts, decisions, and life changes as this historic moment progresses.

This is Captain Shen, signing off.