Mountain Stream Coaching in words with M stylized as mountains and S stylized as stream
Outline view of Ray's Daily Note. Three top-level sections and seven subsections.

With the new year, I overhauled my daily note template to support new habits I’m adopting and to become more visual. This article describes where I landed as of the end of January.

I use the Obsidian note-taking app for my daily note; however, I don’t use any functionality that is unique to Obsidian. What I describe could be implemented in almost any note-taking app or document file. I didn’t even bother to make my template a “real” template. Instead, I just copy my empty daily note to create a new note for the day, using the naming convention “Daily Note – [day month year]”. Simple.

For my visual upgrade, I now use the “- [ ]” checkbox syntax to provide the satisfaction and visual queue for completed items:

Screenshot of checkbox functionality.

To spice things up, I added some emojis. Note: in most note-taking apps and Microsoft Word, access emojis via “Windows-Key + . (period)” on Windows machines. Or, “Control + Command + Space” on Macs.

Now, let’s dive into the content. 

I use three major sections, “Goals for the Day”, “Interstitial Journal,” and “Evening Reflections.” The goals section is further divided into seven subsections.

Goals for the Day

Morning Routine

Screenshot for nine morning routine tasks.

My morning routine begins with recording my body weight in Garmin Connect and my blood pressure in an Excel spreadsheet. I next scrub my face with cold water as part of my wakeup and apply facial creme to keep my acne at bay. Next, it’s downstairs to the kitchen to grab my first mug of coffee for the day. No need to put this on the checklist as I can’t imagine a morning without my strong and black brew to move my wakeup along. Coffee in hand, I settle down in front of my laptop to check in with the news, my calendar, email, and socials. Although I don’t set a timer, my goal is to keep this to 10 to 15 minutes max. 

Over the past year, I’ve gotten better at not sucking into using hours in the NY Times, email, and socials during this otherwise most meditative and productive time of the day. 

Next, I look at the lineup in my daily note from the night before and make any desired adjustments in the big rock (described below), additional daily tasks, and calendar. I finish off my first laptop session for the day with my daily quiz (described immediately below.)

Satisfied that I know what is going on in the world and my world, I switch gears to either meditation or when I have more time, yoga and meditation. 

New for 2024 are the last two habits. For years, I’ve interleaved weights with yoga; however, I’ve not done weights separately. Since I typically only do yoga two, or at most three days a week: starting in January, I’m adding weights as a standalone daily goal. Also new for 2024 is the habit of a brief cardio session. I adopted this practice in late January inspired by attending Tony Robbins’ Time to Rise Summit. To elevate my state for my first time-block or call, I now channel Brian Bradley for my get-the-heart-rate pumping two-minute cardio.

Especially on days that I have an early coaching session, I will skip the facial scrub and creme and instead do an initially cold shower (think cold plunge) before yoga or meditation.        

Daily Quiz

Screenshot of daily quiz items subsection.

My daily quiz is something that I started in mid-2023 when I felt like I was struggling to keep critical personal statements and key-to-my-coaching concepts top-of-mind. I had the fear and reality of going blank when someone asked me; for example, “So Ray, what are YOUR signature strengths?”, or “What is life design?” Plus, how could I expect myself to fully live into my core values, strengths, purpose, etc. when I had trouble even recalling how I defined these? Now, each morning, I pick one or two of the bullet points in my daily quiz to define the item and say why it is important to me. This deliberate practice has greatly increased my retention and my ability to speak off-the-cuff about some of the concepts that are most important to my work and life.

I am thinking about moving the quiz into Anki. That would be a slick way to administer the quiz; however, the migration hasn’t become a priority for me.

Today’s Big Rock

Screenshot of big rock subsection,

Taking a page from The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (2013), I define my “big rock” for the day. The one thing that I am totally committed to for the day that will most move the needle on my long-term goals. I’ve been doing this for over a year now and I’m saddened to think about the number of days I did not complete the “one thing.” Still, even if aspirational, I believe this is a worthy practice to continue and get better at achieving.

Additional Tasks for Today

Screenshot of Additional Tasks subsection.

Along with the “big rock,” each evening (see Evening Routine below) I define a handful of additional tasks that I’m committed to for the following day. 

One must-have is to make or grow a human connection aside from my wife and son who live with me. This could be calling my elderly mom on one end of closeness or reaching out to someone on LinkedIn for the first time at the other end of the spectrum.

At least one of the additional tasks is to come from my overflowing To Do list that I am currently using Microsoft To Do for. 

I try to be realistic about what I can achieve in a day; however, like the “big rock,” the list at times becomes aspirational.  

I also include a reminder to vigorously move for two minutes at each task switch throughout the day. Like the morning routine cardio, this new for 2024 tactic is inspired by Tony Robbins where at all his events he gets people up on their feet and dancing to keep the energy high. This doesn’t yet feel natural for me. I feel foolish doing this even though nobody can see me in my home office. I do; however, acknowledge the benefit in increased energy and focus and so I plan to keep at working at this new habit until it becomes natural, and I don’t need a reminder in my daily note. 

Time-Block Goals

Screenshot of time-block goals subsection

This is also new for 2024. Setting these time-block goals reminds me to, the big rock aside, work hard to achieve a balanced task portfolio during each day. Last year, without putting time-blocks on my calendar for the other important tasks, I often would spend an entire day on nothing but coaching, except for getting outside to exercise. Fortunately, at least the exercise was, and still is, a deeply engrained practice. It is just part of who I am to get my typically 10K trail run in each day. 

Now I am building a different sort of muscle to see to it that I invest in my job search, reading, and most critically housework each day. Since I started my coach training in October 2022 my extreme curiosity and love of coaching has had a negative impact on my physical surroundings. It is now time to rebalance.  

My reading practice has been a mixed story the past fifteen months since starting my training. The good news is I have read more books than ever for this time period. However, this was mostly accomplished in sprints where I would commit to a book and go all-in at the expense of just about everything else in my life. For 2024, I’d like to strike a steadier pace with my book consumption. The obvious opportunity for me is to develop a solid habit of reading books each night immediately before going to sleep. This has been a challenge. I’m prone to instead read the NY Times, or worse, doom-scroll Apple News in the hour immediately before sleep. This negative habit is fueled by the sense of my brain being exhausted. I just don’t want to think anymore, and the books I read are not light. Having the one hour reading block goal is nudging me to try harder in this area and to see if I can rewire my brain to achieve nighttime book reading.       

Content Engine 

Screenshot of content engine subsection.

This subsection is pretty straight forward. It defines the regularity I am striving for in my content publishing. For 2024, this is a new subsection to make these goals explicit. Some of the frequencies remain aspirational as of the beginning of February.   

A wish-list future enhancement for this subsection is to programmatically deal with the tasks that aren’t daily. For example, it would be nice to not display the Instagram task on the days of the week that I don’t publish versus my current habit of manually deleting the task for those days. For the weekly and fortnightly (biweekly) tasks, some indication of if the task is already completed for the period, or how many days remain to complete the task to be within the desired time period, would be nice. I’m uncertain if Obsidian could do something like this.     

Evening Routine

Screenshot of evening routine subsection

Like many people, one of my goals for 2024 is lose weight. I have identified the late afternoon as my most exposed time for excessive snacking. For 2024, I have a reminder regarding this vulnerability in my daily note. I’ve had mixed results so far at keeping to this anti-habit, and I may modify the goal to allow healthy low-calorie options, contrast to an outright ban.

Each evening, I use the last daily note section (see below) to record at least three things I am grateful for. I also journal about anything that went bad for the day. For these, I include ways I might avoid the negative experience in the future. 

I wrap up the day by reviewing my calendar for the next few days and creating a new daily note for the next day. I populate the ‘big rock’ and ‘additional tasks’ in that new note and time-block my calendar for the next day.

A new in 2024 habit is to push myself to close all browser tabs at the end of the day. I used to have the habit of keeping sometimes many tabs open as a reminder to “read or otherwise take action on this tomorrow.” I found that having these tabs open first thing in the following morning caused me anxiety. Better to have the associated tasks in the ‘additional tasks’ section, or if less urgent, in my separate To Do list. Then, I can literally shutdown my laptop and start with clean default tabs when I fire up my laptop the following morning. A more pleasant start of the day.        

Interstitial Journal

I have this section in my daily note to receive any ad hoc journaling throughout the day. I don’t make this an extensive practice; however, I do occasionally use the section to talk myself through some situation that doesn’t fit nicely in a separate note or the evening reflection below. 

For this reason, as well as to mark progress on the other items, I have my Obsidian daily note open on my laptop the entire day. It gets opened during my first laptop session noted above and closed only as part of my evening shutdown.    

Evening Reflection

Screenshot of evening reflection section

This is what the previously described section looks like. Very basic and it’s all I find I need to trigger the desired journaling. 

This concludes the walkthrough of my 2024 daily note template. 

Reflecting on my January experience, I am finding that this evolution is helping me build my new 2024 habits and adds some additional needed accountability toward achieving my goals. 

I am curious to know what others might think about this approach and level of structure (see the ‘Over To You’ immediately below.) It does look like a lot; however, especially as someone with ADHD and lots of big goals for 2024, I think I need this level of structure to support me.  

Next up, is my weekly review, where I took guidance from the MacSparky Productivity Field Guide.

If you would like some help with developing your unique daily routines that maximize your health and productivity, I would love to be your coach. See my Services webpage to learn more about what I offer. 

Over To You

Do you use a daily note for habits, routines, and/or journaling? If so, how is yours similar or different from where I landed for 2024?

Note: The book link is an Amazon affiliate link that pays a small commission to me upon purchase, at no cost to you.

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