Today I want to describe another aspect of my bullet journaling, my weekly review. This is the first week I’ve taken a data analysis approach, and I am pleased with the results. I took a quick picture, which shows last week’s charts. (The page wasn’t flat, so the edges are blurry but legible.)

weekly review charts


Today, I want to talk to you about a different kind of database than the ones you are probably used to. I start with a brief description of common types of databases, then introduce graph databases with a couple of examples.

If you have been in the software development industry for a long time, you probably started with relational databases. If you’ve ever used a spreadsheet, this concept should sound familiar. A relational database stores data items in life-structured groups called tables that contains rows and columns. The row represents a discrete piece of data, and a column represents a characteristic of the item common to every row in the table. In a database proper, that structure is enforced by a specification called a schema.

Graph databases can be powerful tools for analyzing the way items relate to one another.

I had a problem. I found that I was having trouble tracking items. Sure, I would get email notifications, pop-ups on the web, notifications from my email client and on my phone. And yet I was ignoring them all. Even with excellent products like Todoist and Google Calendar, I found that my digital tracking system would consistently fall out of date.

At first, I thought it was a matter of discipline. But I quickly discovered that it wasn’t a lack of willpower. Despite my commitment to check off items each day, I would encounter higher priority items than doing the check-in. I put living my life ahead of tracking it. And yet, I would sometimes have to scramble to complete coursework for my MBA or I would have to apologize to my wife for not completing a honey-do item on time. And I loathed it.

In Eureka Springs, the Internet is not a given.

I have taken a number of short trips this spring and summer, mostly for weddings. However, it was on a trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas that I figured out the issue. I was there to see my son perform in Opera in the Ozarks. Eureka Springs is an Ozark mountain town. It is an hour-long drive on twisty, single lane roads to the nearest city, “Northwest Arkansas”. At least that’s what the census calls it. Locals refer to the individual towns in this metropolitan area of 500,000 people, with the most recognized probably being Fayetteville.

And that’s when my digital life began to fall apart. I’ve been somewhat dissatisfied with my phone and biding my time until I can upgrade. With no connection to the outside world, it became even more useless. Often, I left it in the car and carried my point-and-shoot camera along instead.

As I sat and read my book, I realized that my digital life was failing me because it wasn’t available when I wanted it. I don’t use my electronics early in the morning or especially late at night. I thought back to when I was last successful at keep my backlog straight and it was with a paper journal. I’d tried using a day-timer for school when the problem first manifested, but I quickly dropped it. It was so much effort to maintain.

Then, I found out about bullet journaling. I immediately felt at home, because it reminded me of the customer support logs I used to keep early in my career. The format itself is pretty flexible and customizable, which also was appealing. Adoption was swift and it felt natural. I knew I’d found a good solution. In a future post, I’ll talk about how I use the system. For now, ponder whether your current system is serving you, or you are serving it.

As an experiment, I recently recorded a lunch and learn session at work. The other R&D offices post theirs online, so I thought I’d do the same. On my work machine, my choice of tools is limited. As I researched the subject, I learned some good techniques and wanted to share.

Our office has a GoPro, but its microphone doesn’t record sound well, so I brought in my decade-old SD camcorder. The raw footage formed a “minimal viable product”. I pointed the camera at the slideshow, made sure the speaker Paul was in the frame, and recorded for 50 minutes. The slides are legible, and you can make out what Paul is saying.

Aside from compressing it, I felt there were a couple of small things I could do to enhance the quality of the video....

In retrospect, I wish I had a fill light on Paul. The white slides washed him out, and the age of the camera meant that the camera couldn’t cope. The colors were washed out, and Paul is a shadowy figure in the corner of the frame. The camcorder uses a proprietary .MOD file format and the raw footage was 1.8 GB, too bulky to share.