Today I share a very early version of the workflow I set up in Tana to facilitate my weekly “Plus, Minus, Next” review as I take interstitial notes during the week.
If the paragraph you just read sounds like gibberish, that’s normal; I would have thought the same just one month ago, so allow me to first add some context.
It stroke a chord from the first session, when Anne-Laure introduced us to the notion of Toxic Productivity and warned us against the temptation to dive into time management, like into a strict diet, with an unsustainable setup that will eventually fail and make us feel worse than before starting.
It’s a state of things I have been consistently flirting with, and although I have been helped to build a system where I can keep things in check, I immediately knew Anne-Laure had important things to say that were worth following closely.
I won’t go in-depth into the class contents here, as today’s post is not about that, but I wanted to set the stage and give some context. I started practicing a few techniques Anne-Laure teaches, and the primary two I want to tell you about today are Interstitial Journaling and the weekly “Plus, Minus, Next” review.
More specifically, I want to describe how I implemented them in Tana.
Tana is a new thought and knowledge management tool that I have been trying for two days after a long waiting list.
If you are not familiar with Roam and Notion, that’s fine; you don’t need that to read the rest 🙂
In a nutshell, Tana offers a node-based note-taking tool with reciprocal linking like Roam, where you can tag nodes, except that tags are actually supertags that can carry structured data into fields, like what Notion offers.
Add to that flexible visualization, live search, and a level of polish and design quality rarely seen in an app, let alone one in the alpha stage, and you get a fascinating piece of software.
The + – → review
The principle is simple: Write down three lists at the end of each week.
- The list of positive things (+) that happened, professionally or personally, during the week.
- The list of negative things (-) that happened, professionally or personally, during the week.
- The list of things or changes you want to see happen (→) the following week.
Here’s an example of my review from last week (anonymized to preserve the privacy of everyone involved). This one was done in Roam:
The technique I have adopted to gather the material for this review is called Interstitial Journaling.
The only thing to do is to write down short notes throughout the day, whenever something remarkable happens, when I switch activities, or when I register an emotion.
One-line notes are sufficient, and each one starts with the time.
I won’t share mine here as I would have to anonymize them first, but Ness Labs’ article on the subject contains examples.
The Tana workflow
The key to success for these techniques is to remove friction as much as possible.
In Roam, taking notes is reasonably straightforward, but the review process was manual, combing through the daily notes to identify the + and -.
Immediately, Tana’s ability to manage tags with data fields and surface them through live searches seemed to offer a solution.
I can’t stress enough that this is just a prototype and far from perfect, partly because I have been using this tool for only 48 hours and still need to learn a ton, partly because Tana is in constant evolution as it hasn’t even reached the beta phase.
What I am trying to achieve is to tag nodes from my interstitial journaling with a
#wr tag, and a
wr status field that can take the values
I can then include in my weekly node a live search of the nodes tagged with
#wr and viewed as cards grouped by
wr status to have a “plus, minus, next” kanban review.
The problem is that adding a tag to a node, unfurling the node, then setting a value to the field is a lengthy process requiring 5 keystrokes and one click.
Instead, I decided to bind three shortcuts, all adding the
#wr tag, each with a different value for
wr status. Alas, it seems I can’t do that because if I bind a shortcut to the
set field command, it doesn’t do anything if the tag is not already present.
But Tana allows using a supertag to extend another supertag. In other words, inherit the characteristics of the tag it extends and adds its own. If you write code, this is very much like inheritance between tags instead of objects.
I found a solution based on creating three extra tags:
#wr -, and
#wr →, each extending #wr, each setting a different default value to
wr status. I can then bind a shortcut to each of these three tags.
This works fine to set the tags; the only remaining issue is that once I look at the kanban view of the live search, if I drag cards between columns, the value of
wr status changes accordingly, but the tag does not.
As I said, this is very much a prototype. One of the characteristics of Tana that I truly appreciate is that the team is building it in public within a community that lives on their public Slack.
I was able to share this workflow there, asking if I am on the right path or missing something essential and knowing that all early users and the team could contribute an answer.
If you have access to Tana and ideas about improving this workflow, I’d love to hear them. If you have yet to try it, I strongly recommend joining the waiting list and taking Tana for a ride; you won’t be disappointed.