Session 10: Action Items, Journaling, and Sessions

Session 09: Upgrading Task Management
Session 11: Carving Out The Exploration Phase

Hey there. Hello. Welcome to this session of the “How to Make Guides” project where I’m creating a guide to help users create their own instruction manuals. The last session was focused on upgrading the project documentation. This session aims to add instructions for users to have their own session: which includes journaling and documentation.

Debate: Is This A New Project?

Here’s the dilemma: These instructions are not part of the step-by-step process for creating a guide. I think they might serve better as an appendix item and suggested as reading in the “Preparing for Guide Production” section of the guide.

The problem with these appendix items is that they feel like their own projects, which would trigger the project management process. Or do they? If this was just another section of this guide – which it is – wouldn’t it be treated with the same goals as the project? I suppose the easy way to check if this is true is to look at the objectives, target audience, etc and look for contradictions…

After doing so, I don’t see any contradictions though much like a lot of items written in the guide, this appendix item could apply to many projects, not just guides.

With this realization, I feel comfortable moving forward without creating a new project.

Planning “Appendix A: Learning The CQ Workflow”

I think the workflow has three parts:

  1. Having Sessions
  2. Journaling Notes
  3. Action Items

The idea is that work is broken down to chunks of time called “sessions” in which you either perform actions for the project or journal until you understand those actions. I suppose journaling could be considered an action item – no. It’s too versatile to limit it to a subset of action items.

Despite the fact that this isn’t going to be a new project, I feel like this appendix item will be a mini-guide unto itself, meaning it should have the same setup including a title, version, summary, requirements, and steps.

I should note that I was originally going to include a section about creating a project document but I think that’s exclusive to projects, not workflow. Besides, I have a hunch that the Action Items section will cover that.

Title: Appendix A: Learning the CQ Workflow
Version: 00.00.01
Summary: Learn the workflow process Cryptiquest recommends to increase the chances of success and mitigate project pitfalls.
Requirements: The means to create documentation.

The CQ Workflow is a simple methodology for working through any task, problem, or project that can be solved using critical thinking. The process consists of three parts: Sessions, Journaling, and Action Items.

Introducing Sessions

When muddling through a task, Cryptiquest recommends working in blocks of time known as “sessions”. The length of time for a session will vary from person-to-person based on the time that person can allot. For instance, an independent writer may need to write daily for 8 hours in order to keep up with deadlines and may break up her time into two different 4 hour chunks. These 4 hour chunks would be the writer’s sessions. For another example, a stay-at-home dad who may also coaches his kid’s cheer team might only be able to spare ten minutes to work on panels for his comic book project. These ten minute chunks would be his sessions. The standard duration Cryptiquest uses is three hour chunks as it seems to allow momentum to grow and allow enough time to see minor tasks completed.

Determine the amount of time you’d like to dedicate to a session then plan when that session is going to happen. Then do your best to stick to that scheduled time.

During your session, you will work on the project by performing action items and journaling. Action items are tasks while journaling is a method for solving thought problems.

Action items are tasks that have a clear objective. For instance, “Draft Chapter One” is a task that will clearly be complete once Chapter One is drafted. On the other hand, an action item like “Research Style Guides” does not have a clear objective and is not an action item. To make this objective clear, the Action Item could be labeled something along the lines of “Research Style Guides to Form A Style Strategy”.

Journaling is a method for working through thought problems and is the most important aspect to the CQ Workflow. The process itself is simple: write your thoughts down in a near stream-of-conscious monolog. That’s it. You do this until you’ve come up with a solution to your problem.

To start, simply write down the problem as if you were writing it to a friend. Then ask questions about your problem and answer those questions with what you know. As you answer questions, more questions should arise. If the back-and-forth reads like a dialogue between you and yourself – then you are doing it right.

For example, consider the previous example of the freelance writer. Perhaps she’s writing a short fantasy story about family pets. She knows that she wants the story to feature a dog named Daisy who gets magical powers and can control the minds of any cat she sees. Maybe the writer has an idea for the beginning and ending of the story but she doesn’t know exactly what the dog is going to do with these magical powers. Here is a sample of how she might figure things out through journaling:

“So Daisy can control cats but what does she do? I don’t want Daisy to be mean or harm the cats in the neighborhood. What would I do if I were a dog? I guess I’d have them bring me gifts? As in treats? Perhaps the cats keep bringing the wrong things and that become more and more funny. Like they misunderstand dog toys for treats and exploit that logic.

What items might this list include? A wood chip (since dogs are always munching on sticks, right?), an old thrown out CD (don’t you chew on those flying disc things?), and something like a tennis ball? What’s round, yellow-green and fuzzy but NOT something a dog would likely want to eat? Does anything like that exist? Oh! A chrysanthemum flower!”

Journaling helps you clear your mind of questions and ideas and permits you to explore and make mistakes. It enables you to go deeper into your thinking that you would otherwise be unable to do by just “thinking”.

Writing the first draft of something can be intimidating as there may be a tendency to wait until the idea is good or fleshed out or perfect before committing it to the page. But with journaling, you are free of this urge. It can be liberating to write all the bad ideas and embarrassing questions in a format that won’t be seen by others. In addition, this method induces momentum – your ideas will flow beyond anything that could happened if you tried to ponder your way to perfection.

Conducting A Session

Step One: Set Up Your Document

You need three sections for your session: a Goal, Notes, and Action Items.

If you are using paper and pencil, the Goal can be presented at the top of the first page and the notes will start underneath. A separate piece of paper should be used for logging Action Items.

When using a digital format, again start with the Goal at the top then add a section for logging Action Items. Write your notes in the space between the Goal and Action Items (the Action Items section will keep moving down your document as you type).

Step Two: Write Down Your Goal For The Session

What do you plan to accomplish during this session? Don’t fret about what happens if you don’t finish before the session ends. You may have to plan multiple sessions to complete your goal. That’s okay. But simply write what you hope to accomplish by then end of your session.

Using the previous example, our writer may have listed her goal as: “By the end of this session I will have come up with scenes for how Daisy uses her powers.”

Step Three: Start to Journal

Simply by writing out what you plan to do asking any pertinent questions that you don’t yet have answers to and ask more questions along the way. There isn’t a standard system for how many questions or how long this should take. It’s based on feeling and that feeling is that you are comfortable and confident to tackle Action Items.

Speaking of Action Items – as you journal, you may come up with ideas for tasks to do in the future. Log them in the Action Items section so you can easily find them later on.

Step Four: Session Closure

After completing the session, write a summary of how the session went, what still needs to be done, and what you plan on doing in the next session. Ensure all outstanding Action Items are logged in the Action Items section.

Step Five: Handling Action Items

You do not need to execute the action items you discovered but as a final step, you should look through the Action Items and log them in your project schedule, calendar, or whatever system you use for tracking the work you need to do.

Okay. I think that’s a good first draft. I suppose I should add this as the first Appendix Item to the draft and update any verbiage that would address it throughout the guide.

Done and done!

This was a rocky session to conduct. In the end, I think it worked out great but getting back into the swing of this wasn’t easy. There’s a mix of pressure of getting this down quickly plus imposter syndrome and on top of all that – writing this stuff is hard and not fun. But it’s important to me and I am proud of the result. I have to relearn how to muddle through the hard stuff in order to unlock the results.

In the next session, I plan to tease the current Plan Phase section into two different phases: Exploration Phase and Plan Phase. Should be another grueling bout of fun – but it’ll be worth it!

See you there.

Action Items

  • NA
Session 09: Upgrading Task Management
Session 11: Carving Out The Exploration Phase