Around 12 months ago I stopped writing weeknotes. After 12 series spanning 3 years of my time working at GDS, I just stopped. It’s odd because I’d always been almost zealous about working in the open, writing about how it was a good thing to do, and encouraging others to give it a go.

But yeah, I stopped last year. And I worried about people noticing, but no one called me out on it. I wanted to write about why I’d stopped but just didn’t. Until Martin gave me a prod last week:

Hey! I talked to a friend who’s a product manager about weeknotes and how you are weeknoting. I shared your why weeknotes blog post with him. But then I discovered that you stopped last autumn. What happened?

Here’s why I stopped, what I missed, and why I’m excited to get started again.

My openness was neutered

Simply put, you can’t be totally open at an early-stage startup. The competition was on the periphery, trying to see what we were doing, and being as open as I’d like about the day job could sacrifice our moat. That was a shame because I know people read my weeknotes to get ideas or find different techniques. So although I wanted to share things, it was too risky.

Publishing is a forcing function

Although I make notes throughout the day, collating my activities and thoughts into weeknotes is a good way to reflect on what I’m doing, why, and whether it’s going well. Personally I find that publishing those notes online is a really good forcing function: I’m not as motivated to collate and prune notes – and spend the time it takes – when they sit in an app in the cloud. There’s no accountability, and you lose the ability to start conversations with others.

So what did I miss?

Not having that time to reflect on my practice, primarily. As a product manager, I feel like you often rely on your product sense to either make decisions in the moment or call out unknown unknowns. The act of sitting down to write weeknotes, looking back over my week and all it entailed, helps me actively hone that product sense.

Occasionally I add little personal notes too, so I lost the personal journalling side of things too.

Starting again

This week I changed jobs. I’ve switched back to the public sector, working at NHS Digital now, so I’m gonna start writing weeknotes again. The culture was more widespread at GDS so I need to check it’ll be OK, make sure I’m not defying any policies. But I’m fairly certain even neutered notes will be possible. (And I’ve always been happy to read Matt Edgar’s weeknotes, so at least there’s some precedence1.)

We don’t only write these notes for ourselves, we also write for those who come after us (hat-tip to Ellie).

I’m sharing these thoughts to start a conversation, so drop me a line on Twitter if any of this resonates with you or you’ve found ways around it all.

  1. Did a quick search to find weeknotes from other NHS Digital folk, but think my Google-fu was rubbish. If you’ve written some while at NHSD, please get in touch!