Weeknote styles

A collection of some of the most commonly used #weeknotes formats to help you get started

Steve Messer recently posed a question to the weeknotes community:

“Is there a list of formats, #weeknotes crew? Let me know!”

So that got me thinking…. We all have a slightly different way of going about this thing that we are doing, and it might be a useful exercise to document some of the formats used, so if you’re thinking of starting to write you can find something here that might work for you.

That’ll work

I’ve split them into styles, given them (hopefully) intuitive names. So in this blog you’ll find out about six structures that I’ve defined, plus one “anti-structure”:

1. The “Jump straight in” (aka the trad-blog approach)

2. The Daily breakdown

3. Lean-notes

4. The “[X] Things that happened”

5. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

6. Stretching questions

7. The Anti-structure

Oh, and I’ve also included a section about weeknotes “add-ons”.

Before I start…

The thing you’ll notice about weeknotes is that they are personal, and people pick and choose the bits that work for them. So the intention here is not to provide a concrete template, but to give you some ideas.

I’ve also noticed that my own writing and style has evolved as I’ve made a practice of it.

When I started, this consisted of a stream of consciousness run down of my week. I had a section at the bottom for “Ideas and Things I’m thinking about” which I hoped would grow to become more fully formed blogs or workable ideas (or hopefully to find likeminded people who might work them through with me, which happily in most cases really happened).

Here’s my very first ever weeknote from June 2017 #cringe

View at Medium.com

As time has gone on my writing has changed a lot, I’ve grown in confidence and second guess myself a lot less.

Through the practice I’ve been able to identify the thoughts and themes that have dominated my week, and my notes have become much less about what happened, and more about what I’m thinking about what happened.

Here’s my most recent weeknote, which tells you almost nothing about my actual activities over the week, but everything about where my head was:

View at Medium.com

If you take the structures I’ve outlined in order they would make a pretty cool evolutionary cycle that I’d be interested to see someone follow.

It’s also worth stating that I’m mostly using weeknot.es here as my reference because (I am quite lazy, and) they are all in one place, however there are likely to be some more styles from further afield. That might be for another time…

Anyway, onwards.

1. The “Jump straight in” (aka the trad-blog approach)

Simple, but deceptively difficult

Ellie is a good example of just jumping straight in with a short blog, no structure as such, just thoughts and words.

This is deceptively simple, probably fairly quick, but also requires a fair bit of confidence to pull off. Many of us find structures safe and reassuring when it comes to writing 😉

Ellie’s weeknotes

Terrence has also taken this approach in some of his weeknotes:

Terence’s weeknotes

King of weeknotes and creator of weeknot.es @jukesie uses this approach, but usually in longer form. I think that’s probably a sign of confidence in writing as Jukesie has been doing this for a long time.

I’ve been tempted to try it, but even though it looks straightforward I’ve found that it can be difficult to keep a strong narrative. Jukesie uses short paragraphs, which help to give a long-form blog some structure, and help the reader keep momentum, but that’s a tough trick to pull off.

An extract from @jukesie’s weeknotes

2. The Daily breakdown

Intuitive and straightforward

This is probably the most intuitive and easiest to manage as you can use as much or as little detail as you like. Essentially you use the days of the week as your headings, and add the detail underneath, either as bullet points, or as a stream of consciousness.

An extract from Ryan’s weeknotes

Ryan doesn’t weeknote anymore but I really like his for a good example of a daily breakdown. Some people add a short introduction at the top outlining some of their main thoughts, some dive straight in, for more information see Section X: Weeknotes “add-ons”.

I recently tried this approach again with bullet points. It was good and quick to do, but it felt a little mechanical and I wanted more personality and colour.

Which takes us neatly into what I like to call…

3. Lean-notes

Good for communicating about specific projects or programmes, and giving as much personal opinion and detail as you feel comfortable with.

A quick way to write weeknotes, not wordy, to the point and clear. These would be good if you are short on time but want to communicate about a specific service, project or programme.

I imagine that this is also a good way of managing notes if you’re unsure about how much personal information you want to make available online. We all have different levels of comfort with this.

I really like Rahma’s weeknotes for this as she intersperses detail with her thoughts, links, and things she’s learned along the way. The titles and bullets make it really easy and quick to read.

Rahma’s weeknotes

4. The “[X] things that happened”

Flexible, repeatable, and concise (but with a bit more detail than Lean-notes).

A few of us have moved to this recently and I’ve also tried (and liked) it, as has Jonathan and Dan. Often it will be five things but very often it will be more or less than this.

A shot from Dan’s weeknotes

This is a good format because it’s flexible and can be used to document events and themes. It’s a good way of picking out what had the most impact on your week or to start to group things together which might become bigger themes later. It also saves documenting everything which is probably a quicker way of managing things.

A shot from Jonathan’s weeknotes

5. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Grouping by theme without thinking of themes

Using titles that help shape the structure but don’t describe the week. They’re not epics or overarching thoughts, but they help to give a structure.

Louise is an absolute master of this and has used a number of variations on this theme over time. Here’s an example of one structure:

  • Good things
  • Learned things
  • Difficulties
  • Achievements

From Louise’s weeknote

She has also used another variation:

  • Some things I’ve been working on
  • Some other things I’ve been doing
  • Some puzzles (a section of unresolved issues or problems that aren’t fully formed ideas yet).

I created a version of this back in S03 which (mostly) consisted of:

  • Overarching feeling of the week
  • Highlights
  • Lessons

I found it useful to keep to the same structure week on week and it was easier to write because I just kept a page at the back of my notebook with three sections, and when things happened in the week I added it to the section that felt most fitting.

Lily also uses this approach in her weeknotes, and I particularly like “What I’m going to do” as a section heading.

View at Medium.com

This also takes weeknotes out of simply reporting your week and helps you to think about what happens next. Which leads us on to…

6. Stretching questions

Good for pushing yourself to think differently.

A variation on the theme above is used by Richard who uses a set of framing questions which are possibly less intuitive, but which help to reframe the events of the week and to consider them in ways you may not have previously. Some of Richard’s structures have followed:

  • What did you experiment with?
  • What was hard?
  • What did you enjoy?
  • What was fun?
  • What did you learn?

And also:

  • Who did you talk to outside of your organisation?
  • What would you have liked to do more of?
  • What do you wish you could have changed?
  • What did you learn?
  • What did you enjoy?
  • What are you looking forward to next week?

These kinds of question are really good for stretching your brain and being more reflective, which is great especially if you’re just starting out thinking in that kind of way.

Ben works at The Sartori Lab who have a set of reflection questions (that they will send to you on a postcard if you get in touch with them).

Sartori Lab reflection questions

I liked that he used some of these questions to shape his weeknotes. I like the thought of cutting them out, mixing them up and picking four at random each week:

  • What surprised me?
  • What held me back?
  • What frustrated me?

7. The Anti-structure

Feeling over thinking.

In the stream of consciousness weeknote words convey feeling over detail. These may be fuelled by coffee, overtiredness or… something else. Just open your browser and start typing.

King of this example is Scribe:

A screenshot of Scribe’s weeknote

In common with The “Jump straight in” it is deceptively difficult to convey meaning in this format, but crikey, it’s got to be worth a shot if you can write something like this, no?

Top tip: Bullet points keep it more Kerouac than Joyce.

Weeknote “add-ons”

There are a number of things that I’m going to call add-ons because I think they can be added or removed at will. You can still write a really great weeknote without them, but these are the kinds of things that add a little more personality,

Optional add-ons (not an exhaustive list):

  • Introduction / Before I start / Other context
  • “Other things I’m thinking about”
  • Things I read / Things I saw / Things I watched / Links to things / Other interesting things/ Things I discovered this week
  • Week in emojis (like Andy)
  • Photography (Like Lily)
  • Sketch the week / Podcast-notes (like Dan)
  • Vlognotes
  • Gifs (are these really optional?!)

If you’ve read this far thank you.

I hope you found this useful. It’s by no means exhaustive — I’m sure I’ve missed a lot. Please send me your thoughts and let me know, and if you have any other great examples of structures please send them my way. I’ll gather them into a follow-up blog.

Thanks!

Thank you

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