My seven-month experiment of sharing weekly notes at work

At the end of my first week at my last job I published a Notion page that started with:

Inspired by “The agile comms handbook” I’m experimenting with a weekly (internal) blog. No big promises on the content, just the things I feel like writing about at the end of my week. And as this is an experiment, things might change along the way.

Please feel free to add a comment, respond to other people’s comments and/or share with others!

In this post, I’ll tell the story of my eight-month experiment with weekly notes. After that, I’ll share some tips in case you want to give weekly notes a try too.

The story of my experiment

The start

In December of 2021 I read the “The agile comms handbook” and became intrigued by Giles Turnbull’s idea of “working in the open”. Nine months later, in August of 2022, I started a new job at an all-remote company, supporting two teams as a quality engineer. This seemed the perfect opportunity to experiment with that idea in the form of weekly notes: write a short blog post at the end of every week and share it with my colleagues.

It felt a bit daunting to start doing this in my very first week at my very new job, but I also thought it would be really cool to have these weekly notes right from the beginning. So I wrote the first one on Friday 26 August 2022 and shared it with my direct colleagues: my manager, the developers in the two teams I supported, the two product managers, the UX designer, the department’s staff engineer, and my fellow quality engineers.

What I wrote

Quite quickly I found a basic structure that worked for me: three topics, three paragraphs, each paragraph with a clear focus. Often enough I would divert from that structure, but it would give me a place to start: “What three things do I want to share this week?” Once I started writing, I could decide to write something longer about a single topic, or to add a fourth paragraph, etc.

As to the content, looking back through my weekly notes, there were three recurring elements:

  • stories about what I did, including reflections and lessons learned along the way
  • mentions of interesting ideas, heuristics, blog posts, videos, …
  • celebrations of people who helped me or did something awesome.

A thing I caught myself doing - luckily well before publishing -, was wanting to continue a discussion I was having with a colleague through my weekly notes. I’m glad I realized in time that nothing positive would come out of that. Every next post I wrote, I checked to make sure I wouldn’t fall into that trap.

Who read it

The short answer to who read my weekly notes is: not many people. At the start, when I shared the initial page, people definitely went to take a look. After that, some people came back occasionally, others didn’t. And when I mentioned someone by tagging them on the page, most of the time those people would visit my weekly notes Notion page.

The only people who read my weekly notes on a regular basis, though, were my manager and the principal quality engineer. The principal quality engineer was also the only person who commented on every one of my posts. I really appreciated that, because a goal of my weekly notes was to engage with people. Not to just publish into the void.

The end

In early February 2023 layoffs were announced and unfortunately the principal quality engineer was one of the people impacted. A reorg would also go into effect at the start of March, so my manager would no longer be my manager. This led me to reflect on what I wanted from my weekly notes. It took a few more weeks, but eventually I decided to stop writing them.

On Friday 7 April 2023 I wrote my 29th and last weekly note:

I’ve decided to stop writing these Weekly Notes. No one is reading them anymore. I’m not sure what their purpose is, so I’m also not sure why people would be interested in reading them. If I want to journal, I can do that in a notebook, without having to be aware of people potentially reading what I write.

If I ever start again, I’ll do that here, or at least drop a link.

Tips if you want to start writing weekly notes

Even though my story isn’t one of overwhelming success, I still hope some of you will give writing weekly notes a try. I learned from writing them. They made me reflect on my week and I had to learn to write more concisely and with more focus. I also learned about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to weekly notes, which will help for next time.

So if you want to start writing and sharing weekly notes, here are some tips based on my experiences.

Keep it short. I aimed to write my weekly notes in 30 minutes. It took some practice, but in the end I managed to write them within that timeslot most of the time. Using 3-topics-in-3-paragraphs as a starting point helped me to do so. You could also start with 2-topics-in-2-paragraphs. Or only 1 for that matter.

Write, then edit. Write a full paragraph, only then edit or even rewrite it. Don’t start writing the first sentence(s) of a paragraph, then edit what you wrote, write a few more sentences, return to editing, etc. As you write, you discover what you want to write. So do that first, then edit and/or rewrite.1

Use highlighting. Not everyone will be interested in everything you write. Use highlighting (or titles) so people can scan a paragraph and decide if they want to read it.

Be open. Share your thoughts and feelings, share the in-between steps you usually don’t. Share your struggles, share what you’ve been learning and how. Of course, this assumes you’re working in an environment where it’s safe to do so.

Keep it positive. No continuing of discussions, no complaining, no teaching in a condescending way. That is not to say your weekly notes should be all sunshine and rainbows. Far from it, but the core message should be something like: This is interesting, this is cool, this is intriguing, this is fun, etc. Not: this is dumb, this sucks.

Read the room. If big things are happening in the organization, take that into account. For example, when the February layoffs were announced, I wrote a single sentence for my Weekly Notes: “Sad week, people are being laid off.”

Keep notes throughout the week. This also helps with the work itself,2 but being able to scan through your notes of the past week, makes it a lot easier to decide what you’d like to write about in your weekly notes.

Respond to engagement. If someone comments on your weekly notes, respond. At least acknowledge and thank them for engaging with your notes.

Reflect and adjust. Think about what you want to achieve with your weekly notes. What’s working and what isn’t? What are some things you’d like to try and do differently?

It takes some courage. Sharing weekly notes might feel a little scary or awkward. You might feel self-conscious. That’s ok. Having courage means having those feelings and still doing it. As long as your writing comes from a sincere place, it will be ok. People can tell.

Last but not least, I recommend reading Giles Turnbull’s tips on weeknotes and his The agile comms book. After all, his book is what inspired me to try out writing weekly notes.

  1. I got this from Johanna Rothman’s book “Free Your Inner Nonfiction Writer: Educate, Influence, and Entertain Your Readers”

  2. If you’re curious how I make work notes, see “My note-taking system for work”