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Remember with a Product Journal

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We often seem to live in the moment. A phone call, an email, a meeting. And whoosh! the day is gone. A product journal reminds you what you’ve done and what you’ve planned.

In 1971, we were one of the last families in our neighborhood to buy a color television

In 1972, my dad went for the first time to GE’s management school in Crotonville.

In 1973, I was the president of a Junior Achievement company; we assembled and sold first aid kits.

Golly, how do you ever remember stuff like this?


My mother shared a bunch of letters from the 70s with me recently. They were fun to read and great reminders of long ago. I’m not sure why she kept them all these years but I was glad to take a trip down memory lane, as they say.

Which got me thinking:

Nowadays, in this world of instant, electronic communication, we have no letters, no records. We have no history.

A friend was co-writing a book with a colleague. One week, the co-author said, “This chapter is too short. Let’s merge it with the following chapter.” A week later, the author felt the chapter was too long so “let’s break this into two chapters.” As you can imagine, my friend was really annoyed.

How often do you make a decision, only to reverse it a week or a month later? And how do you remember what you decided anyway? You get this sense of déjà vu that you’ve had this conversation before or you previously made this decision.

That’s why I recommend product managers and marketers keep a product journal. Get a Moleskin or a college-ruled composition book—they’re cheap. Take your journal to every meeting. Keep it nearby for every phone call. Update it for every decision, whenever you have a good discussion or interview, and even have a clever idea about your product.

Once a month, go back through the log and highlight items that you want to follow-up. Create a summary page of these potential action items. Maybe flag the summary page with a highlighter so you can find each monthly summary quickly.

In a world that’s constantly changing and where we have so much to do, we can’t afford to re-hash the same decisions again and again. We’re learning from the market and revising our plans constantly. Once in a while, review your product journal to make sure you’re still on the right path.

Consider the product journal a complement to your business canvas. Your canvas is a one-page summary; your journal is the historical record.

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