The Journal Newsletter
- Tips & Tricks
- Writing Prompts
- Article: How to Write a “Post Mortem”
- Submission Information
Happy Holidays 2007!
The winter holidays are a time of family and friends coming together–sometimes because of winter storms and power outages–and, for me at least, a time of reflection. I like to look back on the year that’s ending, and review what went right, what went wrong, what went according to plan, and what came at me from out of the blue. I also look forward to the New Year and create goals and plans–and wonder how much of that will be upended before June. It’s fun. =)
To that end, this month I describe how to write a “post mortem” for the year just past.
The Journal 4.1 Build #247 was released this past week. Look in “The Journal News” section below for more information about the update.
Thank you for choosing DavidRM Software’s The Journal!
TIP: Using “Apply Default Style (retain formatting)”
The latest update of The Journal includes a new command on the “Format” menu:
“Apply Default Style (retain formatting)”
Like the command “Apply Default Style”, this command changes the font to match your default text style. However, it does so *without* changing such text attributes as color, bold, italic, bullets, and so on.
For example, if you copy and paste a block of text from a Web page, you will get the Web page’s font face and size–and often bizarre line spacing. Now, though, you can select the pasted text, click on the “Format” menu, and choose “Apply Default Style (retain formatting)”. This will retain most of the actual formatting, but more in line with your own text style.
Like most word processors and editors, The Journal includes two input modes: “insert” mode and “overwrite” mode.
Insert mode means that as you type, the letters are “inserted” into the current document at the position of the blinking caret or text cursor, pushing existing text over to make room. In overwrite mode, though, what you type “overwrites” the text at the position of the text cursor.
Which mode you are in is displayed on the status bar below The Journal’s entry editor:
INS – insert mode OVR – overwrite mode
You can toggle between the two modes by pressing the INSERT key, or by clicking on INS/OVR on the status bar.
Free Writing Prompt – Write for 20 minutes using the following as your starter: “Everybody knows…”
Journaling Prompt – Write a “post mortem” for the year, as described in the article below.
Memoir Prompt – Tell about major storms you and your family have survived. What season was the storm? How did the season affect how you managed? Was it unbearably hot or cold? Did your neighbors help you? Did you help your neighbors? How did the storm and its aftermath affect your life from then on?
How to Write a “Post Mortem”
By David Michael
In the idiom of video game and software development, a “post mortem” is a review of a completed project. The goal of a post mortem is to recognize both what went right and what went wrong in the course of the project so you can better repeat the successes and–hopefully–avoid the failures in future projects.
For our purposes, the “project” is the year about to end. You’ll be reviewing the year, reminding yourself of how well you did, and looking critically at where you could have done better. And when you’ve finished, you should have a better understanding of what you’ve achieved and how you can improve.
The structure of a post mortem is simple:
- Summary of the year
- What went right
- What went wrong
The summary section is an overview of the entire year. You can present this chronologically, month by month or season by season, or topically, providing summaries of your work, family, personal events. You might include how you expected the year to go and compare it to how the year actually went. (I know *my* 2007 bore little resemblance to how I envisioned it in late 2006.)
The summary can help you remember details for the next sections.
What Went Right
“What went right” is your list of successes. Did you set a goal for the year–and you reached it? Write it down! Did something totally unexpected happen–something good or great? Write it down!
How many good things you list is up to you. Since you’re reviewing an entire year, you could list one per month, or 2-3 per season or quarter. Or you could just go on and on. It’s up to you.
For each item you list, include a few sentences describing it in more detail. Was this a goal you had been working towards? Describe what you think helped you reach this goal. Even if this is something that came out of clear blue sky, maybe you can see how your past actions might have helped bring it about.
The goal of this section is to help you see your successes, so you can repeat them. The more you can see how you achieved your successes, the more likely you are to do the same again.
What Went Wrong
Now, you list what didn’t go right. Either because you made a mistake or because good fortune didn’t come through for you.
Don’t try to list *every* mistake you made for the year. Instead, look at high level trends. Did you have an important goal you didn’t reach? Write that down, and then try to answer the question: Why didn’t I reach the goal? Maybe you set your sights too high. Or maybe you let yourself get discouraged. Try not to make excuses. Just write what went amiss, and why, as objectively as you can.
This section isn’t about blaming yourself. Nor is about blaming anyone else. The idea is to look at what went wrong, without blinking, so that you can plan better and improve your chances of avoiding the problem in the future.
Not every failure is avoidable, of course. And neither is everything that went wrong your fault. So, again, don’t focus on blame or guilt. Just acknowledge what didn’t go as well as it could have, consider how you could do better, and move on.
The conclusion is where you tie it all together. Feel free to give yourself a few more pats on the back for what you did right. And also consider how you can avoid next year the mistakes made this year. Look for the good in the bad–and the better in the good. Look forward.
And that’s it.
A post mortem can be used for anything, really. Projects at work. Projects at home. Your summer vacation. Your relationships. Anything you want to benefit from a little hindsight.
The primary things to remember are:
- Be objective.
- Avoid blame.
- Look to do better next time.
If you would like to contribute to the “How I Use The Journal”, “Writing Exercises”, or “Tips & Tricks” sections, or would like to submit an article about journaling, writing, or another The Journal-related topic, we would love to hear from you.
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