June 25, 2014

3 Creative Ways to Document Your Experiences

We know that a lot of learning happens through reflection on the things you’ve done. For me, this reflection starts with careful documentation, whether written, verbal, or visual.I've been experimenting with some different documentation techniques this past year. Here are 3 creative ways to document your experiences

Chart Your Mood with a Qualitative Mood Graph

As I mentioned in a previous post, diagrams are a great way to visually organize information. At our 2nd meetup back in January, we plotted out a rough graph of our high and low points of our impressions of our first 3-month term. For my second term, I wanted to try taking this a step farther.

Every evening I would spend a minute or so writing in my planner about what I did and how I felt. I would also assign a number ranking of how I felt that day from 1-10, with 10 being the best. I kept this up pretty consistently during my three months, I had enough data points for a graph.

This documentation is a way to externally record some of the internal changes that I’ve been experiencing. The feelings, whether good or bad, are really fresh during the moment, but tend to fade eventually. By recording them, I'm giving gratitude for the victories and also acknowledging the not-so-good days. It's a record of progress, especially for the days when I feel like I haven't accomplished much.

This graph shows my term at a glance. I ended up with an average daily “mood” score of 6.8, ranging from 3.5 to 10, with two “10” peaks. Of course this was completely subjective, but it was a fun experiment to try.

Document Your Experiences with Sketches and Photography

I did a lot of on-location sketching as a way to remember the places I visited and things I saw. I also uploaded some of these sketches to Instagram so they would be placed on a map and dated. These sketches took 5-30 minutes, and were usually done once a week.

These visual forms of documentation also help organize my thoughts into a format that others can understand, namely my support network and newsletter. They want to know what I'm up to during the year, and by creating charts and graphs and sketches I’m able to share my progress with them.

Journaling, Writing, and Recording Audio

Of course, I also wrote a lot about what I did and how I felt, either by hand in my sketchbook or typed up in an Evernote document. A couple times, I verbally recorded my thoughts with Evernote during my 20-minute walk to work. For this term, one of my fellow students, Joe, started a weekly online learning form. Every Friday, we’d get a link to fill out a couple sentences about what we learned that week. By the end of the term, we had a nice chronological reminder of the things we learned during our apprenticeship and travels.

Writing is the form of documentation I review the least. I’m a visual learner and my writing is not as regular or organized (my journal handwriting is pretty messy). On the other hand, my graph was measured almost daily and my sketches occurred once a week. Any kind of documentation is helpful to the learning process.

Oftentimes, you don't know you've learned something until you're called upon to use it. By documenting my experiences, I'm actively "taking inventory" and organizing my growing toolbox of learnings.

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