I offered my take on David Sparks’s no journal. David later followed up, and several other people chimed in, too. Shawn Blanc’s take really hit home for me:

… since I began working for myself over six months ago, I’ve found that keeping a No Journal / Not-To-Do List populated is significantly more difficult. The reason, I think, is that now all of my incoming tasks and priorities are self-initiated. They are my own ideas and goals and dreams. Assessing and prioritizing those is much more difficult because I’m already biased to do all of them thanks to the very nature of their origin.

Now mix in the constant rain of email and other external sources of ambiguous might-be-worth-doing tasks, and this gets at the heart of why modern knowledge work is so difficult.

It’s not enough to do work. Anyone can work. Successful knowledge workers are as good at deciding what to work on as they are working on it.

It’s hard—really f’ing hard—to be a worker, middle manager, and CEO all in one brain. I would be outright lying if I said I was good at. The times I feel most successful at it are the times I force myself to do really high-level strategic reviews—not the kind you can script into a recurring project.

I find that the more often I make time to think about what I'm doing from the perspective of a CEO, the quality of what I do in each “business unit” of my life goes up.