How to Journal, Constructively.

December Blues

December 2018 was not a good month for me.

I was feeling very frustrated with something in my business. I did not know exactly what was going wrong with a procedure, despite careful planning and design.

In a moment of frustration, I called Robert, a business associate of mine, to discuss the issue. Below is the dialog between Robert and me after I explained the situation.

Robert: So, it sounds like you have a lot of conflicting ideas. Did you write them all out in a journal?

[Silence from me]

Me: Um, I did not quite get to it yet. Things have been really busy lately.

Robert: You are never too busy to journal.

I felt convicted on so many levels. Robert was right. I always advocate to my clients to journal and write out their ideas.

Moreover, I maintain a business as well as a personal journal. I was making excuses. I told myself I was too busy to journal. Besides, there were a million other things to do! I needed to stop making excuses and resume my business journal.  

Phone, Journal and Laptop

Why Maintain a Business Journal?

You cannot afford not to maintain a journal. The purpose of the business journal is to keep a historic log of key events in your business. You use it to write down what’s going good and bad. Learning from your history will help you to make better decisions in the future.

Do not lie to yourself that you are too busy. Another myth is that somehow you will be able to remember everything. Few people have photographic memory. Moreover, your business needs to have clarity and focus. Journaling will help you to discern whether or not you have sound logic behind your business decisions. 

The best coaches you can ever find are your notepad and pen - Denise Lee (Business Coach)

Famous Entrepreneurs who Journaled 

You will not be alone in journaling. There are numerous examples of entrepreneurs who maintained a business log. Thomas Edison was a prolific note-taker, leaving behind more than 5 million pages at the time of his death in 1931. The notebooks, roughly 6x9 inches and averaging 285 pages each, record in minute detail everything from his business dealings to ideas for future inventions and patents.
You can read more about Thomas Edison and other famous entrepreneurs here. 

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Where to Store your Business Journal 

Choose to keep a physical journal or write it on your computer. If you have an electronic journal, keep it on the cloud. That way you will be able to access it anywhere, anytime. I maintain my journals online using Google Docs. 

Note for electronic journals: I highly suggest creating a Table of Contents (TOC), which will help you to search for information quickly. 

How to Journal Constructively

You must have structure to get the most benefit from a business journal. It cannot be a random stream of thought where you chronicle every detail of your business day. Leave unstructured thought for your personal journal.

I recommend journaling by date or by subject. You may also choose to include Lessons Learned, Total Cost (in time or money) and Goals Achieved. Below are two examples of journals by date and by subject:

Sample Business Journal by Date

Date Event Total Cost Lessons Learned Goals Achieved
August 1 Created new business plan. Looked at potential storefront locations. None I forgot to forecast future profits.  Yes
November 15 Decided to use WordPress for my website. $550 I should have hired Becky instead of Ross to design the website. No
December 1 Went to company picnic and found a new referral. $10 parking and tolls None Yes
January 1 Don’t know if I should choose between PayPal or Stripe. Unknown yet None No
February 15 Need to decide who to use for fulfillment processing. Projected $200-$500 per month  Had a hard time working with UPS. Will choose Amazon Fulfillment over UPS.  N/A

Sample Business Journal by Subject

Subject Date What happened Total Cost Lessons Learned Goals Achieved
Administration August 1 Met with Denise to create a business plan. Included with Business Coach Package I need to review it regularly.  Yes
Online Marketing November 15 Created new website $550 I should have hired Becky instead of Ross to design the website. No
Networking December 2 Went to Chamber of Commerce luncheon $10 parking and tolls None Yes
Operations January 1 Find a new payment processor Pay no more than %3 per transaction  None N/A

Share Your Journal with Others

Once you have your journal constructed, the next step is to share it with your business coach or accountability partner. Your business coach or accountability partner will be able to review each topic and see if you need to add or revise any information.

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