Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Business Journaling

In business we have to keep lots of records. Most of those usually include numbers. Revenues to be input, expenses to keep and track, receivables, payables, projections, estimates, the list goes on.

We have a lot of text records, too. We save memos, seminar notes and handouts, magazine articles. We have day planner pages and calendars. There are often mountains of paper that are kept in the wake of a business that’s moving forward.

Much of that record keeping is important and valuable to various aspects of your business. But it can be very confusing to use all these disparate documents to capture a picture of what your business is really doing and what it’s really like. To that end, I think it’s a great idea to set up a business journal.

A business journal is a lot like the personal diary you might have kept as a kid. It’s a chance for you to keep notes on what’s happening in your business, and how you’re dealing with it.

Why to do it

  1. A safe-keeping place for your memories and your ideas.

As you work and live through any difficult and rewarding endeavor, you’re building up experience. Much of that experience is intangible, more and more so as it fades farther and farther back into memory. The ideas you have that flit through your mind, exciting and clever though they might be, are even more intangible. One way to make them both real is to write them down. Then they become captured on the page, and can be referenced. The ideas can be brought out later, the memories can be revisited.

  1. A record for those that follow you

You might not think of your company as being something historic, and in the big scheme of things it might not look that way right now. But who knows how it will grow? Did Eric Clapton know that he was going to be such an influence on popular music the first time he picked up a guitar as a child?

Even if your business doesn’t grow to such earth-changing proportions, your history will still be of interest to your children and any that would take over when you leave the business.

  1. A record of your progress

How often has someone taken on an endeavor, and after struggling with it for a time, gave up just short of their goal? Often that happens because during the day-to-day struggle of making things happen, it’s difficult to step back and look at the progress that’s being made. Often, I’ll look back at my personal journal or my studio blog and realize that I have, truly, come a long way.

  1. A resource for you to study

As you look back at a journal, it’s possible to review the events and challenges that you overcame in the past, and review the ideas that never got fully implemented. New ideas and new ways to implement old ideas can come forward. Sometimes, bigger trends can be seen and taken advantage of.

  1. A way to work through problems

Many times I find myself in the middle of a problem with my business that I just simply can’t figure out. I don’t know how to overcome the challenge or to sort it all out. In times like that, it’s very helpful to sit down and just start writing about it. As I put my thoughts on the page (virtual or tangible), it begins to sort itself out and becomes clearer to me. Sometimes, solutions come. Other times, I simply find a better perspective. In any case, it usually ends up better.

  1. A chance to practice writing.

A practical consideration: A lot of doing good business is tied up in written communication. Writing every day can only help that. And, if you do it on the computer, that will only help your typing speed.

How to do it

  1. It’s your journal, set it up how you like it.

There are lots of ways to journal. Get a blank book, a three-ring binder. Type in MS Word or some other word processor. Blog. Whatever works for you. Don’t let anyone else tell you how to do it, because it’s not THEIR journal, right?

  1. Start today

Don’t put it off. You’re doing business stuff today, so start today. Put the date at the top of a page, and start writing.

  1. Start with today

Let’s say that you’ve been in business a while. You’re not a beginner. That means you’ve missed a lot of events in your “history” that passed before you started journaling.

Forget that.

Don’t stress what has gone before, just start with today. It’s much less overwhelming and much easier. If you want, you can go back later and rewrite all the backstory.

  1. Write in it each day that you do business related things

Every day that you do something related to your business, write about it. It doesn’t have to be much, just a simple paragraph or two. You are working on your business every day, right? Then write every day!

  1. Write the details of what you did

Often in the details lie the learning. So, as you write about the details of what you did that day, you’ll remember, learn and grow from them.

  1. Write how you felt about it, not just what happened

In addition to writing the raw, dry facts about what you did, write how you felt about it. Did you encounter challenges? Did you fix a problem? Write about how that impacted you. Not only will that help you see your personal growth, it will make it much more interesting to read years later.

  1. Brainstorm ideas

This is the perfect place to write down the raw, untested ideas as they flow from your brain. Not all of them will be good ideas, and not all should be implemented, but as you write them down, you preserve them for future analysis and revision. Maybe years from now, an idea will be feasible, whereas now it might seem crazy.

Journaling can be a lot of fun! As I go back and read my old studio blog entries (my form of business journaling), I remember shows and recording sessions. I can see how far I’ve come and how I’ve gotten through the slumps and the phases of manic activity. It’s really been a big blessing to me.

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