Why should I keep a journal?

Basically, there are two advantages of keeping a professional journal:

  • The process of writing something down forces you to think it through until you understand it.
  • Storing pieces of knowledge or experience saves you from reinventing the wheel.

Journal writing is an investment

The fundamental concept of journal writing is simple. You write down any information now that may be useful or relevant in the future - basically building your own personal knowledge base.

Think of it as an investment. A few moments now might save you hours in the future. This applies to all kinds of journal writing, private or professional. The "usefulness" of a private journal may simply be the ability to indulge in fond memories. However, in this article I'll focus on a certain aspect of professional journal writing: Don't reinvent the wheel!

Don't reinvent the wheel

While there are many more reasons why professionals keep journals (e.g., to prove what has been agreed upon) I believe the "don't reinvent the wheel" aspect to be one of the most important ones. As a modern professional, you are constantly solving problems. Some are small; some are bigger. Some are challenging to solve, as they require you to mobilize all your creative potential; some are boring but the solution is no less important.

The truth is that we would all like to deal with just the creative and enjoyable stuff, but too much of our time is taken up by the repetitive procedures we can't ignore. That's the area that needs to be fixed in writing: Solved once and for all! So next time you'll just look it up and do it. The best candidates for this "programming yourself" (because what you write up is nothing but a program to solve a known problem) are those tasks that are mildly difficult and occur intermittently. Inevitably, the exact moment you forget how to do it will be just before the problem creeps up again!

But again, these are only potential benefits and they will not come to you automatically. Writing a journal is an investment of your time. Unless you find that you get more out of it than you put into it you will quickly stop doing it. But like with most investments it is not always easy to know if you should get out of it or if you should be doing it differently. That's why you should follow some rules...