Confessions of an Intermittent Journaler

I some times suggest journaling as a useful tool for people who want to become more effective leaders. I know journals are a useful tool because I have friends and colleagues who have journaled for years and swear by it.

But the truth is, I haven’t used a journal consistently, at least not up until now. Sure, I’ve started lots of journals, but I ususally only last a few weeks.

The other day I was on the phone with Elisabeth Hendrickson and she asked me how I was using my journal…”eerrrr. I don’t have one right now,” I confessed. Elisabeth suggested I start a journal to try to figure out why I didn’t have a journal. “Make a list of what’s keeping you from keeping a journal,” she suggested.

Here’s the list I made:

–Keeping a journal isn’t real work

–I’ts not part of my routine.

–I’ll be embarrassed ten years from now when I look back at what I wrote.

–My handwriting is hard to read.

–My journal entries will be boring.

–My journal won’t be pretty and artistic.

–I don’t see how it’s helping me.

Hmmm. As I look at this list, these seem like pretty lame reasons.

Then I went back and read some of my fits-and-starts journals. I found this entry in a journal I kept during a writing class:

Always remember the people you are writing for, and how you are helping them.

Well. As it happens, I’ve been struggling with a column I’m writing. And you know what? That little entry helped me.

Then I realized something else: Iv’e had this idea (who knows where it came from) that journals have to be prose. Not true! I can make a journal of lists if I want to. Or snippits, or words that catch my fancy, or doodles, or descriptions!

I’ve decided to make journal part of my day. It is real work, part of becoming more effective, what ever it is you do.

So what is keeping you from keeping a journal?


Bob Lee responds:

I tried journaling after reading Jerry’s [Weinberg] Becoming a Technical Leader. I kept it up religiously about 3 weeks, then dropped out of journaling.

Reading your list of excuses led me to see another that I find:

– I hate to repeat myself. When what I have to say isn’t new and unique, I find it feels awkward to put it on paper. I think this is a perfectionist rule or an MBTI type thing (INFP), but repeating feels like a no-no.

I too visualize my words being scrutinized by someone and feel that silence would be safer unless I have something clever to say.

Maybe I’ll just convert to electronic media – my handwriting has grown so sloppy that I wince writing it out. Giving myself permission to be sloppy and unoriginal to capture the sequence of ideas, moods and context might do the trick. I’ll see. March 12, 2003