When my first child was born, I started to keep a journal to help me remember all her little cute baby moments. That journaling habit quickly expanding until I was keeping a journal about every aspect of my life personal and professional. And it turned out that the most surprising thing that helped me to manage and grown my e-commerce business was when I started to keep a business journal.
What is a business journal?
It’s a journal. About your business. I mean, duh?
How do you keep a business journal?
A business journal doesn’t have to be anything formal or fancy. It’s simply a written reflection on the day. Fifteen minutes of writing at the end of each working day is all you need keep a business journal and is a great way to mentally close out the day.
What do you write about in a business journal?
- things you accomplished that day
- setbacks and issues you encountered
- good and bad moments
- notes about things you want to accomplish in the future
- …whatever is on your mind!
I like to use mine as a conversation with myself, debriefing each day and making plans for the future.
Where and how do you keep a business journal?
Whatever is the most comfortable for you! A lot of people like the tactile sensation of writing by hand in a fancy moleskin notebook they carry with them everywhere. Me, I like to type mine and save it in the cloud so I can write it from anywhere (and I can’t really “lose” it). My personal cloud writing apps of choice right now are Google Docs and OneNote because both are free and work absolutely everywhere.
OneNote is especially cool because you can draw or write by hand using a stylus and then that handwritten note becomes searchable as if it were real typed text. The best of both worlds! It’s also got great features that incorporate To Dos and checklists so you can keep everything you’ve done and what you still need to do all in one place.
Consider a bullet journal
If writing a diary style journal is uncomfortable for you, you can keep a business journal using the bullet journal format. It’s a simplified, list style journal that easily translates into a To Do list and schedule making it easy to turn your daily reflections into actionable items for the future.
Why should you keep a business journal?
Here’s some of the most obvious benefits, but you’ll quickly start to discover more as you start keeping your own log:
- Provides a snapshot of your daily emotional state and provides content to your income. Numbers can be useful but they can also be infuriating. Why did we have such a huge dip in sales this month? Why did I get so many more clients two years ago than now? We’re so used to separating out our business and personal lives that we forget or mis-remember the very info that would make the numbers make sense. Maybe you’ll start to discover that every time you start going to the gym again or take Fridays off, your productivity increases. Maybe the last few dips in sales coincide with bouts of illness or relationship drama. Businesses aren’t run in a vacuum and when you start looking at your business in the context of your real life, you’ll quickly see where the problems and solutions are.
- Details the numbers could never show. No matter how good your records are, numbers alone never give you the whole story. Your personal life and state of mind are a big part of it but there are also millions of external factors it’s handy to have a record of from staffing changes to platform policies. My philosophy is to mention in the journal anything that’s currently on my mind, because if it’s important to me right now, it could be worth knowing about later.
- A reliable record of what things were really like. Time warps memories. We’ve all seen companies that make the same mistakes over and over again because they’ve deluded themselves to thinking that it wasn’t THAT bad the last time they tried X and they should just do it again, right? Or you stubbornly refuse to do Y even though it was very profitable because you recall hating it when, really, you’re thinking of Z and you actually kind of enjoy Y when you actually sit down to do it. The advantage of writing about things as they happen is that your brain hasn’t had the chance to rewrite history yet and you get a clearer picture of what was really going on when you do look back. Of course, sometimes the heat of the moment clouds our vision in the present but you can learn something from that too when you look at it later. When you start making decisions based on a more realistic picture of your company history instead of foggy memories, you’ll make progress instead of running around in circles.
- Writing something down makes you more likely to remember it. This is just a fact. And improving your memory for your experiences and mistakes makes it that much easier for you to learn from them.
- See the changes in your business… and yourself… over time. You, and your business, are changing all the time. And that’s almost always change for the better! When you’re doing the day to day slog and having one of those days when you feel like you’ve accomplished nothing with your life, it can be tremendously inspiring to page through some old entries and realize how far you’ve come. And if you discover that things were better back then? Well, then you’ve got somewhere to start digging for the answers to what went wrong!
Give it a try! I bet you’ll like it. You can always change the process up and customize it to your needs as you go.