The power of keeping a diary?

A few of my friends journal or keep diaries. I don't...yet...sort of.

Let me explain. For me, keeping a diary is about sitting down at the end of the day and jotting down your thoughts before switching off the light and going to sleep.  Well, 1) By the time I hit the sack my wife is usually already out and so are the lights, 2) Keeping a diary just seems like so much work for little benefit, and 3) When would I ever have time to review it and get an value out of it?

Maybe you feel the same way and struggle for quality thought time the way I do, or maybe you have been keeping a diary for years and know the benefits of it.

Last night while catching up with my KM mentor, Arthur Shelly, he talked to me about my mix of intellectual and creative thought modes and how I practice and combine them, cutting SQL code while gaining inspiration from a watercolour I had painted some weeks before.  He encouraged me to follow this combination further by watching a video of Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile about tracking your small wins.  Below is the video and a few notes about how (and why) to keep a diary.

Studying Creativity

The study Teresa conducted of hundreds of creative professionals during the course of one entire project captured not just their organisational results, but also their inner work life, thoughts, wins and concerns.

Two major insights

1) Our inner emotional state has a massive impact on our ability to perform complex tasks that have a significant creative component, and perhaps more importantly,
2) That small wins, (what she terms the "Progress Principle") have a large impact on our motivation pertaining to creative tasks.
So maybe glancing at my paintings puts my mind into a creative mode, or perhaps it is also the sense of accomplishment I feel looking at my paintings that helps stir the creative juices?

A few of Teresa's quick steps to keeping a diary

  1. Choose an easy to use diary solution
  2. Settle your mind at the end of the day
  3. Reflect on what was important to you during the day
  4. Then capture it.

But Capture what?

  • Your progress - Small wins, big wins.
  • Crystal moments - Things that are important to your inner work life but will probably be forgotten
  • Things you are grateful for
  • Hassles and problems
  • One thing you can do the next day that will catalyse your progress
  • Or anything at all that you want to keep track of.

A few diary options

  1. The 5-year diary has sections for five years on each page so as you write an entry, above is what you did this day a year, 2 years before.
  2. I Done This is an online tool that allows teams to diarise project progress together.  Definitely an interesting knowledge capture tool.
  3. Microsoft One Note is used by my friend Nicky Hayward-Wright, Knowledge Manager at GS1. She doesn't just write, but also draws and sketches in hers which interests me.
  4. I personally use Evernote, mainly because it works so well on the iPad Mini and the synching has never let me down.

Is journalling the same as keeping a diary?

By the way, I mentioned above that I "sort of" don't keep a diary.  I actually do journal almost every meeting, planning session, idea, interesting website, and academic paper that I come across using Evernote.
I also write this blog for the larger, philosophical issues, and I am writing a set of parables to help managers understand and remember basic principles of complexity.

I am also a prolific wiki user at work and like to share thoughts, ideas, change notes, progress reports, etc so the team (and people down the track) benefit from my thoughts during a project. Sort of a shared diary I suppose.

So maybe starting to record my little wins and problems at the end each day isn't such a big step after all?
What about you?  Do you keep a diary?  What type? Paper or electronic?  Do you review it?  If you don't, do you still get value out of just jotting down your thoughts on a regular basis? Let me know in the comments below.

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