I have no idea if this is, like, a thing lots of people do or if it’s just some weird thing I do (although rumor has it Richard Branson does it), but I keep a business journal.
Now I don’t mean I keep a daily work notebook, although I do that, also. In my daily notebook I jot down my work to-do list (following the nearly ubiquitous advice to focus on my top three most important tasks, but also jotting down whatever’s on the backburner so that I don’t ever, ever forget), plus I write down whatever I need to throughout the day — details on a client project, the width-in-pixels of a specific photo. Just whatever stuff comes up as I’m working. Having it all in one place is massively helpful when I’m looking for it days and weeks later.
But in my work journal, I write down all the angst. The turmoil. The confusion. The questions. The second-guessing. It’s full of things like:
The last eight months keep teaching me that I didn’t leave behind disorganization, I left behind ALL MY HARD WORK. And it’s not working and I don’t like it and I want to go back. I reallllly want to go back.
Or, if you really want to go back in time, like this:
NSS 2012? I was 85% no, but then BG and now Meg both have me reconsidering, albeit confusedly. I’m so unsure what I want or how I want to do it. I don’t like all of the sales BS, honestly. I keep looking at what everyone else is doing and how they’re doing it and I just don’t have a vision for ME. Except I kinda do. In fact I really do. And retailers aren’t part of the equation.
So, why do I keep a work journal?
The thing is? I work alone. I have relationships with a lot of other people who do what I do and who work alone like me. And we talk. We hash things out. We help one another. But sometimes, there’s work I need to do before I can get to the part where I talk things through with them. Sometimes, I need to do the work of figuring out how I actually feel about things.
I’m a big big big believer in trusting your gut. In fact, in the “self portrait” I drew back in 2011 that I still use on my about page, my gut was listed as “the center of all my decisions, especially core business decisions.” I believe trusting my gut is as important to my business as it is to my life.
My business journal is one super important way I keep in touch with my gut.
- I ask myself questions, and then I answer them.
- I complain about what I don’t like, and then I propose solutions to myself.
- I make lists of all the ways a particular topic makes me feel, and why. Like after I exhibited at the National Stationery Show in 2011, I had pages and pages written about all the ways I felt — proud, disappointed, frustrated, angry, embarrassed, surprised — and why.
- I write mini-manifestos about my beliefs and values, just to remind myself who I am and why I do what I do. (I believe that profound connections are made over creative endeavors, I wrote once. I believe that creating feels good. It fuels our relationships. I believe that people want to be inspired. Some of this later made its way into stories in told in interviews, into paragraphs on my about page, and into bullet points in my mission statement.)
- Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, I make lists of all the things on my plate. Every single thing. I try to fill the page. Then I make note of which items on the list I resent, hate, or dread. That helps me figure out what I can cross off, put off, or hand off.
- I try to poke holes in my negative beliefs (beliefs like “I don’t have enough experience” or “I should just give up”).
- Sometimes, I just write about what’s happening right now. Where I am in my business, how it feels, where I think I’m headed. What challenges am I facing? What victories have I had?
- Mostly, I ask myself why over and over again. For example I’ll ask “why isn’t this working” and then I’ll answer the question as many different ways as I can. It’s not working because this. It’s not working because this other thing. It’s not working because because because…
And I’ll tell you what: every single important business insight I’ve ever had, I had in my business journal. Every big decision I’ve struggled with, I’ve found the answer in my business journal. Every crazy idea I’ve pursued, that idea was born in my business journal.
I’m curious: do you keep a business journal? If not, do you keep in touch with how your business makes you feel? How do you talk to your gut? Definitely please hit reply and let me know because I’m always looking for techniques and exercises (in fact, if you reply, you might get the chance to be featured in an upcoming blog post because I’m gathering techniques for tapping into your intuition/instinct).