When I started my first online business eleven years ago I started keeping a business journal. Maybe it was because I started the business immediately upon graduating from college and I was in the habit of taking notes for EVERYTHING.

Now, when I say “journal” I don’t mean you need to go out and buy a fancy notebook! You can if you want to, but I used a red, single subject spiral bound notebook. On the outside of the notebook I would write the dates the journal covered. Once I started filling a lot of red notebooks, I also numbered them.

My first six business journals spanning from

My first six business journals spanning from January 2003 to 29 June 2004.

And because I’m a bit crazy about it – college rule and it HAD to be red. Every new entry was dated and always started on the right-hand side of the page. I even had a special pen to write in the journal.

I got teased a lot in the early days of the business for recording EVERYTHING in my red notebook. I couldn’t even THINK about having a meeting (on the phone or in person) without it. Throughout that business’s existence, I pretty much carried that journal with me everywhere and I kept a record of ideas, meetings, plans, brainstorms, goals, systems, and pretty much anything under the sun.

Not only was the business journal a great way to keep all my ideas in one place, it also became a key to my business’s future. In the early days of the business, I ended up suing a contractor for a breach of contract. REALLY long story short, because I had kept a dated record of every meeting, my attorney was able to put together a hugely detailed case proving the breach of contract and other points in the suit. The whole experience was absolutely miserable but I felt so much better about it that I wasn’t relying on my imperfect memory of events; I had notes about every meeting.

Today, I still keep a business journal. Since I have two businesses, I have two separate journals – color coded! A yellow notebook for TheOutdoorPrincess.com and dark blue for On The Beach Publishing. I’m still in love with one-subject, college-rule, spiral-bound notebooks but I no longer insist that I use a special pen!

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But it does REALLY stress me out when I can’t find my notebook. I keep the past notebooks on a special shelf and my current notebook in the bag (briefcase) I drag around with me everywhere.

And in the rare times where I don’t have the notebook handy, I take my notes on some other piece of paper and then tape it into the notebook later.

And I’m sure you’re thinking:
Great idea! But I’ll do it on the computer.

Here’s why I use a notebook and write it out longhand, old school:

  • Sometimes a computer isn’t handy, available, or practical. A pen and paper ALWAYS is.
  • Writing things out longhand taps into a different part of your brain and can unlock your creativity.
  • You can tape or staple other things into the notebook.

 

What To Record In Your Business Journal

  • Notes from meetings. My only exception is when I meet with a client. That I do on loose-leaf, unlined white paper. Then I create a file folder for the client.
  • Marketing ideas.
  • Goals.
  • Flow charts. I draw mine on huge pieces of paper and then shrink it to fit.
  • Ideas for books.
  • Ideas for blog articles.
  • Notes from classes, teleseminars, webinars, etc.
  • Tape in business cards (and notes about the contact) from networking events.

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A business journal is pretty much like a personal journal but instead of recording your whole life, it’s a snapshot of your business.

One of the things I LOVE about my business journal is that I can go through old journals and see what I was thinking last year, last month, last week. Sometimes there was a great idea that I just wasn’t ready to implement at the time but is EXACTLY what my business needs now.

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Kimberly Eldredge

Kimberly is an author, illustrator, and entrepreneur. She helps coaches, speakers, and authors take the content they already have and FINALLY get their book written and published.
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10 Responses to Why You Should Keep A Business Journal

  • Some great tips here!
    Sophie Bowns recently posted…QuislingMy Profile

  • I totally agree with you! Having a dedicated notebook for your thoughts for your business (or your blog!) is essential! I have a large planner and a separate blog planner to keep me organized.
    Krystal recently posted…Ornament Christmas Cards | Time For Mom Link UpMy Profile

    • I absolutely use a plan for my blog(s) as well. Each month, I set my editorial calendar and then stick to it. It’s wonderful not having to worry about WHAT to write about!

  • I suppose I’ve done this in some fashion for my business also. But for me, it’s more sketches of logos and wire frames of websites and notes from client meetings and time tracking for each project. Definitely helpful to look back at my notebooks and see what that client originally thought they wanted, then what actually came to fruition.

    • Anna, I use my business journals like that a LOT. I find it’s key to keep everything in one place. That way, I’m never searching all over my desk, truck, filing cabinet, etc for that “one little thing I need”. I KNOW it’s in the notebook!

  • I think I do keep business journals, but informally and too many. i also mix personal journaling with biz. Your article makes me realize what I need to do for 2014. so thanks for sharing your experience!
    Kimberly Wulfert recently posted…Dimensions of GratitudeMy Profile

  • What a great idea. Thanks so much for this. I usually use post-it notes, my daytimer or record ideas in the ‘notes’ section of my iPhone. The problem is everything ends up being scattered among several areas and makes it challenging to find:-) I’m going to try your approach. Thanks!
    Tandy Elisala recently posted…7 part series: How to Deal With Difficult People ~1/7My Profile

  • It does seem like journaling, as well as handwritten letters, are becoming a lost art! As you mention, not only is it fun to read through past journals but also (as you mention) supports the old saying, “Document, Document, Document!” Your thoroughness served you well (re: contractor) and obviously supports your continued success! For those who prefer technology-driven journaling, http://penzu.com/ is a great (free) online journal site — highly rated & also supports a classroom version for educators. Another great little tech tool is a voice (audio) recorder. They are small enough to easily fit in your pocket or purse and, when “genius” strikes (and you’re away from your journals), you can grab it, record your ideas/thoughts and transcribe the info later!
    Christine Alejandro recently posted…Health and the Mind-Body ConnectionMy Profile