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.
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!
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.
- 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.
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.