I am a big fan of writing. Not only in terms of writing lifestyle and psychology articles, culinary articles, my book on cheesecakes (you can check it out here), but also in terms of writing in general. I truly believe that this is a good skill and a necessary habit to have for everyone.
When I was a teen I was writing a diary. It was usually a thick notebook of 96 pages which in less than half a year I completed cover to cover. Back then it was a way to structure my thoughts and in a sense release myself of some of my worries. Nowadays I have two notebooks.
The first one I use primarily for writing down thoughts and ideas about business, creative projects, family or future in general. Some of the abstract ideas written down further turn into a set of goals and a precise to-do list; some others remain unexplored yet. This is a notebook where I dream, plan, devise a strategy, and write down questions to consider and interesting things to check out. This is a positive notebook, filled with inspiration, gratitude, hopes and strategies for realizing dreams.
The other notebook is in a sense a therapeutic diary with the only difference that I never really browse it through again. The reason for having it is to clear my head of unnecessary thoughts and worries, allowing me to focus on what’s important. In a way this is a garbage bin for the negative: some annoying thoughts, worries, concerns. When I write them down, two things are accomplished: first, sometimes when you see your concerns on a paper they don’t look that horrible anymore; and second, it is easier to see things in perspective and actually figure out how to move forward. When this notebook is finished, it gets destroyed and psychologically speaking – so are the worries described in there.
In addition to those two notebooks I usually have a separate to-do list for the week, where items get physically scratched off and the paper gets thrown away when completed. I am pretty much retrograde in my approach, because I use actual notebooks and pencils instead of a digital form. So this is in very general lines how I do it.
Still I didn’t yet answer the question of what’s the benefit of writing things down? Let me try to enumerate some of the main reasons why I believe this is a really good idea.
- Our memory, however perfect you might believe it to be, is unreliable. We tend to forget, we tend to mix up, and we even tend to create some false memories for ourselves. Thus, writing things down is a much securer way to remember
- Writing things down likewise gives a much better focus and direction. This is especially true in respect of goals and dreams. It pushes you to actually formulate them, to look at them from a different perspective. That allows you to have more clarity about your life and your path in it.
- For solving a problem it helps to brainstorm the options on paper for the same reasons: clarity, focus, perspective. It also works for internal problems or conflicts.
- Also, same as I do with my “negative notebook”, writing things down is a way to unload your operating memory. It is not necessarily limited to negative, as you can be overwhelmed by a lot of positive thoughts as well. Nevertheless, irrespective of what overwhelms you, in order to remain productive it helps to clear out the head. One of the productivity speakers – David Allen – even suggests we write every single task, ranging from buying groceries to complex work projects, because writing things down “clears space in your head for more important topics”.
- Writing things down is a way to track your progress. When you literally scratch items off the list or see where you were two months ago compared to where you are now, that helps a lot to enhance your self-esteem.
Therefore if you still haven’t written down your dreams, goals or concerns, give it a try and see for yourself how many positive effects that habit can bring.