Why You Should Write Things Down

This is a reminder.

You probably already know all – or most – of this. But reminders can be useful.

If your memory is anything like mine it’s like a leaking bucket.

Since I’ve started to write things down more often I have also noticed – when reviewing old notes – how much my memory can leak.

The memory isn’t very reliable. Every time we remember something we recreate what happened rather than just replay a film from our mental archives. The recreation is directed by a number of things such our beliefs, our emotional state at the time and our self-image.

What you remember about an event may differ quite a bit from what someone else remembers. There is a wide variety of interpretations of reality and truth. And then when you try to remember that interpretation of an event later on it can change even more.

So we need external systems. And there are a lot of them to experiment with.

Until recently I have preferred to mostly keep it simple with paper and a pen. I feel that overcomplicated programs seems to encourage being busy rather than being effective. Getting a dozen things done quickly isn’t that helpful if what you are getting done isn’t that important.

I also use this blog not only to share useful tips and information but also to keep a record for myself of thoughts on different areas of self improvement.

This has been helpful to remind myself of various ideas and techniques that can help me improve my life and of mistakes that are so easy to make.


A few months ago I made an addition to the blog and the paper notebooks where I wrote my to-do lists, short notes and goals. I started journaling using my computer.

This allowed me record a fuller picture of events, thoughts and emotions. Instead of being confined to small notebooks I could get it all down. This was a relief and allowed me to capture a whole lot more nuance and think things through more easily. I wish I had started earlier.

At the moment I use less paper. Instead I record thoughts, goals, ideas and then work on them using The Journal by David RM.

From what I have seen so far, I haven’t used it long, it seems to be an excellent piece of software with a 45 day free trial. And I’m sure there are also a number of good and free alternatives out there too.

I still use small notebooks to write down my to-do lists and shopping lists for the day. But since my thoughts and ideas have grown to a quite a large number it’s easier to keep them in a one piece of software rather than a few notebooks.

This also makes it easier to be more creative and find connections and combinations between different ideas. And since I have just started journaling I guess there are more insights to come.

So, I have already mentioned a few ideas on why you should write things down. Below are few more.

9 more reasons to write things down

  • Written goals are important. One thing a lot of very successful self improvement writers – Anthony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar and so on – go on and on about is the importance of having written goals. A written goal brings clarity and focus. It gives you a direction. And by rewriting your goals you not only reaffirm what your goals are. You may also have found new insights that bring more clarity and focus to your goal and life. A written goal is also a powerful reminder that you can use to keep yourself on track.
  • To remind yourself to focus. You can use paper or your screensaver or another program to give yourself reminders. Often we get caught up in our everyday business and lose track of what is most important. To keep yourself on track – instead of just keeping yourself busy with low-priority tasks – simply write down a reminder that can stop your thoughts when you see it and guide you back on track again. I like the reminder: is this useful? Then put that reminder where you can’t avoid seeing throughout your day.
  • Unloading your mental RAM. When you don’t occupy your mind with having to remember every little thing – like how much milk to get – you become less stressed and it becomes easier to think clearly. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important reasons to write things down. Feeling more calm and relaxed does not only improves your health but also makes life easier.
  • Clearer thinking. You can’t hold that many thoughts in your head at once. If you want to solve a problem it can be helpful to write down you thoughts, facts and feelings about it. Then you don’t have to worry your mind about remembering, you can instead use it to think more clearly. Having it all written down gives you an overview and makes it easier to find new connections that can help you solve the problem.
  • A record of what you were thinking. I have already noticed how interesting it is to just go back a month to see what I was thinking then. I believe that when you have kept a record of your thoughts for quite a while you’ll have some fascinating reading on your hands. It can also show you how you have changed and improved.
  • A record of your positive qualities. When I read what have written it is sometimes fuzzy and unfocused. But other times I’m kinda surprised at how clever I was. Keeping a written record could be a good way to remind yourself of your positive qualities.
  • Improve long-term focus on what’s important. Reminders that I described above can be useful to keep you on track in your normal day. But you can also use a journal as a way to keep an overview of your thinking over a longer time-span and to recognize both positives and negatives in your thinking. You may, for example, think of yourself as a healthy person but realize when you read through your journal that you have only been out running four times this month. This can help to spot trouble and keep you on track within a larger time-frame.
  • Become better acquainted with yourself. You may, for instance, have an image of your life where you are a positive person but discover when reading through your notes for the last month that you are negative about your job or a relationship in almost every entry. This might tell you something that you haven’t really paid much attention to about yourself and/or something about that job or relationship. This can bring clarity to your life.
  • Track your achievements. If you are working out or investing in stocks it can be useful to keep written record of your results and thoughts over a longer time-span. It can not only motivate you when you are feeling down about your perceived lack of positive results and let you see how far you have really come. It can also help you use problems and solutions from the past to find solutions to new problems (or readjustments to prevent problems before they even appear).

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Excellent article, I use the journal software as well. Thanks for the tips.

  • Pavani

    I am really impressed by what writing things down can do..though many of what it said were my reasons for thinking about writing a blog or a journal… this is my motivation to start it today..
    It boosted up my energy and my positive feeling towards writing everything down.
    I make small notes bearing name ‘Things to do’, ‘shopping list’, ‘tasks for today’..though they do a great job in getting things done..they are just reminders..but they don’t give me a record of past..
    I used to write down everything I discussed in a meeting with my professor..
    When I go back and read my first meeting’s notes..I can clearly notice that I bearly remember even the most imporant things that we discussed.
    This proves how bad human memory could be in regard to remembering past..
    I am starting a write a jounal from today to give my memory what it’s lacking..


    i stumbled upon you blog and found it very inspiring.
    thanks for all the nice thoughts.

  • Thanks for the post. I would also like to share a link to help newbiews on HOW to start writing:

  • Mark

    I chanced upon your blog and have found it to be useful.

    I have started journalising my thoughts/tasks etc for about 6 months, using microsoft excel.

    One thing i want to add is i don’t think i can ever achieve the level of productivity and creativity i am enjoying now without penning them down and organising it.

    Thanks for the blog.

  • I use a program called DayNotez that syncs with my computer and my PDA. I can journal, record things that I am grateful for, good things that I did… and I dont have to carry a notebook with me. I had a paper-based journal/planner for years, and the PDA is just so much neater and organized – and small. I have a thought, jot it down, and its there, where ever I want it.

  • David

    I have never “journaled” in my life, but I have occasionally kept a journal.

  • oho boho

    this is good idea. I’ll try it. 10x

  • this blog is so inspiring:):)
    it nice i can found it

  • tip

    Thanks for a lovely site, I am very impressed :-)

  • prince b.

    This blog has added to what i had already, thanks 4 ur time and energy, may God replenish u.

  • Martyna

    Interesting article.
    I agree with writing things down for the two reasons (both mentioned in your list): the RAM thing (I always get stressed out about having to remember stuff and forget it anyway, making myself even more stressed) and it’s always fun to read throug old notes – “Oh dear did I really think that?”
    The rest of your blog is great too.

  • I use DavidRM’s The Journal, too, and have started archiving old electronic journal entries written using other software into it – it has a good search function to help look up stuff.

    The Journal, however, is for “regular” journalling. For quick notes, short notes, also pictures and URLs, I’m now using Evernote. It also allows me to share my own stuff between my desktop and netbook.