“When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.”
“Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.”
Francis Bacon, Sr.
One of the simplest but most powerful habits I have established in my life in the past few years is to write things down. Why is it so important?
1. 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 then when you try to remember that interpretation of an event later on it can change even more. So we need some kind of system outside of ourselves.
2. Ideas don’t stay for long.
Fine or awesome ideas can pop up at the strangest times but they tend to not stay for long in your head. So you need to capture them fast or they are gone in the wind.
3. Written goals are very 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 find 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 the right track when you feel stressed and may consider making hasty decisions.
4. To remind yourself of what to focus on. 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.
It can for example be your current major goal (like running a half-marathon next year, spending double the time each week with your kids or starting your own website or blog and getting a 1000 regular readers per month).
I also like reminders like: “is this useful?” and “what is the most important thing I can do right now?” Write down your reminder and put that reminder where you can’t avoid seeing throughout your day.
5. 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 calmer and more relaxed does not only improves your health but also makes life easier and more smooth and effective.
6. 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 your thoughts, facts and feelings about it. Then you don’t have to use your for mind for 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.
7. Get to know yourself and your life better and improve long-term focus on what’s important. You can 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 and actions.
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. Or perhaps you have an image of your life going pretty well 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.
By writing things down you can help yourself to spot trouble and get yourself back on track and keep yourself there within a larger timeframe. Or your journal may tell you something that you haven’t really paid much attention to about yourself and/or about your life. And so this can bring clarity.
So those are seven of the most important reasons why I write everything down. How to capture your thoughts? Well, that’s up to you.
At the moment I usually use Word or a pen and paper to think things through, TeuxDeux.com for my to-do lists and when I’m out somewhere and get an idea I type it down in my cell phone. But try different ways and find the ones that you feel most comfortable and effective with.