5 Ways to Improve Your Business Journaling


Whether it’s flow writing on a music stand, or a frothy 3-page rant, maintaining a regular journal writing practice can change your life. The power of the pen has helped to shape some of the greatness, most influential people in history including Andrew Carnegie, Winston Churchill, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, and Oprah Winfrey. 

I have turned to the power of the pen to unearth deep-seated, destructive thoughts I had about myself and others. And journaling was the main tool I used in my 180 pound weight loss and body transformation journey. It is also what I use to remain a conscious eater and keep the weight off.

Journaling reduces stress, clarifies your thoughts, and improves your communication styles. Pen to paper benefits also include boosts to the immune system, decreases in the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, and it is also a way to successfully manage anxiety and depression (Purcell, 2006).

For the, “But I type faster than I write” crowd, in a detailed article in The New York Times, “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades,” Maria Konnikova offers this, ”…for adults, typing may be a fast and efficient alternative to longhand, but that very efficiency may diminish our ability to process new information” (Konnikova, 2014).

But can journaling help you develop your business and further your career? 

The answer is an unequivocal YES!

At a recent keynote presentation in Calgary, AB, I introduced the audience to the concept and practice of business writing; not clickety clicks of the keyboard, but actual pen to paper processing. As I fired up my old-school overhead projector to reveal my rudimentary hand-drawn side view of the brain – which incidentally resembled an Imperial Storm Trooper from Star Wars – I gave a brief overview of what happens in the brain when we write and why cursive writing is so powerful.

(Derrick Shirley on stage sharing the benefits of handwriting)

Following the talk, one very excited participant wanted more information on journaling for your business. The summary of that brief talk, 5 ways to improve your business journaling, I share in this blog post. 

BUSINESS JOURNALING TIP #1: What You Start With, May Not Be What You End With.

Have you ever had a conversation with a friend over coffee and stuck to one topic? No. You bounced around like novice tennis players and on occasion, shanked a ball over the fence. Journal writing works the same way; what you start with may not be what you end with. That’s the creative process. So rather than fight to stay on topic, if your mind and pen is wandering, enjoy the journey. If you find yourself way off topic, ask yourself a question like, “So what does this have to do with ‘X’?” That will help bring you back, but you might be surprised at the insights you gained along the way.

TIP #2: Once You Start, Keep Going.

Business journaling will offer you new insights, ‘ah-ha’ moments and a few timely to do’s during your sessions. Once you develop and stick to your writing practice, you’ll come to expect these moments. Which means, it is also easy to get distracted. Whether you give yourself 5 minutes to write or 50, it’s important to stay with it. Keep a small note pad handy for your to do’s, write them in the margin as you go, or dictate a quick reminder into your phone. But, after you are done with the side-note, come back to your writing.  By the end of your session, if the point you made is still relevant (as sometimes additional processes will reveal a better course of action), act on it. If not, make a note to explore at a different time your impulsiveness. Either way, the insights are gold.

TIP #3: Visualize Your Customer and Write to Help Them 

Sit down and take a few deep breaths to clear your head. Once you are calm and centered, visualize your ideal customer or client. Think of their goals, concerns, and the problems they struggle with. As you write, visualize a conversation with them. Make note of the questions they raise, the objections they have, and the solutions you present. Write to them with sincerity, like they were your best friend needing your help, advice, knowledge, and/or expertise. Speak to them. Help them. This exercise is even more effective if you write following a recent exchange with a client. 

TIP #4: Connect With the Energy of Your Environment

If you want to solve business dilemmas or generate new ideas, take your journal and go to a spot where you feel most alive and inspired. Take the elevator to the top floor and write standing in front of a window overlooking the city. Hike a mountain and when you’ve gone as high as you want to go, pull your journal out and ask, “Where do I want my business/team/career/life to go? What does the peak look like, feel like, and sound like?” When you tap into and connect with the energy of your environment, your writing reflects it. This is one of the key factors I share with speakers, coaches, counsellors, bloggers, writers and other participants in my monthly P2P (Pen to Paper) Writing Summits. 

TIP #5: Give Your Pen (and Spirit) Some Free Time to Play.

Let go of the need to produce content. Let go of your primary business goals, bottom line results, ROI’s and KPI’s. Let it all go and just show up on the page. Take a deep breath in, put your pen to paper, and connect with the thumping in your chest, the tingles up your spine and the goosebumps on your arms. And if you can’t feel these things, write about what gives you these feelings. Write about what excites you in the present moment and in the future. Write about things you love to do and see, places you would love to go, or cool things you would like to do on your holidays. Write about your last gardening experience, your favourite mountain biking trail, your Aunt Becky’s peach cobbler, or what it feels like to hold your lover in your arms. Just put pen to paper and write. There is more to your life than your business. Let your pen help you discover it. 

Variety is the spice of life. When you THINK IN INK, everything has flavour. 


Purcell, M. (2006). The Health Benefits of Journaling. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 3, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/000721

Konnikova, M (2014). “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades?” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/science/whats-lost-as-handwriting-fades.html?hpw&rref=science&_r=0

“Journaling for Mental Health.” http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4552

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