I have always been jealous of people who keep journals. I’ve never maintained that discipline as well as I have wanted to. My handwriting is atrocious, making my written notes useless in the future (to write legibly, I print very slowly). Even though my typing form is ridiculously bad, I can type very fast, typing a couple thousand words an hour. It is legible and useful.
To accommodate my need to keep a journal, meeting notes, book notes, my operating principles and work rules, a problem log, and a decision journal, I have moved this work to Airtable (Link to), a web-based relational database. The reason for doing so is because of the search functionality, with fields that serve as the equivalent of tags.
Journals are no good unless you can refer to them later. The categorizing of entries and the ability to search for words makes a database with a huge, free-form text field an effective choice, even if it isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as a good journal.
Because meeting notes are taken so that they can be reviewed and referred to later, the ability to locate them by date, person, client, or topic is functionality that is built into a database. I’ve started a database recently that I call Dunbar, after Dunbar’s number (the number 145, or the number of real relationships you can maintain, though I believe the outboard brain can help increase that number).
I’ve recently added a database for books I have read and the notes I have taken, making it possible to search for a topic or keyword that shows up in any or all of the books whose notes have been captured there. Because I have slowed my reading preferring to go deep instead of wide, note-taking has been crucial to applying what I learn.
The most important database I have built is a time tracking database I use to measure my time against my highest priorities. If you have never kept a time log, tracking where you spend (or invest) your time, doing so will provide you with serious insights into how you can improve your results. I’ve done this as a project to make improvements, but now I am doing as more of a diary.
The reason we capture information is to use it in the future. What you don’t capture is often lost forever. That includes your thoughts, your feelings, your problems, your decisions, the books you’ve read, and the notes you’ve kept on people that are important to you.