Ideas and debate
Why keeping an event diary is a good idea
Thursday, July 22, 2021
By MIKE ELDON
More from this author
- In particular, I treasure writing about the most difficult moments or interacting with a really unsavory character.
- Writing helps me to emotionally distance myself from the experience, as I become a more objective observer and the worse the situation, the more therapeutic the writing is.
- In my coaching work, I sometimes suggest to my clients that they keep a journal as a way to monitor the progress they are making in relation to what we will have discussed and agreed on together.
I have been journaling for almost 16 years and every day, no matter how tired I am, I type in the day’s activities and my reflections on them on my laptop. I even did it during my hospital stay with Covid earlier this year, even when I was at my weakest.
I started writing these journals while in London undergoing several weeks of radiotherapy treatment. They told me that I would feel more and more tired, so I thought it would be a good way to keep the commitment that did not require a lot of energy. However, it turned out that my strength was maintained and I became an enthusiastic tourist around the city, which offered me a lot to write about.
When I returned to Nairobi I kept writing my life in a journal, and it just became something I did every day, like checking my mail or brushing my teeth. Every three months I design a cover for the volume covering the previous quarter, with a suitable title and image, and write an introduction. Then I take it on a memory card to my “editor” at Sarit Center, where I have it printed and spiral bound.
The quarterly volumes, now 64, have evolved over time, with more images and more elegant and varied design and content. They have also tended to be longer, usually now over 200 pages.
So who am I doing it for and why? I do it for myself, which means that what I write can be uninhibited and personal. As for why, there are multiple benefits, the most obvious of which is not forgetting anything I’ve been doing or my reactions. So if I ever get down to writing my memoirs, at least this period of my life will be trapped as raw material from which a finished product can more easily be produced.
In particular, I treasure writing about the most difficult moments or interacting with a really unsavory character. (Extreme cases lead me to poetry). The writing helps me to emotionally distance myself from the experience, as I become a more objective observer, and the worse the situation, the more therapeutic the writing is. Travel writers (and I’ve enjoyed being one of them) find that horrible travel makes the best screenplays. But horrible or wonderful, what is a diary but an account of one’s travels through life?
Many of my articles for this column are the result of what I do in my professional life, and my journal entry on the subject is likely the first step, which I then adapt (and sometimes sensor!) Appropriately.
The idea for this article came from Josphat Mwaura, who recently posted on his LinkedIn page the link to a Harvard Business Review article titled The Older Your Job Title, The More You Need to Keep a Journal, by Dan Siampa.
In it, Siampa writes that he started journaling when he took over a manufacturing consulting, software, and research company.
“I was very young, we were in crisis in the face of a challenging market, and I wasn’t sure who to trust,” he recalls. “I kept a journal during my 12 years as president and CEO and have since recommended it to people moving into any senior position for the first time.”
Like me, she found the silent reflection that occurs during journal writing invaluable as it allows for quiet analysis and creative thinking.
“The journal entries should provide not only a record of what happened, but also of how we react emotionally,” he agrees with me, adding that “writing it brings a certain clarity that puts things in perspective.” It can also be “a form of mental rehearsal to prepare for particularly sensitive topics where there is no one to talk to other than you,” he says.
In my coaching work, I sometimes suggest to my clients that they keep a journal as a way to monitor the progress they are making in relation to what we will have discussed and agreed on together.
So if you’re not a magazine writer, consider becoming one too, no matter how busy you are. In fact, the busier you are, the more beneficial it is to stay away from the 24/7 pressures of deadlines, dilemmas, and decisions.