Write stuff down

Posted on: 19 February 2024

As I approach my fourth year of journalling, and in my third year of consistently blogging again, I had a realisation. You cannot write too much stuff down.

Your mind, or your short term memory, has a misjudged ability to think it won’t forget things. Whereas your long term memory has the wonderful ability to do just that. I touched on this point when talking about how to-dos ruin your life: your brain sheds things you don’t need to remember, and prioritises those it does.

Knowledge preservation

As I look back back over old journal entries, I often bemoan my past self for being too vague. “Work was hard today, this project is coming together but is very taxing” would seem a reasonable and accurate observation to present-me at the time of writing. But it’s shrouded with opaque context. To 2-years-in-the-future me, I can learn very little from that. What project was I working on 2 years ago? Why was it hard?

Present-me is never disappointed when past-me gave too much detail. Obvious and insignificant details of what’s in the mind at the time can be golden nuggets to both future you and other people, when presented publicly. That’s the beauty of blogs. Do you ever refer back to your own how-to blog posts when you’ve forgotten how to do something in the present? I know I do.

Things that seem plainly obvious and unforgettable today can quickly fade into obscurity with time. Write it down while it's fresh, and your understanding of that subject will be preserved for whenever you need it again.

Document everything at work. A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a step-by-step, repeatable process for any routine task. Documenting SOPs can feel pointless and boring at the time, but it pays off in the long run. Repeating the same monotonous task for the 5th time you thought wasn’t worth documenting first time round can be soul-destroying. SOPs provide consistency and increase confidence and agency when performing tasks.

If you can spare some time in the present to potentially help future-you, your colleagues, and your spouse, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Boost your nostalgia

As useful as preserving knowledge and context in the moment is, it’s the sentimental things that writing stuff down truly excels at. Personal growth. Mental health. Relationships. Family.

If you’re anything like me, you love a dose of nostalgia. Hazy memories of “golden years” (OK I’m not that old). But nostalgia is characteristically often light on the detail. Journalling is a wonderful antidote for the degradation of time and the lossy nature of memories.

So be descriptive. Write down your emotions. You’ll cherish it in years to come when you’re recounting memories of your children when they were young, and you’re able to draw on first-hand accounts of their development.

Learn through introspectection

Writing has the clear benefit of being a useful medium for sharing a thought after the fact. But it can also be a powerful practice in the moment.

It's a common adage that you don't really know something until you can explain it. And to take that a step further; you don't really know something until you can write it down in a clear manner.

Writing stuff down can help you collect your thoughts, offering a greater ability to introspect about something your mind might be mulling over.