Monday, January 25, 2010

What did you learn today?

Every day is filled with hundreds of learning experiences. How many of them do you notice? Most of us are so busy trying to complete the items on our to-do list that we fail to see situations that hold important and helpful lessons.

My mom always kept a journal. It wasn't something she wrote in at length each morning or evening, rather it was a stenographers pad, in which she jotted brief notes about things she noticed during the day. She wrote titles of songs she enjoyed, quotes that inspired her, recipes that sounded tasty, books that tickled her fancy and intriguing and funny things she saw and heard.

Because my mom paid attention to what was happening around her, all the time, she was an interesting and intelligent conversationalist. As a teacher, she always had new ideas to share with her students. Most of the time, she could solve problems that arose, quickly and easily. If it was beyond her abilities, she knew who to call to assist her. She paid attention to the world around her, and her life and the lives of her family, her friends and her students were enriched because of it.

I began keeping a "learning journal" many years ago. I note many of the same types of things that my mother did. Because I am self-employed, I also pay attention to things that will help me become more efficient, more productive and a better business person.

I jot down ideas, questions, insights, problems, the names of people I meet, places I hear about, and websites that sound interesting or helpful. I pay attention to situations that arise or conversations that I have, and note my actions, reactions and fears. Sometimes I jot things down when they occur. Other times, I may take a 5 minute break and write what I have seen, done and heard recently.

For example, in a recent conversation with a married couple, the wife said, "My husband is a very talented woodcarver!"

"That's fascinating!" I said. "What do you like to carve?"

The husband answered, "Oh, I never actually carve anything, because I don't know if I would be happy with the end result."

That made me wonder if there are things that I hesitate to try because I am unsure of the outcome. Are my fears holding me back? I made a brief note about the conversation in my learning journal. Once a week, or whenever I am waiting for an appointment or have a few minutes to spare, I read through my notes to refresh my memory, and to see if I am making use of the information I have learned. Have I implemented new ideas or techniques that I meant to try?

My learning journal has helped me to find positive solutions to problems that occur in my life and in my business. It has enabled me to complete more of my goals, and to reach them more quickly. Reading about funny things that happened brightens my day, and reminds me not to take things too seriously. I am more organized and have better focus, because I remember helpful tips and tools that I may have forgotten if I had not noted them in my learning journal.

Many people have told me that they prefer to keep their notes electronically. If that works for you, then do that. I have found that I am not as likely to reread electronically filed notes, and without rereading, much of the benefit of the journal is lost. I also think that writing, as opposed to typing, seems to make information more memorable. For those reasons, I recommend a small notebook, that fits in your pocket or purse, so that you can access it quickly and easily, to make notes, and to reread notes you have previously written.

I hope you will give this a try! You may be surprised by what you learn!

Think you would like to try a Learning Journal, but not sure that you would remember to use it? Why not join the 15 day Learning Journal Challenge at! There you will find support, encouragment and maybe even a few new friends! To learn more, visit:

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