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The Benefits of Electronic Journaling

I’m a technology nerd, so people are surprised to discover I keep a paper journal. I explain why in another post. I also journal electronically via a collection of text documents I refer to as the “Interstate Archive.”

I choose which method based on where I am and what tools are at my disposal. For example, it’s easier to journal by computer while I’m at work, since I need to be sitting at my desk anyway. And it’s easier to journal on paper at the cafĂ©, especially if I don’t have my laptop with me!

Because I’m a bit anal-retentive when it comes to archiving my life, I like to cross-reference. If I churn out a particularly meaty entry on the computer, for example, I’ll make a note of the date in my paper journal. That way if I go back a year later and reread, I’ll know essential information is located elsewhere.

Electronic journaling has a lot going for it. Here are some of the benefits of keeping a digital journal:

1. Privacy
There’s no doubt that journaling on your computer can potentially provide enhanced security for your entries. Whether writing locally or online, password protection, encryption, and other tools can ensure files are kept private.

2. Readability
I’ve been told messy handwriting is a sign of genius. I hope that’s not the only sign. But if you’re a genius and/or have illegible handwriting, despite Mrs. Miller’s best intentions in third grade penmanship class, typing practically guarantees readability.

Plus the zoom tool is magical if you’re like me and find 20/20 slipping further away as time marches on. (My eyes are fine – it’s just that my arms aren’t long enough!)

3. Durability
Data files can easily be backed up. If properly archived, they are flood-proof and fire-proof. Try guaranteeing that with over 100 notebooks! I lived on a houseboat for a few years and all my nightmares involved wayward water.

If you’re serious about durable archiving, you’ll want to backup often and store a copy offsite. That might involve stashing a CD at work, dropping a flash drive in a safe deposit box, or uploading files to a secure server.

4. Spell-check
If you take comfort in those squiggly red lines, this tool’s for you. (In a funny twist, I initially mis-spelled “spell-check.”)

5. Multimedia
Have fun with technology by including audio, video, or photos in your journal. Most laptops these days come with webcams, allowing you to add a photo or video element to your journal.

One of my favorite parts of my paper journal is all the debris from daily living, like ticket stubs and coasters. You can do the same with your electronic journal by including digital photos, screen grabs, video, embedded documents and hotlinks to web resources.

Take full advantage of the multimedia capabilities of electronic journaling and have fun with it.

6. Search
Text searching is one amazing tool I pine for in my paper journal. The ability to run through everything you’ve ever written and locate each instance of a word or phrase is extremely powerful.

Perhaps you’re looking back and trying to remember when you met someone or attended a particular event. Search for the venue name and you’ve got that information in seconds.

Or imagine you’ve decided to focus on eliminating fear from your life. You sit down to write about your worst fears, but are having a hard time coming up with a meaningful list. So you run a search for “afraid” in your electronic journal and bingo – a list of everything you’ve ever written about fearing.

7. Chronology
Electronic journaling makes it easy to locate entries by date. It even gives you a quick visual cue of your most productive times. For example, in a glance you can easily see October was a productive month for journaling while May was rather sparse. Knowledge like this can help you identify patterns in your life.

8. Portability
Files are weightless, easy to move, and painless to relocate. With a flash drive, you can literally carry all of your journal writing in your pocket! I’m so jealous.

8. Software
Keeping a journal on your computer means you can to play with new software. I get worked up about stationery stores; some folks get their jollies playing with new apps. Journaling software is optional, of course – you can get started just fine using text pad.

9. Productivity
If you can type faster than you can write, you’ll say more in less time while journaling on the computer. However, productivity isn’t the only criteria I use when choosing the best tool for the task. Sometimes I focus on the physical process of writing (journey), and other times I require efficient documentation (destination). When my hand can’t compete with the surge of ideas, I’m grateful for quick keyboarding.

10. Convenience
If most of your work involves a computer anyway, it’s easy to just journal write on your machine since you’re already there. Documenting your day can be as easy as flipping between your email program and your word processor.

11. Comfort
And lastly, some people are simply more comfortable writing on the computer. Many of us do it all day – we send emails, we write reports, we compose blog entries, we Twitter and Facebook our fingers off. If you and your laptop are truly attached at the hip, by all means consider it another tool to further your growth and start using it for journaling.

Alternately, you may come to see journaling as I do – a vacation from the keyboard, a deliciously unplugged refuge.

If you decide electronic journaling is the path for you, it’s time to choose your method. You can keep your journal online or on your desktop, you can use a software package or your built-in text pad program, you can do it by email or on a flash drive. I’ll cover your options in depth in another post, along with solutions to common e-journaling problems, like privacy and portability.

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