Why Developers Should Journal

Your Journal

Most developers I know hate writing. Spec writing and documentation are dreaded tasks to be avoided in favor of getting a little more coding done. I'm no exception to this, my Trello board full of blog ideas that I never quite managed to get beyond a few notes. To try and combat this, I've recently started keeping a daily journal, which has had some unexpectedly useful effects.

For the last two weeks, I've been writing a short journal at the start of every day, just by jotting down whatever thoughts I've had on my mind at the time. I don't allow myself too long for this, usually 15 or 20 minutes. Just a bit of time to gather my thoughts as part of my preparations for the day.

This approach has led to something of a stream-of-consciousness on what I'm currently working on. It makes for unusual reading when I look back on it, as I sometimes end up debating with myself on the best way to solve a problem, or what I think I need to prioritize. For example, last week, I outlined an idea for a project I was mulling over at work to migrate some third-party services in-house, and before I knew it, I'd written a gist I can expand into a full blown design.

The best part about this kind of journalling is that you are under no obligation to share it with anyone. This is entirely for your benefit. I usually don't even read back what I've written myself. Not having to worry about what other people will think can be incredibly liberating for getting thoughts out, and means I don't spend a lot of the time I provide myself in editing.

I've been using a service called 750words, which takes away a lot of the barriers by dropping you right into blank page (or what you've written so far that day), and rewarding you for consistency by keeping track of your current writing "streak".

I'd highly recommend keeping a journal for any developer. It's surprising just how helpful and rewarding writing can be when you take away the pressure of sharing it with the world. You may even come up with something worth sharing. This has been 481 of my 750 words for today.