Documenting Life

Every year since her birth, I’ve written a letter to my daughter on her birthday reflecting on the past year. Her baby book had a page for “Letter from Mom” and I filled it with the usual corny thoughts of hopes for my daughter. Somehow, I continued the tradition of writing a letter every year since then, and did the same for her younger brothers.
Originally, I wrote the letters by hand. Then I got lazy and switched to typing. It may not be as cool and personal as my handwriting, but it turned out to be a good thing. Some of the handwritten letters were harder to read and didn’t scan well.
I decided to write them until the kids turned 18, and my daughter hit that milestone in February. I had planned to give her the letters, but then an article sparked the idea of turning the letters into a book. Brilliant. A book would keep the letters in one place and make it easier to read. I’ll keep the originals in a safe place as the kids will be going to college, moving and so on.
I’ve been documenting my life in journals since my freshman year of college. Thank goodness! (Of course, I wish I had started earlier.) The journals came in handy when I needed dates or specifics of things that happened in my family’s life.
Documenting your life isn’t just for your personal life and family. It also works well for business.
Early in my career, I ran into a tip to document the work I did and how it contributed to the bigger picture. It was helpful for updating the resume, supporting performance review meetings and remembering things, such as what training I took. The document also provided an overview of my progress toward with business and career goals.
George Angus wrote a post on documenting your writing work in a writing journal. Here’s his suggestion of what could go in the journal:

Your writing journal could have entries for the date, type of writing (blog post, SEO article, novel chapter) word count and even a brief description of what inspired the article. I think it would make for a very interesting read at some point in the future.

Indeed, it makes for a great read in the future. Documenting your work doesn’t have to be time consuming. My career documentation simply consisted of a table with four columns: project, task, accomplishment and date.
Long after you’ve left the position and surpassed those goals, reading about your past work years later can boost your confidence and make you feel proud.
How can you use a journal or documentation of your life? What would you track? How would you use the information? Have you tracked your life or work? What’s your experience?

5 thoughts on “Documenting Life”

  1. Meryl, you are to be commended for writing a yearly letter to each of your children on each of their first 18 birthdays. What an invaluable keepsake you have created for each of them.
    I happened to begin writing in one year diaries when I was eleven and in the fifth grade. In January 2010 I began posting each nightly entry 50 years after I wrote it, in a blog. I have posted diary entries from when I was a high school student and farm girl in Iowa and now am posting entries from my days at Park College (now Park University) in Missouri. Your readers should be able to find my blog by clicking on my name at the beginning of this comment.

  2. Barbara, thank you. I’m sure there are things I wish I had done or thought of. I’m trying not to think about that! Thanks for sharing your story — it’s incredible.
    Avil — thank you. You blog daily. That’s amazing. I can barely blog once a week. I guess 12 years of blogging burns out a girl — even a writer.

  3. Great idea. It’s something your kids will be able to have with them for the rest of their lives, something for them to know more about what you thought of at these milestones in their lives. It might even be something they’d do for their kids.


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