Many readers will already know that I’m in love with Evernote. It’s a tool that I use every single to day to take notes, write articles and store information that I need to keep for future reference. However, I now have another love: Penzu.com
It’s ok. I’m not cheating on Evernote. They both now have a firm place in my heart.
Evernote helps me collate and create.
Penzu helps me think and process.
If you’re not familiar with Penzu, it’s an online journal. Its website describes it thus: “Penzu is an online diary and personal journal that is focused on privacy. With a unique and compelling user experience, it makes writing online as easy and intuitive as writing on a pad of paper.”
For fellow Latin geeks, it’s derived from “pensare” which means to ponder, examine or be full of thought.
When do I use Penzu?
You know those days when you have so many things to do, or so many ideas to pursue, that you just don’t know where to start. It’s when you feel so overwhelmed that you just don’t know what to do next. You wonder whether it’s because you need better systems. You wonder if you need to categorise your to-do list. You ponder whether you need to hire an assistant.
The reality is that what you need is clarity. Once you have clarity on what your priorities should be – and a clear understanding of the reasons behind it – the rest falls into place. The trouble is that getting that kind of clarity can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. And it may never emerge regardless of what kind of time management system you embrace. That’s where Penzu comes in.
When I feel so overwhelmed that I don’t know what to do next, I turn to journalling.
That’s right. I sit down and simply start typing, pouring out anything that comes out of my brain. Writers, whether they consciously understand it or not, have been doing it for years. Writers know that they need to spew out a lot of unusable words in order for the gems to emerge. You can’t have one without the other. Then they pick out the gems. But you don’t have to be a writer to derive benefits from this process.
Journalling for your business or career works along similar lines. You need to spew out what’s on your mind if you want to give yourself a chance to make sense of it. Otherwise, your thoughts remain swirling around in your brain, potentially causing you to feel anxious or, at the very least, overwhelmed.
I don’t journal every day. I probably end up journalling about three times a week. But I certainly journal whenever I feel overwhelmed. I start writing about whatever is on my mind. Often, I’ll begin pondering the simple question of what project I should tackle next. I end up asking myself questions, pondering why I’m pursuing particular projects, and assessing the motivations, benefits and obligations behind why I’m doing what I do. It doesn’t take long for clarity to emerge.
It’s also important to remember that while you might use this primarily for your business/career, the reality is that your business/career is affected by your life, your family, the people around you, people who may have nothing to do with your business. So don’t be surprised if you end up journalling about factors that are seemingly unrelated to your business. If that’s the case, then chances are they are affecting your business – or the way you think about your business – in some way. Go with it. You may be surprised at what you discover.
The one thing you must do when you journal
In order for this process of journalling to work effectively, you need to be COMPLETELY honest with yourself. That means journalling your deepest hopes, dreams and fears. When you can see the truth in black and white staring back at you on the screen, clarity comes a lot quicker.
If you are used to writing in a diary, this will come easy to you. If not – or if you have been scarred by having a mother who read your diary when you were younger and have been gun-shy about divulging your feelings every since (!) – that’s where Penzu can help.
Why Penzu? Can’t I just write in a Word document or Moleskine?
The key feature of Penzu is privacy. You not only have to log into the application with a password. You can also assign passwords to specific journals (yes you can have multiple journals). It logs out of the application if you leave it for too long. So unless you’re ridiculously careless with your password, your journal is for your eyes only.
Unlike a Word document or Moleskine, which can be opened by anyone, this is secure. And when you know that the only audience for your words and thoughts is you, you don’t care about the quality of your writing, you can express exactly what you think and you are liberated to explore your true feelings … about any topic. So it’s not Penzu itself that is the magic bullet. It’s its privacy features. Like Evernote, it also syncs across your devices so you can access your journals or start penning your thoughts no matter where you are.
Whether or not you use Penzu is up to you. But next time you feel overwhelmed, before you start categorising, systemising and creating a to-do list longer than your arm, take a deep breath. Pause. And write in your journal. You’ll thank me for it.