Why I write

Using writing as a tool for cognitive performance

I used to think of writing as a skill purely used to effectively communicate and document.

Being good at writing meant that you could maximize signal and minimize noise in your emails. It meant that you could create great, user-friendly reports with good copy.

And as a great writer, you could also be a more persuasive person online. While good writing can accomplish all this, it also serves a purpose beyond communication and documentation. I’ll elaborate.

I started journaling eight years ago as I wanted to optimize how I spent my time and energy — as a first step, I had to understand where I was spending those.

On Sundays, I’d grab my notebook, open up my Google Cal, and note down the activities of that week — “What did I spend my time on this week?”, “What have I accomplished?”, “How am I spending my time?”.

Writing forces you to deeply reflect on the activities in your life

This is valuable as we often do things unintentionally — without knowing why or what the impacts of these things are. As I developed this habit, I started to reflect on the deeper intentions behind some of the activities.

As an example, I was spending a lot of time reading the online news and this ate into my mornings. I realized I was inefficiently skimming for news that was only relevant to my sector. I optimized for that and opted for keyword alerts and stopped reading the news every morning.

Writing allows you to create space to purposefully think about the intentions behind your actions in a fast-moving world.

Whenever I pick up a new skill or hobby, I start a ‘learning journal’. During my two years of training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I kept an active journal that included:

  • What new moves did I learn? How do these new moves apply to older concepts?

  • What mistakes did I make? What are some traps to avoid?

  • What are the advanced techniques that succeed what I’m learning today?

Over time, through writing my learnings out, I was able to create logical flows and connect the dots on different concepts in a systematic manner.

Writing encourages you to clarify your thinking and organize your thoughts in a logical structure.

As you absorb new ideas, writing allows you to lay out and form new neural connections between different concepts that seem abstract. You may realize that two distinctly different elements may have similar principles.

For example, networking, dating, and sales are different activities that are all based on similar first principles of rapport, human connection, and empathy. Learning how to cook, play chess, or make cocktails is done by creating learning feedback loops, rapid experimentation, and testing your own hypothesis.

There are many other reasons for why I write (and why you should too). Writing for gratitude is good for your mood and morale. Writing is great for improving creativity (try writing 10 new business ideas a day). Writing lets you create more impact in a scaled way (e.g. newsletters). Writing is great for empathy as it forces you to take another POV.

But as this is my first piece, I wanted to stick to my rule of keeping it to 500 words.

If you have any thoughts, comments, or feedback, please reach out.

Andrew