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Creating an E-Journal

All you need to succeed—your strategies, sales ideas, goals—can be just a click away.

By Kip Gregory

Wouldn’t it be great if the critical information you needed to do your job more effectively was never more than a keystroke or mouse click away?

An e-journal is like a digital diary—a special place for recording your mission, brainstorms or anything else that you refer to regularly.

Imagine designating a single place for capturing, organizing and storing all those nuggets of useful knowledge you pick up at meetings, on the phone, from the newspaper and off the Internet, and having instant access to them any time you wanted. …strategies, tactics, sales ideas, instructions—whatever you need, whenever you need it.

What if I said you already own the software to create this powerful tool and that all you really need is some guidance on setting it up the right way? The tool I’m describing is called an electronic journal—or e-journal—and it’s something I developed several years ago in my own battle to conquer information overload.

An e-journal is like a digital diary—a special place for recording your mission and values, goals, challenges, brainstorms or anything else that you refer to regularly. You create an e-journal using a word processor. These are the five steps to set one up in Microsoft Word:

1. Create a Word document.
Call it “My Journal.doc” and save it on your desktop so you’ll know where to find it.

2. Start collecting important information in your e-journal.
Make a list of the things you want to keep handy. My advice: Pick a few key items and type (or copy and paste) them into your e-journal file. Here are some suggestions:

  • Your business plan (you do have a written one, don’t you?)
  • Your business procedures
  • A marketing calendar/schedule
  • Conference/meeting notes
  • Goals and objectives
  • Mission and values
  • Sales ideas
  • Best practices
  • Computer instructions
  • Performance review materials
  • Daily diary entries

3. Add and format headings.
As you add material to your e-journal, type a brief heading describing what it is. It’ll make things easier to read if you insert a blank line between each heading and the notes they cover.

Click on each heading you add, then press and hold “Ctrl” + “Alt” + “1” on your keyboard simultaneously. This keyboard shortcut will change the text style of that line from “Normal” to what Word calls its “Heading 1” style; you should notice the size and font type of that text change.

4. Insert a table of contents.
Building a table of contents (TOC) is essential to making your e-journal the powerful information management tool it can be. Word’s TOC function allows you to jump instantly from the TOC to any section within the file just by clicking on an item listed in the table. The benefit: Instead of plowing through pages of notes to find an idea you want to review, just scan your TOC and click on an item to jump right to it!

To include a TOC, move your cursor to the beginning of the file. (Pressing “Ctrl” + “Home” simultaneously on your keyboard is the fastest way to get there.) From Word’s main menu, click on the following choices: For Word 2002/XP: “Insert,” then “Reference,” then “Index” and “Tables.” For earlier versions of Word: “Insert,” then “Index” and “Tables.”

A small window will open on your screen; click on the tab labeled “Table of Contents,” then click on “OK.” Like magic, Word will create a TOC using whatever text you flagged as “Heading 1” and even include the page number of each entry.

5. Keep your TOC up-to-date.
As more entries go in your e-journal, you’ll want to update your TOC. After you have added new content, given it a heading and assigned the “Heading 1” style following the steps described above, click anywhere within the existing TOC and press “F9.”

A small dialog box will appear offering you two choices: “Update the page numbers only” or “Update the entire table.” Select “Update the entire table.” Once again, Word will magically adjust your TOC to reflect the additions you have made.

The key to success is to develop the habit of writing in, and regularly reviewing your e-journal. Good ideas are worthless unless you act on them, and you can’t do that if they are buried in a file cabinet. It may take you a few minutes to digest these instructions. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it easy to set up a Word file this way. Trust me, this is one worth learning.

Kip Gregory, principal of The Gregory Group, is a consultant, trainer and speaker on marketing, sales and technology issues. You can reach him at 202-364-6913 or by email at

Put your knowledge to work: Check out this month’s cover story, where Gregory shows you how to leverage technology to grow your business, and suggests you map out your business procedures with an electronic journal. If you’d like to see what a sample e-journal file looks like, complete the form at Put “AT cover story” in the Comments/Questions section.


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