Anyone that’s ever worked with me knows that I love giving people homework. I love making people write things down. When I give my athletes homework and ask them to write things down, most of them are willing participants in the process. But every once in a while I work with an athlete somehow keeps “forgetting” to do their homework, but really they just hate writing!
The act of writing gets a bad rap. The connotations invoked by the idea of writing stuff down often makes people think of:
- visions of homework they didn’t want to do (and certainly don’t want to do now)
- memories of time wasted at work
- images of 13-year-old girls writing the words “Dear Diary …” in a pink journals with a tiny “fool-proof” lock, recounting the boy troubles of the day (and yes – I’m quite certain I have a few of those entries in my journaling past)
- a list of excuses including but not limited to… my spelling is bad, my hand-writing is bad, and I don’t know what to say
However, when you’re an athlete, the other type of writing you might encounter has more to do with data and logs versus processing your feelings and emotions. But even some of you out there would rather not have to write out your data and logs as well. If you’ve been on the fence about writing things down, here are three compelling reasons why you should consider making it happen:
1) Your memory isn’t reliable
You can’t just rely on your memory when you’re trying to recall how you performed at a specific competition. When trying to recall a past memory it’s more like our brain tries to re-create the story and there are many things that can affect the re-creation of a memory. Many times these stories are a re-creation of the emotions we felt and not an accurate depiction of what really happened. Writing things down ensures that you have a better record of the true event.
Not only does writing it down create a more accurate reflection of the events, but the physical act of writing causes your brain to bring it to the forefront of your mind, which makes you pay more attention to it and increases your chances of remembering it.
2) It’s like “feng shui” for your brain
Writing stuff down often helps you clear the “clutter” out of your mind. Through the act of writing you process what’s actually important and what isn’t, which is why people often feel lighter when they’re done. If you have a lot on your mind as you’re going into practice or competition – you can “write-it-out”, as in write it down and get it out of your head so you can save that energy. When the clutter is gone it allows space for more higher-level and creative thinking.
Writing can also help shift your emotional state and bring you back into the present moment. If you’re upset about how something went down and you need to regroup and move on to your next performance, writing things out can help you let go and move forward (Try out the “Incident Report” worksheet from Chapter 9).
3) It makes your experience “real”
Once you’ve written something down, you’ve created something tangible. By putting pen to paper you’ve solidified your experience.
It can also increase your feeling of commitment to whatever it is that you wrote down. For example, writing out your Post-Competition Evaluation (check out the worksheets from Chapter 8) can help solidify accurate attributions for your successes, which enhances your expectations for future success and can also solidify what you learned from the experience so you can improve upon it moving forward. Writing things down moves you from going through the motions to building on each performance.
“But Carrie … what if I don’t like writing stuff down?”
Guess what? You don’t have to! But if you kind of want to, yet somehow keep not doing it, here are some tips:
- Keep it simple
- Make it easy
- Do what works for you
If you’d rather do it on the computer, then do it on the computer (although studies do show that handwriting is better for learning). If you’d rather write with pen and paper, then write with pen and paper. If you’d rather not type or write at all, then get a program like Dragon Dictate to do it for you. If creating a template makes it more likely that you’ll fill it out, then create a template. Just pick one thing and try it out. Do a couple of the mental skills training worksheets or commit to writing out post-competition evaluations. Or if you do want to log more regularly, you can create “recovery” from logging as well. Give yourself two days off a week or one week off a month from logging. Figure out what works for you.