I’ve had a love-hate relationship with journaling for most of my life.
As with most things that involve following rules or strict schedules, I suck at writing regularly in a journal. On the other hand, I’ve always liked having a written record of my life to look back on. At some point (which came WAY too late), I finally realized that it doesn’t actually matter if you tell yourself you are going to write every day and you don’t write for 7 days… it’s your journal.
Who is going to know?
And more importantly, who is going to care?
These days, I target at least one entry a month in my annual master notebook (the one notebook I carry around that contains commentary, ideas, journal entries and writing on literally every aspect of my life… yes, I acknowledge I’m an organized person’s worst nightmare). If a month is particularly eventful or has an unusually high number of adventures, I’ll end up with more than one journal entry. If I have a particularly dull month, I might end up with less.
Now that I’ve finally figured out how to make it work for me, I’m actually a huge proponent of journaling… and here’s why.
Journaling Creates a Personal Record of Your Adventures
I’m not really sure at this point what I’ll do with all my journals, but I have this whimsical idea that at some point if I have a daughter (or niece, or goddaughter) I might be able to pass them down to her. Or maybe I’ll read through all my journals at some point and be inspired to write a memoir. Or maybe they’ll never serve any purpose to the outside world whatsoever.
And that will be fine.
Because I still like to know that I can read back through my journals and get a sense of what I was thinking, feeling and dreaming about at any given point in my life. I particularly like to read through past travel entries: a picture may be worth a thousand words, but it is nice to have some context to go with the thousands of travel photos I’ve taken over the past 10 years. In particular, I like being able to revisit the way I saw the world on my very first trip abroad, and on my first trip to Asia, and on my first solo trip… because it is the best way to see all that I’ve learned from traveling.
Journaling Helps You Spot Trends and Form Strategies
Each year, I kickoff my annual master notebook with an entry summarizing big events from the prior year and the goals I’m planning to pursue in the coming year. Naturally, before I define my goals, the first thing I do is read back through the notebook from the year before. This method of review was the way I realized that I had a priorities problem in 2017: most of my journal entries, particularly toward the end of last year, centered on the fact that my priorities felt out of balance.
So I defined my goals for 2018 based on that knowledge.
Whether you are journaling about your career, personal projects, relationships, goals, dreams, failures, success, or (like me) you just write about whatever combination of topics makes sense at the time, getting things on paper is helpful for spotting trends. You can think through a problem for as long as you want, but sometimes it is just easier to see patterns on the page than it is to see them in your head.
Journaling is Cheaper than Therapy
At some level, this last reason you should consider journaling is a combination of the previous two. While the title of this section is sarcastic to an extent, it also has an element of truth: your journal is one of the only places in your life (other than your therapists office, if you have one,) that you can be completely honest about the way you feel and the things that are making you feel that way. Yes, you can hash this out with friends or significant others, but let’s be honest… do you regularly go into hours worth of detail with other people over drinks or dinner about feeling unhappy, unmotivated, burnt out or depressed?
Most people don’t.
If you find yourself less happy than you want to be, but you haven’t really explored the reasons for that with anyone in person, a journal may be a good place to start. Most people I know are always busy doing things for other people (working for other people, spending time with other people, making sacrifices for other people)… so you may find it somewhat therapeutic to do something just for yourself. Even if it is something small, like take some time once a week to write a journal entry and just check in.
And because I want to end on a positive note: journals actually ARE cheaper than therapists.
Good for you, good for your budget.
That’s a win-win.