Just open any given site that publishes articles on personal growth, and you will find at least one article that says: Why Keeping A Journal Will Change Your Life. A journal is truly one of the best self-improvement tools there is.
When I talk to friends, or when I coach people, I always ask: “Do you keep a journal?”
This probably won’t surprise you, but the answer is almost always “No.”
And the funny thing is that everyone knows that they should keep one. But it should is not enough. There are a lot of things that we should do—but we don’t do them.
Why? We have no idea HOW to do them. It’s just like when you were in school. Do you remember all those times you had a question on your mind but you didn’t ask? You probably thought: “Maybe the teacher thinks I’m dumb.”
Well, this is exactly the same. We all think that journaling is easy so we don’t bother asking how you do it. It’s not easy, but it’s also not rocket science.
Most people overcomplicate the act of journaling or putting your thoughts on paper. I think Ernest Hemingway put it best:
“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”
But how do you do that?
First, get clear on your why
For me, there’s only one reason to keep a journal: To manage myself.
That’s the only practical reason I can think of. Why else would you keep a journal? It’s not that my life is so interesting that I can ever sell it as a memoir. I’m no John Krakauer or Maya Angelou.
No, I see journaling as a self-improvement tool. Nothing else.
Most of us still see journaling as a hobby or something that we do for fun or to relax. Sure, those reasons might be true for some. But for most, there’s only one why: Self-improvement.
How do you expect to improve yourself if you don’t know yourself? You truly get to know the quality of your thoughts when you write them down.
- Do you know how good of a thinker you are?
- Do your decisions make sense?
- How do you even make decisions?
- Why do you do what you do?
- When are you productive?
- When are you not productive?
You can answer all these questions by reading your journal. Don’t know what to write? Here are 3 ideas.
1. Journal about your activities
Just write what you’ve been doing. You can either do it in the morning or evening.
It doesn’t matter when you do, just try to write about what you’ve done during the past 24 hours. It’s not the same as an activity log, something I wrote about recently.
When I journal about my activities, I record what time I went to bed, what time I woke up, what I worked on, who I talked to, what book I read, etc.
When I lack inspiration or motivation, I just go through my journal and see when I was inspired, felt energized, or motivated. Then, I recreate those events. Here are a few journaling prompts you can ask yourself to get started:
- What time did you wake up today?
- What was the first thing you did?
- What did you have for breakfast?
- How did you feel during the morning?
- What did you work on today? How did it go?
- What book are you reading? What do you think about it?
These are all straightforward questions we can all ask ourselves. We all woke up today, ate something, etc. Writing about these activities will get you started. And that’s one of the most important things about journaling.
“Don’t trust your memory. When you listen to something valuable, write it down. When you come across something important, write it down.” — Jim Rohn
2. Journal about what scares you
There’s no better way to address your worries than writing about them. If you worry about something, it seems way worse in your head.
When you start writing down what you’re stressed about, you can start thinking about how you’re going to solve the problem that’s causing you stress in the first place.
I’ve been journaling about my fears for a long time now. And it truly helps. If you want to read more about that process, check out this article I wrote a while back. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- What something that’s lingering in your mind?
- Why does that thing make you feel uncomfortable?
- What did you worry about today?
- What can you do to address your worries?
The point of journaling about what scares you is to think on paper. Often, we worry about things we have no control over. When we only think about it, we don’t realize that we’re wasting our time. But when you write about what worries you, it becomes very obvious.
Ultimately, you want to create a plan to address your worries. Let’s say you’re worried about your financial situation. Think about all the ways you can generate extra income. Put all your ideas on paper and then start working on them.
“The act of writing is the act of discovering what you believe.” — David Hare
3. Journal about your decisions
Use your journal as a feedback mechanism by second-guessing your own decisions. Making decisions is hard. For example:
- “Should I quit my job?”
- “Should I take this job?”
- “Should I end my relationship?”
Those are examples of big decisions. But you can also use it for all the small decisions in life.
- “Should I go out tonight or should I work on my business?”
- “Does this UX design work or not?”
Deep down, we kind of know the answers. We just don’t look deep enough. Ask yourself a question and try to answer it by reasoning from multiple sides. What are the pros? What are the cons? What are the outcomes?
The questions you can ask yourself are endless. There you have it. Do you see? It’s not complicated stuff.
Journaling is a very versatile tool. It helps you with your self-awareness, and it also helps you to improve yourself. If you’re serious about those things, a journal is a must.
Now, all you have to do is open a new page in your physical journal, or a document in your digital journal, and start writing:
“Today is the first day of my daily journaling habit.”
There’s this weird thing—when you write things down, they become real. Start journaling and see it for yourself.
There is a profound vulnerability that comes with
putting your deepest feelings in black and white.
Here are six ways that people who keep personal
journals and diaries have handled the issue of privacy. See if you can combine
these ideas in a way that makes you feel comfortable keeping your own honest
Some Ideas to Keep Your Diary Safe
1. Start each journal with a blank page or
a page that indicates your desire for the journal to not be read.
2. Use abbreviations or shorthand when you
need to. If you are writing about a particularly negative situation or thought,
use first initials or code words to portray the people involved.
3. Keep your journal on your personal
computer, if that works for you. You might want to get in the habit of reading
the journal through at the end of each year and recording the insights you get
from such a process and then deleting the diary file itself. For active journal
entries (ie. the present year’s diary) password protect the file on your PC so
no one can access it but you.
4. If you don’t like to journal via the
computer, you can still get rid of the journal or the year’s journal pages
(through some method of destruction) after each year if that makes you feel
more comfortable. Just make sure you go through it to get out the good stuff
before you do so. You can even delete/shred the journal pages on a more
frequently basis: monthly, perhaps.
Of course, if you do this, you’ll miss out on the
insights you could gain from reading your journal years down the road. This can
be a really beneficial part of the journaling process because you can see how
much you have grown and changed. That said, it’s a process I don’t recommend,
but if it is the only way you feel comfortable journaling, it might be worth it
5. Keep in mind that your journal is
recording your emotional truth, as it is at the time at which you are writing
it. If something were to happen to you and your closest loved ones read your
journal, they would likely see a portrait of you. We all have these dark
thoughts and dark times. If someone who loves you were to read it, it might
create even a deeper intimacy between you. Another thing to keep in mind: your
journal may be much more positive than you think. Go back and read your journal
as though through someone else’s eyes. How do you feel about the person that
your journal portrays? We often think that so much of our journal is negative
when that is often not the case.
6. Use your fear about your journal being
read to gain insight into where you might not be acting completely
authentically in your relationships. If you are terrified that your best friend
would someday read your journal, ask yourself if there is something about your
relationship with your best friend that isn’t being said. Could your
relationship with her improve if you showed more of your true feelings?
Nothing makes the journaling process totally
secure, but you want to make sure you are comfortable enough with your own
level of privacy (and your own system for guaranteeing that privacy) that you
continue to journal.
Quick! Name something that can make you feel happier and more productive and inspires creativity. Your first thought might have been “a hot cup of coffee” – and okay, that’s valid. But did you know that keeping a writing journal has the same benefits and they last long after the caffeine buzz has worn off?
Why Keep a Writing Journal
A writing journal can be an essential part of a fiction writer’s toolkit. (Journaling also has surprising emotional and physical health benefits .) Whether you use an app on your phone, a battered notebook you picked up at the dollar store, or a handmade bespoke leather-bound diary, your journal is a safe place to store, develop, and play with writing ideas. The type of journal you use is far less important than how often you use it.
Keeping a journal can help you:
- Store ideas
- Generate inspiration
- Record your thoughts and feelings
- Play with different forms, tones, and styles in your writing
- Forge a sense of identity: ‘I am a writer. See, I have a journal!’
Don’t underestimate the power of that last point. If you see yourself as an amateur writer, telling yourself that what you write doesn’t really matter and by default isn’t good, then the writing you produce might not speak to your potential. But if you see yourself as an author, then gifting yourself a tool like a journal reminds you daily that your ideas are worth looking after.
What to Put in a Writing Journal
Journals are, by nature, a very personal resource—use one in whatever way works best for you. Here are the most common things a writer might put down in their journal.
- Revelations. It’s 3 a.m. and you just thought of the most amazing plot twist for your novel-in-progress. No, you won’t remember it in the morning. Write it down!
- Brainstorming. Choose a topic and just down as many ideas as you can within a brief, set time limit. Go!
- Your deepest thoughts and feelings. Emotion is the cornerstone of good fiction writing. Recording your own feelings will help you when you’re trying to build relatable characters and themes.
- Character development. When your characters speak, listen! And record what they say.
- Descriptions. Sketch locations and settings, characters, and important objects.
- Storyboards. Map out ideas you can visualize but haven’t found words for yet.
- Half-formed and outlandish ideas. Capture everything! And remind yourself that although only some ideas are worth acting on, all ideas come from a place of inspiration . . . and that’s good.
How to Keep a Writing Journal
You don’t need any complicated rules to follow, you only need to write. Of course, a little structure could help you feel more motivated. Here are a few pointers to consider.
- Aim to write by hand whenever possible. There are a number of studied benefits of writing by hand (as opposed to typing). The practice could even help you produce better quality writing.
- Write for twenty minutes every day. Yes, journals are great for recording quick thoughts or ideas, but regular journaling will keep your mental writing muscles limber. Make a habit of grabbing twenty minutes per day to write in your journal.
- Write about things that challenge you. What scares you? What makes you laugh or cry? Ask yourself tough questions and then follow them. That’s where the energy is!
- Time yourself. Try freewriting. Choose a subject, set a time limit (say, the aforementioned 20 minutes), and write without stopping to think or edit. Tell yourself before you even begin that whatever you write is going to be nonsense, and then let the nonsense flow. Within, you’re sure to find golden nuggets of wisdom you never knew you had. Use those nuggets in your fiction writing.
- Try a little up-front organization. You could separate your journal with tabs for Ideas (anything that pops into your head), Observations (things you note when you’re out and about or people-watching), and Scribbles (your imaginative playground where anything goes.)
- Be free. Honestly, there are no rules. Do what you want. Write a bucket list, daydream in text, doodle a picture, keep track of your daily activities and feelings, record interesting snippets of conversation. Nothing’s off the table, and none of it has to make sense. That’s the beauty of it!
Commit to your writing . . . daily.
Consistency and persistence are two essential qualities for a successful writer. That’s why daily writing is so important. A journal helps facilitate that, even when you don’t have a project in the works. In fact, your journal just might provide the inspiration and momentum for your next fiction writing challenge!
PRO TIP: If you forget to write, set a calendar reminder on your smartphone. Keep the reminder active until you’ve made daily writing a habit.
Journaling exercises your brain and gets you used to thinking about words, imagining characters, and considering the shape of stories. Most importantly, it makes writing a habit that becomes a central part of who you are.
A strong writer is one who writes something every day.
Where to Get Writing Journal Ideas
A blank page! Oh no! Once you get into the routine of writing in your journal each day, this fear will go away. But if you ever get stuck, here are a few ideas to get you moving again.
- Where are you? Describe the location as if you’ve never seen it before. Find interesting details. Use your senses.
- Make lists. Your favorite words. Your favorite foods. Your favorite dog breeds. Your favorite wines. Anything goes!
- What books do you wish you’d written? Why?
- Write in the first person as one of your characters. What would they think if they were looking around your location right now?
- Try a poem – writing haiku is a nice challenge to get you thinking about syllables and the rhythm of words.
- Write a story in exactly 50 words. Choose one of these prompts: Fire. Magpie. Broken. Red. Mist.
- Write a logline (one-sentence summary) for a story you’ve written.
- What will your author’s biography be inside of your novel’s back cover? Write a current one. Now imagine a future you who has become a huge publishing success. What does that bio look like?
- Describe the house you lived in when you were ten in third person POV. Get both the physical and the emotional details down.
- Try any one of a zillion writing prompts available online, like these from Poets & Writers , or this Instagram writing prompt feed .
Is journaling part of your writing life? If not, are you thinking about starting a journal? Talk about journaling, and your methods for getting your daily writing dose, in the comments below!
Keeping a journal is a great idea—and not just for aspiring novelists and 15-year-old girls. And I’m not referring to the public online journals that many of us (myself included) keep—though there’s value in those, too. I’m talking about a private, intimate journal; a daily record of your experiences and observations, particularly at work.
This type of journal is an unexpectedly great way to help you work through issues, analyze where you’re at in your job, and grow in your career. In fact, consider it the easiest (and cheapest) form of professional development you can find!
So, go pick out a new notebook or journal, and get started writing—for these six reasons and more.
1. Log Good Ideas
Brilliance doesn’t always strike when it’s most convenient. In fact, your next great workplace idea might occur before bed, as you’re cooking dinner, or—as mine often do—when you’re in the shower (like I said, not convenient).
But don’t let those ideas fall by the wayside simply because you didn’t think of them between 9 and 5. With a journal on hand, you can write thoughts down when they come to you and make a note to share them with your boss or team. You might also find that, when you jot down one idea, a few more come to you.
2. Learn Your Lessons
There’s little value in going through experiences, both good and bad, if you can’t learn from them. So, whether you totally nailed a client meeting or totally stumbled through a presentation, don’t forget to take note of the lesson. By writing down what you’ve been through, noting what worked and what didn’t, and analyzing what might help you in the future, you’ll set yourself up for much greater professional success.
3. List Good Advice From Mentors
There are undoubtedly people in your career, both inside and outside your office, who provide you with invaluable feedback and advice. And you know what’s even more valuable than getting that advice? Remembering it when you need it most.
So, when you get great guidance from a mentor, manager, or peer, write it down and use it as a resource when you’re struggling or looking for a bit of inspiration. It’s likely you’ll want to remember their words of wisdom for the rest of your career—and maybe even pass it on to your own mentee one day.
4. Vent (in a Safe Space)
Did you get a passive-aggressive, condescending, or downright hostile email today? Did a client yell at you for something that was out of your control? There’s no more perfect place to vent your workplace frustrations than in the privacy of your own journal. (In fact, sometimes that’s the only place you should be venting your frustrations!) I don’t mean to say that you should keep all negative feelings and experiences bottled up inside, but getting some of the little, day-to-day stuff off your chest, privately, is often the most therapeutic and safe way to move past your dissatisfaction.
In your journal, jot down the response you really wanted to send to that colleague or client. Read it a few more times if you want, then let it go.
5. Collect Compliments
It may feel a little self-absorbed, but there’s no better place to keep track of the compliments and praise you’ve received than in your personal journal. The value of this is twofold: First, it allows you to quickly remember the great things people have said about you when you need to provide a testimonial of your work, and second, it also acts as a quick and easy morale boost on days that seem harder than others. If you’re being praised at work, it’s likely because you did something right. It’s okay to relish that!
6. Envision the Future
Use the work you’re doing now to envision what you want to do (and can do!) in the future. In The How of Happiness, researcher and professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky says that spending 20 minutes each day writing a narrative description of your “best possible future self” can help cultivate optimism and an overall sense of happiness. This exercise, which involves “considering your most important, deeply held goals and picturing that they will be achieved” is a valuable workplace exercise as well.
Instead of becoming stuck in your routine, think (and write) about opportunities you see for growth. Then use this narrative to help build a roadmap. Now that you know where you want to go, how can you get there?
We’ve all gotten good at sharing publicly—we post our thoughts on public forums, share them at lunch across from our favorite co-workers, and tweet them out to the world. But by sharing your career experiences and your thoughts in a private space, you’re in a better position to analyze your profession, reflect upon your experiences and goals, and plan for next steps as you grow in your career. I hope you’ll start writing today!
This article was originally published on The Daily Muse. For more on professional (and personal) development, check out:
Last update: 04 June, 2018
I spent a long time investigating how to create a mood journal. However, no matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find anything. There was a lot of theory, but I didn’t know where to start. There weren’t any examples anywhere. So, I decided to grab my own notebook and start to manage my emotions my way. The experience was so positive that today I am going to share it with you.
You can keep a mood journal by writing your emotions down exactly as you feel them. However, emotions tend to be disorganized and doing it like this can be chaotic, which isn’t helpful. Personally, I am a visual person and I like visual aids. This helps me use just the right amount of words, to be concise, and not beat around the bush.
You can write every day if you need to. Or just write when you feel the need. The important thing to remember is that your mood journal isn’t just for negative emotions like anger, frustration, and anxiety.
It is also for positive emotions like happiness, euphoria, and joy. This will help you get to know yourself on a deeper level. It will give you a jump-start in the beautiful process of attaining emotional intelligence.
Steps to making a mood journal
To create a mood journal, the first step is to get a notebook dedicated for this purpose alone. That way you don’t have your notes all scattered around in different places. When they are all in one place, you can return to your mood journal whenever you need to and analyze them from a different perspective.
Once you have a notebook, it’s time to begin. When you’re writing, you should be calm, alone, and not in a hurry. That way it will be easier to connect to your emotions and listen to what they have to tell you.
One of the ways to make your mood journal is like this: draw four columns with four titles. The titles should be situation, emotion, response, and suggestions. Let’s take a look:
This is an example of how a person might react to a particular situation. In this case, the situation is speaking in public. The person explains step-by-step how they feel, what emotions they have, how they react, and what suggestions they have to resolve the situation. As you can see, this is a simple, clear, and concise way to manage your mood.
Managing your emotions is good for you
Writing in your mood journal consistently will help you understand yourself better. You will be able to identify the problem areas in your life and notice which emotion comes up the most. Is it fear, or maybe insecurity? Being aware of it will help you come up with suggestions so that you can put them into practice and not just leave them on the page.
If you are a person with a lot of obsessive thought patterns, a mood journal can help you stop them. You’ll realize that analyzing and reflecting on events will make you feel much better. You’ll be flooded with a pleasant sensation of health and well-being. You can manage the positive emotions that you have too.It will enable you to focus your attention on all the good things that happen in your life. Here’s another example:
|Getting a promotion at work||Joy||Relaxation||Share with others|
Now you have all the tools and visual examples you need to make a mood journal. Your journal can help you deal with your emotions better. However, there’s no one perfect way to do it. You can add other columns if you think you need them, or take one away that you don’t need. It is your mood journal; make it into what you need. Happy writing!
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Simple is the Key: How to Keep a Prayer Journal
As with every daily practice, there are many ways to make keeping a prayer journal more detailed or in-depth. I’m going to share with you how to keep a prayer journal that you will actually be able to stick with.
These first 3 steps are a basic outline of what I do each and every day—no matter what.
This is my quiet time with the Lord. And what I never realized before was that every single person has equal access to this open line of communication with God. You don’t need to attend seminary school or be baptized.
Anyone can talk to the Lord and He will talk back–you just have to be willing to listen.
A Wandering Mind
Some people can simply pray in their mind and talk to God that way, but I get way too distracted and start thinking about my grocery list or how I need to shave my legs. My mind always wanders.
Writing out my prayers has brought about a freedom in my relationship with Christ that I longed for but never knew if it was really possible.
Having a pen in my hand, determined to create sentences—that is what keeps my brain focused on the prayer—on writing the very next word.
Basic/Daily Prayer Journal Format:
Open with prayer. Ask the Lord to guide your mind to a piece of scripture, a memory, a sermon, a song, or a friend.
Begin writing—“Father, what do you want me to know about _________?” or “I am sensing that I am supposed to pray about ___________.” I try to stay in the Spirit at this point—allowing Him to guide my thoughts and I write whatever comes to mind. I keep writing until I’m done.
At this point, I usually have a good idea where God wants me to go and I’ve written my initial thoughts out. Sometimes it’s a couple pages and sometimes it’s a brief paragraph.
There have been many times where it’s just a word or a name and I’m stuck. When that happens I talk to God about why I might be stuck there. What is He trying to teach me? Why is He keeping me here?
(It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to keep a prayer journal.)
I almost always like to find one or more verses that correspond with my prayer. I do this to make sure that there is Biblical truth in what I wrote—kind of like a way to check myself.
You Can’t be Stopped
Do not let fear or doubt stop you from this awesome form of worship. Fear that you’ll do it all wrong or doubt that it will even work.
That is the enemy talking–he doesn’t want to see you magnify the Father and marvel at God’s glory through your writing.
“Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.”
If you’re just starting out or you’re feeling stuck or uninspired–check out my list of prompts for your first 30 days of prayer journaling. Oh and I also have a list of 10 things you can track in your prayer journal. If you’re wondering what some of my favorite prayer journal tools are–check out this post!
As a senior editor at Penguin and a life coach for creatives, I meet a lot of writers. Most who cross my path either keep a journal or feel guilty about not keeping one.
It’s okay not to keep a journal. Like cilantro or Gwyneth Paltrow, writing in a journal simply isn’t for everyone—and there’s nothing wrong with that.
This guest post is by Kendra Levin. Levin helps writers and other creative artists meet their goals and connect more deeply with their work and themselves. She is a certified life coach, as well as a senior editor at penguin, teacher, and author of The Hero Is You.
But if you’re one of those writers who’s been meaning to start a journal for years but doesn’t get inspired by the idea of stream-of-consciousness-ing your thoughts each day, you may not have found the right format for you.
Here are five ways to keep a journal that are especially suited to writers:
1. Do it Steinbeck-style
When writing The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck kept a journal chronicling his progress on the novel. Each time he sat down to work, he’d also record his experiences—his hopes, fears, anxieties, and so on—in the journal, which functioned as a kind of companion to his manuscript. Learn more about his journal, which came to be called Working Days, here or even read the journal yourself. Try keeping a journal that you write a few sentences in each time you sit down to work.
2. Big-picture it
Potter Style makes a journal called Q&A a Day that asks you a different question every day. The prompts are fun, but what makes this type of journal interesting is that you use it for five years. So not only do you answer a question each day, but you also get to see what your answers were in the past. This provides a zoomed-out perspective, and the fact that you get a reading and writing experience puts your brain to work in different ways than if you were only jotting down your thoughts. You can buy this kind of journal pre-made or DIY with a blank book or digital doc.
3. Tweet a poem
If short-form is your preferred writing style, Twitter is your friend—and so is capsule journal writing. Boil each day into one pithy sentence (no character-counting required) that sums up everything you want to remember or express about the past twenty-four hours. At the end of each week, combine all the sentences—feel free to rearrange as needed—to create a poem. By the end of the year, you’ll have a collection of fifty-two poems.
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If your reaction to the idea of keeping a journal is, Hey, I already spend all day writing—the last thing I need is one more assignment! then this one might be for you. Take a few minutes to think about the past twenty-four hours or seven days. As you contemplate your recent experiences, jot down any relevant words or phrases pop into your mind without trying to connect them to one another. In this adaptation of the psychoanalytic method of free association, there are no rules except to write down whatever comes into your head. If you keep this type of journal digitally, it can be revealing to use a word cloud tool to see what words come up most frequently for you during certain periods of your life.
Try choosing one moment from your day or week to write about in your journal. It can be one of high emotion when something major happened, or one that was more introspective. What matters is that you describe your chosen moment with lots of detail, as if it were a scene in a work of fiction or memoir. Dig into your five senses and create a fully fleshed-out snapshot that takes your imaginary readers and places them right there.
If one of these methods appeals to you, start today. Don’t wait for the New Year or some other milestone. Some tips on how to get started:
Want to write in your journal every day? Do it at the same time as something you already do daily. Do you take a medication, supplement, or vitamin? Tie your journal to when you take it. Connecting your journal-writing habit to any daily habit will help you make it part of your routine. This is why many daily journal-keepers write first thing in the morning or right before bed.
Want to write in your journal once a week or once a month? Pick a day when you’re most likely to have a reliably consistent schedule, and block out as much time as you expect to need—I’d suggest ten minutes to an hour. Book that chunk of time in your calendar as a recurring event and set a reminder. Share your plan with an accountability partner and agree to hold each other to stick to these appointments.
Want to write in your journal once a year? Set aside at least an hour on a day that is meaningful to you—it might be the day before your birthday, or close to whatever New Year resonates most with you (Gregorian, Jewish, Chinese). Think about what you want this journal entry to be: retrospective, goal-oriented, creative? Search ahead of time for questions, prompts, or other nudges that give you a jumpstart. As a way to remind yourself to keep this tradition, send your journal entry as a timed email to arrive in your own inbox one year later.
We rely on technology for nearly every activity in our lives, from scheduling our days, organizing tasks and projects, keeping track of contacts and even tracking your favorite craft beer.
While I am no different than most — addicted to my iPhone and employing a number of apps every day — I am also still partly stuck in the 1990s with my written journal, which I use daily to manage tasks and record activities and thoughts.
In meetings, people sometimes stare at it like a rare, prehistoric fossil.
After years of insecurity, however, I have finally found validation for my age-old journal habit. Recent research has demonstrated that taking notes by hand is better than taking notes electronically for remembering conceptual information over the long term. The findings were published in Psychological Science.
Does this mean that every entrepreneur needs to adopt a leather-bound journal and ditch their laptops? No, but if you find yourself tethered to your electronics, you might consider taking up a written journal as a means of helping you disconnect and refocus from time to time.
Here are a few tips to get started.
1. Invest in a good journal.
You are much more likely to keep and use a journal if you find one that is easy to use, reliable and does not embarrass you during company meetings. This means not settling for a cheap composition notebook — unless that is what you like — but rather “investing” in something that will encourage its use.
Consider a few of these options:
Moleskine. I have used Moleskine notebooks for years. It is small, sturdy and reliable, and I like that you can find it in a number of different sizes, colors and styles to meet your needs. On a side note, it is worth pointing out that the company’s fantastic performance since its IPO in 2013 is proof that the journal is alive and well in today’s digital world.
Passion Journal. After graduating from university in 2012, Angelia Trinidad launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a new type of journal to help young professionals find direction in life. While I prefer blank journals, the format of the Passion Journal is a great template for those just getting started.
The Bullet Journal. Organizing items, tasks and thoughts in your notebook can be a challenge and become redundant. Although everyone should have their own “system” for organizing, the Bullet Journal provides a great tutorial for a very effective method. If you find the tips useful, the founder, Ryder Carroll, will soon introduce a custom journal that integrates his organization methods.
2. Find the right pen.
For me, using a bad pen, such as a ball point pen (sorry Bic), is enough to make me chuck writing altogether. For that reason, I like to stick to a particular type of pen that not only writes well but feels great in my hand. Over the years, I have found that price is not an effective measure of usefulness, so experiment with a variety of writing tools until you find one you like.
These days, I use the new Sharpie non-bleed pens, which are affordable and write great.
3. Invest the time.
For those who have eliminating writing in their lives, getting started over again can be tough. Consider making it part of your routine, either in the morning when planning your day or in the evening when debriefing. Also, allow yourself a little time each week to free write or doodle, which has been shown to help improve focus and creativity.
4. Ditch perfection.
Lastly, you need the right expectation about a written journal. Your notebook is not meant to be a manuscript or memoir, but rather a place where you can “brain dump” ideas, organize your day and spark your creativity. It is not going to be a work of art archived in the Smithsonian, so don’t treat it as such.
A journal can be used for many different personal and professional tasks, but the one I find most beneficial is its ability to help you reflect. Because I have kept all my journals through the years in a box in my closet, I occasionally read one from the past. Doing so has helped me see the sad amount of time I have wasted on mundane tasks or stresses that eventually passed with time.
Being able to reflect in this way will put life in perspective and teach you to manage your time and be better focused on the things that matter most. This may well be the best reason of all to keep a journal.
Do you keep a journal? What tips do you have for others trying to create this great habit? Please share with others in the comments section below.