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5 Kick-Ass Reasons to Use a Journal, and How to Do It


5 Kick-Ass Reasons to Use a Journal, and How to Do It
Image by dro!d (license).

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior”
Christina Baldwin

One of the most powerful tools to aid your own personal growth is keeping a journal.

I prefer to do this on my computer and use the Journal by David RM (45 day free demo, 39.95 dollars to buy). It’s easy to use, a simple layout and it also has password protection. You may prefer some kind of the dead tree variety or another program. I prefer the software option. When I have all my thoughts in one piece of software instead of a handful of large notebooks it becomes easier to make connections and find what you are looking for in your archives.

But why is it helpful to take the time to use a journal in the first place? Here are five of my top reasons.

  1. Increased clarity when solving problems. You can’t hold that many thoughts in your head at once. If you want to solve a problem it can be helpful to write down your thoughts, facts and feelings about it. Then you don’t have to worry your mind about remembering, you can instead use it to think more clearly. Thinking on paper makes it easier to think things through, find valuable details and weak spots in your current problems. This makes it easier find useful solutions to your challenges.
  1. To remember important events and insights in life. Just recording the important things that happens in your everyday life is fun and fascinating. Or sometimes painful and revealing. If you don’t write it down then the details, the nuances, the emotions may lose some of their power or simply wind up lost forever somewhere in your brain.
  1. To talk it out with someone. A journal can be good place to vent and unburden yourself. A place to unload mental RAM and get some emotional release. Your journal can be like a conversation partner that you can talk things through with. This might sound silly but this can be very beneficial. It is, in my opinion, one of the most important reasons to keep a journal. If you do it you may find that you become more relaxed and feel lighter after getting things out and down on paper.
  1. To bring thoughts into reality. If you don’t write things down it can seem as they are not quite real. When you write them down you bring them out into reality. They are not just some vague thoughts floating around in your mind anymore. For example, one thing a lot of very successful self improvement writers – Anthony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar and so on – go on and on about is the importance of having written goals. A written goal brings clarity and focus. It gives you a direction. And if you rewrite your goals over and over you not only reaffirm what your goals are. You may also find new insights that bring more clarity and focus to your goals and life.
  1. An overview of how things really are. You can use a journal as a way to keep an overview of your thinking over a longer time span and to recognize both positives and negatives in yourself. You may, for example, think of yourself as a healthy person but realise when you read through your journal that you have only been out running four times this month. Or feel like you have a positive attitude, but as you go back over the last few months find a lot of whining and victim thinking. You may also find positive surprises about yourself while rereading and analyzing. The journal allows you to see how things really are. Rather than the way you think they are.

How to Use Your Journal.

Here are a few quick tips that have helped me to use my journal in better way.

Write down your memories while they are fresh.

If something interesting happens I write it down as an entry for that day in my journal. Details and emotions will start to degrade so capture them quickly.

Think about how you want to use it.

The Journal software has more than a space for an entry each day. You can also create entries in a notebook section. I use a few of these to aid my personal growth. The most important is the one I call “Sticking Points”. There I write down problems that come up for me personally time after time. And then I try to come up with solutions.

One example would be that I some days can fall into the pattern being pretty unproductive. The solution I use for this is to set the context for my day quickly after I wake up. I do something important early on in the day and then it becomes more natural to be consistent with that mental state for the rest of the day. And so that day becomes a lot more productive than it would have been otherwise.

Think about in what ways you want to use your own journal. Perhaps your want to use it to analyze your personal finances. Or your relationships to other people. Or to document what you are eating on a day to day basis. Find out what you want answers for.

Actually use it.

You get good stuff out of your journal based on what you put in it. So set off some time, perhaps 5 minutes before going to bed. Or 10 minutes every Sunday night to review your week and write down what happened, what you thought and felt and problems and positive things you discovered. Not matter how you want to use it, use common sense so you don’t fill your journal with every little detail of your life. Or wind up leaving it unused after the first week of initial enthusiasm.

Actually review it.

Remember to go through your archives on a regular basis to explore yourself and also other people more deeply. And to find patterns in your world, self-talk, attitude and in other vital parts of life.

What are your best tips for using your journal in a more helpful way?

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  • tucker July 13, 2009, 4:09 pm

    nice article — and i’m intrigued by the journal software you mentioned.
    for anyone who has a blackberry or is thinking about getting one, i strongly recommend it even if only for keeping an electronic journal (i’m sure an iphone would serve just as well).
    i’m on the go a lot, and am constantly thinking. so when an idea pops into my head, i just add it to one of my many lists in my blackberry memopad.
    the first list, for example, is a to-do list. others include things to learn, good ideas, dreams, books to read, activities, etc. pretty much anything that i value and want to remember i write down. i then type them up on my computer every once in a while which gives me a permanent record and also allows me to weed out some of the less noteworthy material.
    i’ve found this is a great way to express myself and keep my mind clear for the everyday tasks of real life. a traditional journal is great too, but like henrik said, you have to keep track of a bunch of paper if you chose that route. and if you write down as much stuff as i do, it can be a burden and even a buzz kill around your friends.