How can you begin to benefit from the deliberate practice of journaling?
Many of us have kept a journal, however briefly, at some point in our lives. But it’s entirely possible for you to be interested in this question without having one at the moment.
Before proceeding, see if you can unearth your old journals. Or if you don’t have any, save this post and start journaling in the way that seems most natural to you. Then come back after a few weeks.
What kind of journal do you have right now, and what does it say about you? These are the first questions to answer before you can benefit from approaching the activity with intent.
Finding your default
People keep different kinds of journals. They often serve as tools for organization; the bullet journal, for instance, is a popular way to stay on top of your to-do lists. For the creatives, the decoration is as important as what’s written down; they embellish pages with gold foil paper and illustrations, giving particular attention to the layout and use of color.
If you’re working on a specific skill or getting into a hobby, you might have come up with a journal written along those lines. It could be the place where you flesh out your ideas for creative story writing. Or maybe you write down ingredients and steps for a recipe or the tools and materials you’ll need for a DIY project, along with pictures of the finished product.
A lot of people simply keep journals to reflect on what’s happened in their lives. The entries can be as mundane as what they had for each meal, or the conversations they had or things they did at work. They might record the milestones of growing children, or remind them of small acts of kindness for which they should be grateful.
There are many other types of journals, in between and beyond these examples. Yours might even be a hybrid of these. There’s no wrong or right way to journal, either in terms of content or execution. But how you’ve been going about it thus far reflects your default approach to the practice. It offers insight into how you can take things further or complement what you’ve been doing.
Going beyond and optimizing
Did you use your journal effectively as an outlet for frustration, putting negative emotions into words and expressing anxiety about the events in your life? In a way, it can be like having access to a pocket therapist. But those reflections need to prompt further action. Have you been able to analyze the root of the problem and address it? If not, the source of negativity will never go away.
Maybe your creative journal has been a satisfying way to deliver your imagination onto the tangible page. But what about channeling that same power towards other aspects of life? For instance, better nutrition or exercise. You could keep a second journal devoted to fitness, or add to the existing content artistically.
The medium of your journal can also be more or less optimal for its intended purpose. Research has found that handwriting can improve certain types of knowledge acquisition. Even though it’s fast and easy to save clippings from the internet in your app of choice, you’ll learn more effectively if you write notes by hand.
On the flip side, note-taking apps are a breeze to use on the go and sync across all your devices. You can jot down ideas on the bus or subway where handwriting wouldn’t be feasible, and flesh them out later on your laptop. Knowing the pros and cons of your options will let you maximize your journaling practice.
Evolving and moving on
No matter what sort of journal you create, it’s a powerful tool to help you cope with challenges, big or small. But those things also change over time. Your journal should evolve accordingly.
Younger people are still trying to navigate their way through their jobs, financial concerns, and relationships. They need to make sense of a lot of stuff and improve in many aspects. Journaling can help in those efforts.
As we grow older, we face different obstacles. Maybe you’re slowing down and finding time to read books or appreciate art. You could be raising kids or thinking about the sort of legacy you’ll leave behind.
The practice of journaling is always beneficial in some way, but the journal itself should be an ephemeral creation. Keep it as a private space for productive reflection. But feel free to throw it away and start anew, or take a break. Detachment and letting go of your past thoughts are just as essential to the whole process. They show you that you’ve moved on.
Meta title: Keep a More Effective Journal by Improving on Your Default
Meta description: If you’re interested in the practice of journaling and want to better harness its benefits, here’s how you can start by reviewing your default and taking it forward.