For the past two years I have been trying to keep a pretty regular daily journal. It’s a place where I put important things that happened, my thoughts and feelings on the current goings-on, and write to myself. I’ve found that the simple act of reflection through writing has helped me stay organized, stay sane, and come up with great ideas. It’s an easy habit to build.
Keeping a journal has lately been keeping me sane, among other things. It provides me a place to put memories I want to keep. It’s also a place where I can make sense of my day and assimilate and understand important thoughts. Keeping a journal can be a be kind of tedious, so I want to quickly explain how to make it easy.
Have a way to record things as they happen
You could do this in your cell phone, but I don’t. I keep a small notebook in my back left pocket (see above), and a pen in my front right. When something interesting happens, or if I’m momentarily bored, I pull it out and jot things down. This has become second nature to me — I am always pulling my notebook out. If you see me do this when we’re talking, it means you’re saying something good, or you gave me a good idea. If I don’t, that means … eh don’t take it personally.
These are just little bullet points like
- “Saw a man who looked crazy, waving at the jail.”
- “Just learned: Americans over 50 lose their teeth”
- “Find out what that plant is called with all the leaves on it” (this one I never did figure out)
The points here ought to make it into my journal (the notebook is not the journal) and I should feel comfortable throwing it out when it’s full.
Type it up at the end of the day, or write it more formally
This is the key part of the journal. Every night before I go to bed I pull out my tablet and spend 10 minutes writing down my day. I peek in the notebook for the bullets and see if they still matter to me. If they do, I write about them. If not, I ignore them. When it’s full, I toss out the notebook.
I use this format, the computer, to write more. To emote on the things that happened — why did that lady yelling at that kid bug me? What could I do better at work for so-and-so? What was it about that sandwich that made me go nuts?
My format is simple. I have a folder in Google Drive called “Dailies”. I title each one with YYYY-MM-DD, so todays will be “2019–04–25”. That way I can sort them by name and see them forwards and backwards. I also use Drive because you can search for content in there like “Art Museum” or “screaming street man”. I’m to the stage now where I like to go back and click through at random, just to see what I had going on. Christmas day, vacation, whatever.
To reiterate the value
If you keep a journal and take it semi-seriously, here are some things I can promise you:
- You will remember cool stuff that happened to you
- You will understand your days and your behaviors better
- You will understand the people you interact with better
- You will have great ideas
- You won’t not have a journal
- You will see patterns in the chaos
- Your buddies will think you’re a nerd and who cares, you’re now smarter than them
Anyway, you have my recommendation. Do with it what you will. If you keep a journal, tell me how it’s working for you in the comments. If you don’t, tell me why in the comments.