You Should Write in a Journal Every Day, Here’s Why
The Perfect Analog Tool to Keep You Anchored in a Digital World
Let me start of by saying that writing in a journal isn’t the one life hack that’s going to fix everything for you.
Like most people, I’m pretty tired of headlines like “This ONE easy habit will immediately turbocharge your productivity and give you instant, clarity, purpose, and focus” (as it is, my own title for this post is too close to click-bait for my liking).
First of all, you need a lot more than a journal to get your life in order, and second of all, a journaling habit can take some time to yield its benefits.
That said, I think that the simple journal is a powerful tool with lots of significant benefits, few drawbacks, and might be more important in our frenetic modern environment than it has ever been in its rich history.
Here are a few benefits of keeping a journal, followed by a video where I walk through mine.
Journaling Boosts Your Confidence and Self Esteem
Think for a moment about the subconscious message that you are sending yourself when you choose to write in a journal:
My life is important, and it is worth thinking and writing about.
That’s a whole heck of a lot better than the self-defeating attitude that it’s so easy for so many people to fall into.
As Rachel Wilkerson Miller says in her book Dot Journaling:
Writing about yourself and your life — even just brief notes! — is a huge privilege, and that writing can be incredibly liberating. Writing in a diary is, at its core, a declaration that your voice matters.
In addition to the fact that writing in a journal itself helps produce confidence, there are many particular things that you can do in a journal that will increase this effect. In the video at the bottom of this post, I show you a few that I use.
“The Brain is a Factory, Not a Warehouse”
Your brain is good at coming up with thoughts and ideas but bad at storing them.
The fact that I can’t remember where I heard this quote illustrates this point. I didn’t forget the quote because I wrote it down in my journal and attributed it to Mike Vandy. I’m not sure who Mike Vandy is. I think I heard this quote on a podcast, but I’m not sure. Maybe Mike Vandy was a guest on a podcast that I listen to or maybe someone quoted him. At any rate, I had an awesome quote to use in this post because I wrote it down.
As the old saying goes, the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.
It’s not just about taking notes however, writing things down is a good way to get thoughts out of your head and into the real world. Sometimes half-formed ideas first take shape on the page. Sometimes the seeds of an idea need to be planted in written form so that you can return to them later when your mind has had a chance to organize.
There are lots of significant benefits to writing things down, but they are unpredictable and hard to consistently capture without a solid habit in place.
You Think Better on Paper
I’m a big fan of giving yourself time to let your mind wander.
But I’m also a big fan of focused bouts of effort when it comes to thinking. When doing so, it’s a good idea to have some helpful tools on hand to aid your efforts, and nothing helps you think like good old fashioned pen and paper.
A journal is a great place to brainstorm and write out lots of ideas. When you have a written list of ideas. you can “see” them and compare them better. Additionally, it keeps you from writing off an idea to soon.
Often times an idea that you initially dismiss could actually have been promising if given a chance. When you write your ideas down without censoring yourself, you have an opportunity to reconsider the ones you initially passed over.
Writing by Hand is a “Sweet Spot”
You need language to organize your thoughts. You can think faster than you can speak, and you can speak faster than you can write.
Most people are faster at typing than at writing by hand.
This means that writing by hand gives you an opportunity to let your mind work ahead as you write more than any other way of expressing yourself.
Your handwriting can’t catch up to your initial thought, which gives you time to improve your thoughts as they are coming to you.
A Journal is a Fantastic Record of Your Inner Life
I love looking back at my old journals.
I love looking at what I was thinking at different times, what I was learning, how little I knew, and how much progress I’ve made.
I love seeing an unexpected memory and remembering the feeling I had in the moment.
I love the fact that my kids will have a unique opportunity to get to know me if they ever want to look through them.
A Journal is a “Keystone Habit”
Where you go in life is going in large part be determined by what you do every day.
In other words, your future is in large part the outcome of your habits.
Habits can be tough to form, but they are incredibly important. For this reason, the most important habit is one that has the potential for helping you form other habits.
A journal does this by creating a place where you can formulate plans for forming habits, gives you a place to track your progress, and creates a Medium where you can reflect on the effectiveness of your habit forming strategies.
Journaling Helps You Live Life On Your Terms
Most people spend all day reacting to other people’s demands on their time.
This starts early in the morning when they wake up and check their email. What is email? It’s a catalog of other peoples’ demands on your time and attention.
What if instead of checking your email first thing, you spent some time considering the day in front of you on your own terms and wrote down the things you most hope to accomplish, the ones that will move you the furthest toward your most important goals?
Doing this for one day won’t seem to make a big difference. Doing it consistently over time will help you take control of your life.
I use a system called the Bullet Journal which was developed by a digital product designer named Ryder Carroll.
The system is flexible enough to be adapted to almost any need that I might have, allowing me to change my journal as needed while having the underlying structure remain the same.
Here’s a video where I walk through my current journal and show you what my journaling habit looks like in 2018:
This is the twenty-second in a series based on my article 30 Lessons About Life You Should Learn Before Turning 30. Shoutout to Dr. Christine Bradstreet 🌴 for the idea to turn the post into an in-depth series.