I am normally terrible with consistency.
It doesn’t matter what it involves. I can never find it in me to do something at the same time, every single day. At worst, I’ll consider it, and at best I’ll do it for a week or less before throwing my commitment out the window. Excluding eating and brushing my teeth, my schedule is about as consistent as a deck of cards that have been vigorously shuffled about.
Yet I have written in my journal every single day, 9 PM sharp, for three months straight, without missing a beat.
And now, at the end of month three, I think that keeping a journal is one of the best things a person can do. Here’s why.
It Makes You Consistent.
I’ve made journaling a habit. Like eating and brushing my teeth, I’ve made writing in my journal an integral part of my life. And that rigorous structure — that ability to take out a specific block of my day to write — has seeped into other parts of my life. I’ve begun to study and work out at set times. And the same goes for extracurricular activities, like playing videogames, or writing for my blog or novel. Journaling was the stepping stone I needed to create some discipline in my life.
It Places Your Life In a Time Capsule.
This is the most obvious benefit of keeping a journal — though, it’s not so obvious at first. I will admit, trying to write every day in my journal for the first week was a struggle. “What’s the point?” I would think. “I already know what happened today. Will it even matter a week from now?” And it turns out: it probably won’t. Nor will it matter two weeks from now. The reward for cataloguing your life events is not immediately apparent. But when you look at your entries from two months ago, and re-experience the moments from your vacation, or the time you spent playing cards with your best friends: you’ll be glad that you committed those memories to paper.
It Allows for Reflection.
Journaling has numerous benefits in terms of reflection. It puts your life into perspective. For instance, I once complained about an issue I was having in one entry. Two entries later, I was laughing at myself for complaining at all. Writing in a journal allows you to chart personal growth. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve grown and changed in the span of a few months. Beyond that, journaling allows you to examine your relationships with others. You’ll quickly recognize who and what matters to you when you journal, which in turn allows you to put more emphasis on those values and people. Having a clear vision of what you want in life is the best way to stay on a track for success.
In my opinion, this is the best reason to journal. We live in a very social world. And while I don’t want to disregard a previous post I wrote, I recognize that we live in a very social world. We want everyone to know about ourselves, and what we’re doing. But that isn’t a healthy environment for self-reflection. Journaling allows you to clear your mind, and place those jumbled thoughts onto paper, completely uncensored. It can be overwhelming. But it’s also cathartic. Having a place to vent without fear of backlash is a great way to relieve stress.
All that being said, here are some important notes to consider before you begin a life of journaling:
Pick a format and stick to it. I use Day One because its UI is pretty, and it reminds me to write at 9 PM every day. Paper, Evernote, a bunch of notecards stuck together with a rubber band — it doesn’t matter what you use, just make sure you keep using it.
Don’t worry about structure. Or flow. Or spelling, or grammar. Spend too much time worried about making your journal perfect, and you won’t write in your journal at all.
Keep your journal private. And make sure you know no one will be able to access it. If you don’t, you’ll subconsciously hold your writing back, which defeats the purpose of making a journal!
If it feels like a chore, stop. If you don’t like writing in your journal, don’t feel the need to continue writing in it. You’ll only be wasting your time. Journaling isn’t something you have to do.
Journaling has changed how I feel about myself, as well as how I feel about the world around me. I highly recommend it, and I hope these thoughts help nudge you in the direction of a pen and pad, so that you can record and reflect on your life through the written word as well.