Something I didn’t understand the value of in the past was journalling. In recent years however I’ve increasingly seen the benefits of using writing as a way of connecting the dots with difficult challenges within both my professional and personal life. The catharsis you can experience is well understood and widely documented. At the time of writing this we’re going through a pandemic, so I think that’s one reason why it’s especially relevant to consider journaling if you don’t already.
For myself I’m not so touchy feely about it – once I have written something down it’s an opportunity to think about something as much as I have to. After it’s on paper (or screen in my case) it’s out my head and somewhere I can revisit it at a later time, so this gives me permission to no longer have to think about it as much. So I don’t use it as an account of daily life, rather I see it more as a tool to help me with problem solving.
Your mileage may vary. Talking to yourself this way could seem strange, but I know when I need advice I ask an expert.
Before going into some reasons you might want to journal, a major reason I started to is because I can struggle to articulate what I want to tell people, so I’ve found journaling has helped me:
- better evaluate whether I should bring something up in the first place
- explain concepts more simply
- make my ideas more actionable to myself and others
Other reasons you might want to journal and how they are applicable to me include:
- It relieves stress. I can see some truth to this since I want to get my thoughts and ideas out for a reason. Reducing the mental clutter can help me be more present, rather than try to pull out whatever it is I think I should be thinking about from the mess of thoughts bouncing around my head. This will help relieve the anxiety figuring out what I should focus on which will reduce stress.
- You learn more about yourself. Looking back on your past thought process can help you see how much you’ve developed. It can also help me learn from my past mistakes.
- You become a better writer. Writing I believe is something you get better at doing by working on it like a muscle: frequent practice will help make it grow stronger. I also have to write for work so this has a direct benefit towards my professional development. It can also help you if you are a blogger for example.
- You achieve goals. Since I believe what can be measured can be managed, I think journaling will help me reflect on my progress and figure out how I will achieve my goals.
- Problem solving becomes easier. Like with frequent exercise getting the wheels turning in my head more frequently will help me become better at problem solving in daily life.
- You can keep a record of your ideas. I’ve chosen to use WordPress to create a private journal, because it’s designed for blogging. This lends itself well to journaling and a lot of people have used it for this exact purpose. It also benefits from it’s search facility, so I can search through posts and find things I need to reference or revisit pretty easily. You don’t have to use WordPress though, could use traditional pen and paper, or could use some note taking app like Evernote.
- You develop a better connection with your values, emotions and goals. As I sort through the mental clutter I’ve found I get better insight into why I do what I do and feel how I feel about various things. This helps me clarify what it is I really want to achieve.
- You improve your insight and understanding. This is a major reason I want to journal, because it will help be better communicate my ideas.
- You improve your focus. Something I noticed while looking at reasons to journal is improving my ability to reason my tasks out.
- You can get closure. Sometimes you want to argue with someone even though you know it’s going to be unproductive and probably do more harm than good. This is why having a journal to do this instead can be a solution – at worst to leave the matter closed, at best to more calmly come back to someone with a chance of resolving a matter.
- You can raise your self esteem. Things like minor changes to a website which solve a big design problem will mostly get ignored or taken for granted by the majority of people in real life. Talking about it to myself I will have an account of something I’m proud of, in addition to a well thought through explanation if I ever need to explain it to someone.
- It helps you improve your memory. This is one major thing I would also like to improve. Clearing the mental clutter should help me do this and also I’ll have a better chance of remembering anything noteworthy I want to think about by writing about it.
Nobody is going to be as interested in the thoughts floating around in my head more than me. Maybe it’s the same for yourself, so why not spend some time with yourself to have a talk?
To help you get the most out of journalling it might help to approach it in the same way as studying, where the thing you are studying is yourself or whatever it is you want to write about to help you learn. So set aside time to write even if you can’t think of anything.
If you are not sure what to write about then remember there’s a number of different types of journals you can write in a variety of ways. Exercise starts with simple, easy steps. Using that analogy it can be best to start with what you already know best – whether that be cooking, music, movies, your pet cat, etc.
You don’t have to even write a lot if you don’t want to, it can just be one paragraph or even a Tweet. It’s your space to do whatever you want without judgement.
There’s a pretty good list here to get you started on other things you can journal about too here.