3 Reasons To Start A Journal

I’ve recently moved overseas for an intermediate length of time (more than three months but less than two years) and resolved to record my thoughts and more notable experiences in a journal.  This has manifested itself in the form of a simple Word document, with entries titled with a snappy tagline, the date they were written and the date(s) of the events in question.  I originally intended this as purely a reflexive tool, to look back on someday and smile at the naivety of my youth, but after only a month I have noticed several unexpected benefits this practice has already brought me.

For something that takes zero time to set up and only requires about fifteen minutes every three or four days, the ROI on my writing has been incredible.  Here’s why I suggest you start to do the same:

1.  You become motivated by the story

A lot of people allow their lives to slip by without much change while their ego rationalizes a feeling of progress.  If you’re allowing yourself to stagnate, the lack of recent entries in your journal (or the dreariness of the past few) will alert you that it’s time to get off your ass.

Whether prompted by a lack of content, or a desire to maintain a high standard of narrative, you start making decisions that lead to more interesting, more varied and more rewarding experiences.  Excuses like “I’m too tired” or “Maybe another time” vanish from your vocabulary and making bold choices in the moment becomes the new standard.

There are only two things in life—good things and good stories—but neither happens if you allow yourself to become a routine robot.  Your journal is counting on you not to be that person, so you won’t be.

2.  Your life improves quicker

This is partly as a flow-on benefit of number one, but is also due to the power of reflection.  Thinking back on a night-out the next day often highlights moments that at the time you hadn’t considered all that important.  20/20 hindsight allows you to see how things early in the night affected the outcome later, and from that you can see how you could have made a better choice.  What’s more, the process of recording these lessons actively revises them, retaining a greater percentage of improvements per experience than simply bulldozing on with the next thing.

Whether your goals are to have more fun, be a more magnetic individual or learn more about the world (especially relevant for time spent overseas or in completely unfamiliar environments), your journal is your best friend.

3.  It improves your conversational skills

Your best fallback for awkward pauses, opportunities to impress and chances to make friends in conversation are personal stories.  Writing a journal makes it unbelievably easy to always have something relevant or funny to share.  I have only been recording my life for a month, but it already allows me to seamlessly produce structured, engaging stories with an accompanying moral on a dime, just by thinking back to stuff that has recently been deemed journal-worthy.

What’s more, as my journal grows more and more extensive, I will be able to briefly skim-read it to refresh myself on the hundreds of highlights in my life and prevent them receding into the mists of time.  Even for a naturally loquacious guy, I can’t stress how surprised I’ve been by the impact this has made.

Concluding Remarks

In addition to the above benefits, your journal also passively improves your written communication skills. This is more essential for some than others, but everyone needs to write a CV or plan a promotion pitch at some stage.  Plus, its value remains evergreen in reminding you of lessons you learnt a (long) while ago or as a nostalgic and entertaining read.  It has zero setup time and costs virtually nothing. Try writing a journal for a month.  I think you’ll be surprised at the results.

Read more:  3 Reasons Why The E-Book Money Train May Be Over

26 thoughts on “3 Reasons To Start A Journal”

  1. I think this is a good idea if you’re traveling abroad. Although it can be dreary to relive the day’s events by writing about them later at night, the record you keep will be precious. I did this in the 1990s when traveling around Asia and am so glad I did. You’d be surprised at what you forget over the years. Set it aside, then look at it again after some time has passes for reflection and introspection.
    If you’re going abroad, a good tip might be to write the journal in the language of the country you are in. It forces you to improve your writing skills in the target language. The archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann used this method as a way of improving his language skills.
    Another tip: try those Moleskine notebooks. The expense is well worth it. You need durability.

    1. You could even try writing more detailed captions and stories behind the pics you took while on your trip. I could have done this when I was in Europe a few years ago, but didn’t. Still, I took plenty of pics, and those are sufficient to jog my memory.

    2. Conrad’s manuscripts survived shipwreck on the Congo. I wonder what product he used.
      I have in my possession a letter from a Kentucky pastor to my grandfather’s cousin written in 1906, written after he visited his gold-mining camp in New Mexico, wherein he talks about another cousin who later invented the “Tommy Gun” (this was about 12 years before the invention), saying he is writing a chapter for “Encyclopedia Britannica” on “Small Arms”. Anyway the letter is written on durable notepaper that is still in good shape after 100 years.
      Heinrich Schliemann, now there’s a topic worthy of a post.

        1. Look forward to it. He pursued Troy when it was considered a myth.
          A fascinating book in this theme is “Return to Sodom and Gomorrah” by Charles Pelligrino, wherein he takes Biblical accounts as basis for factual events, such as the explosion of the volcanic island of Thera, which he makes plausible reasons for the “parting of the Red Sea” and other events.
          Ages ago I read “Mysteries of the Mexican Pyramids” by Peter Tompkins, which profiles Le Plongeon :
          Then once was watching 20/20 or some such and there was Peter Tompkins, describing a massacre of 300 Italians by the Germans during WWI, to which he investigated as part of the U.S. intelligence service.
          Then there’s this guy, proving that a liberal arts education was worth something back in th day :

  2. also interesting is to hand-write your entries and to take note of penmanship fluctuations during different times and moods. Its a good additional element for self-examination.

    1. I read once that local historical societies love to get their hands on well-kept journals, because they are a real “window” on the zeitgeist of the times. Your little journal can become part of history, I suppose.

  3. Do it and have been doing it for over a year now. Other notable proponents of journaling are Neil Strauss and Stephen Covey. Both of which, are probably well known by many of you mufuggas’ reading this. Plus, I can vouch for what this jagoff’ is saying in this post, in addition to other benefits I haven’t bothered to take the time to explicitly articulate but know are there. Like the warm, fuzzy feelings it gives me. Solid post. Now none of you take this advice and leave all the personal development of becoming the alpha of alpha males to me. 😉

    1. A true man chooses exactly what he wants to do and has a very valid reason for doing so. But yeah, it’s girly as shit.

      1. JD Rockefeller who was the richest man to ever walk the earth, out doing Gates, Buffet & Slim (rotten mexican thief) several times over….. kept a pocket book and accounted for every penny he ever spent…..
        now tell me it’s a girly thing to do….. what’s the plaza called in New York, Rocka something….. shit Jay Z even named his record label after the guy…
        you wanna have things named after you, or you wanna point girlie fingers about ideas that need discipline….
        we’re not writing about boyfriends and fashion traits…. (at least i hope not)…

        1. Yet he STILL couldn’t get tang if his life depended on it… Hey I’m just kidding. I think if a man chooses to write shit, girly or not, whatever. If it makes you a better person, rock on.

    2. only today’s modern society could flip a pasttime that produced great men like ben franklin, and einstein, and call it girly.
      for thousands of years audience’s feasted on several hours long dialectics between great speakers and philosophers. the famous people of their day, they were respected on account of their knowledge and wisdom, gift for communication and speaking. these traits were held in high esteem.
      Even early america and the speeches and readings by great american authors such as Mark twain were justifiably revered. It was seen as the epitome of social hierarchy to be learned, and wise.
      This carried on through to books, diaries etc (walden, thoreau)
      And now, we have people calling it girly. how fucked up does a society have to be to reject knowledge and wisdom, and call it effeminate, yet accept jersey shore gym-tan-salon/COD videogaming and call that masculine.
      The wise men are all dead, and we have a beta generation that thirsts for nothing precious and chases everything worthless

    1. at least i’ll be able to remember WTF I did yesterday and what that chicks name was…. hahahahaha

  4. Reason #4 – Teenage goth girls will think that you are deep and emotional.

  5. A few years ago I found the complete Tony Robbins cassette library in my neighbor’s trash. I listened to Tony describe the benefits of a journal and started keeping on. He was right, it was useful to look back on previous entries.
    I would recommend the AlphaSmart Neo instead of paper for this, as described in my recent Spearhead essay “Price Drop on AlphaSMart Neo”. You could end up
    writing a popular blog post, which impresses women mightily :
    While you are at it, take a gander at today’s essay : “Shake and Bake Software

    1. If you’re doing it right, it will help you to make money (or succeed, in whatever measure might apply to what one is doing). It can make the difference between range-of-the-moment awareness and big-picture comprehension.
      Written language is the basis of civilization. For good reason.

  6. I’ve done this for 6-7 years. Not the teen-girl journal about gossip and crap like that, but ideas and philosophical insights. You know, those random thoughts you have when driving or showering or mowing the lawn. Write them down and you’ll find you remember them better. When you remember them better, you begin to integrate them together, see patterns and linkages in your thoughts and observations, and understand yourself and the world better. At least, better than you will by just letting them pass in and out of your mind without leaving a mark.
    I don’t bother trying to imitate the style of Thoreau, force my thoughts into five-paragraph-essay format, or induce other flowery complications, because I know that I’m the only one who will read them and so don’t feel I have to impress anyone. The content is what’s important. After a while you develop shorthand methods and “templates” for efficiently recording and exploring different types of ideas and observations, reducing it to an almost negligible time investment.
    I’d argue against Moleskines or other higher-end media at first, for the simple reason that it subconsciously makes the exercise feel like an obligation. “I blew $20 on this notebook, now I’ve got to write something in it every day, and it has to be profound or I’m wasting expensive paper.” I carry a small (5″ x 7″) spiral notebook everwhere – big enough to keep a pen in the spine, and only about $6 apiece. The best journal book is the one you’ll actually use without hesitation or resentment.

    1. Also, I think it was Jefferson I picked this idea up from: in the upper right corner of every page, write a “tag” word (like you would in a blog post) relating to the content of the post, something taken from a small collection of such words (ie: don’t proliferate your tags unnecessarily). It’s a simple and highly effective way to organize your journals on the fly and find something later.
      Periodically, I’ll harvest the best observations and aphorisms from the raw journals, rework them, and copy them into an expensive leather-bound book. Something akin to Aurelius’ “The Meditations” in format – little bits of wisdom to pass on to the future offspring.

  7. This is a good idea and I agree with the reasons cited. Someone commented it is better to hand write your journal by hand which certainly is one way to do it, however if one is tablet or smart phone enabled there is a free app called Journal Notes Multimedia which allows the user to type his thoughts, but also make video clips, and record sound and save as a file, and even email it if you want to share. It also has a mode for handwriting via the screen.
    The advantage is that you have the multimedia options that you would not have with a classic hand written joutnal, the other is added security provided that your tablet or phone is password protected. A classic written style journal can be lost or stolen and read which would prevent me from writing what is truly on my mind at the time of each entry.

  8. Thanks for sharing! I made a journaling app to improve my self-awareness and emotional intelligence. It’s a micro-journal (<140 character entries) so writing multiple entries a day takes a few minutes. Each entry is associated with a mood, so the app provides some really neat ways to self-reflect. For instance, I can see all the reasons of why I felt a particular mood (happy, sad, annoyed or stress) during the past few weeks. I’ve been using the app everyday for over 60 days and happier because of it. You can check out the free journal here – http://www.getstigma.com

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