Five Powerful Reasons to Keep a Journal
I love the idea of journaling, but struggle to do so. I started to journal many times, maybe even purchasing a special notebook. After a few days of consistency, I would miss a day, or two, which turned into a month and then I’d stop.
Over the past year, I’ve gotten more consistent. I find the practice helpful and, at times, transformative.
Maybe you’ve thought about journaling, but haven’t been convinced. Here are the top five reasons which helped me develop the habit.
1. A Journal Gets Stuff out of your Head
David Allen advocates “getting stuff out of your head” because if you don’t, focus becomes difficult. Ideas, projects, and commitments rumbling in our heads keep our minds busy. Getting things on paper moves us toward focused and clear thinking.
Journaling is an excellent practice to get stuff out of our head and down onto paper, thus clearing our minds.
2. A Journal Reveals Where You’ve Been
In an interview, Greg McKowen shared how his journal helped him remember things he would have forgotten. Looking through his journey brought back ideas, events, and activities he didn’t remember, keeping them from being lost.
Our days fly by and we usually don’t take time to reflect. A log of where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and what we’ve thought brings a sense of continuity. We can see themes, tendencies, and trends. A journal helps us examine our life.
3. A Journal Works Out Where you are Going
“What do I really want?” is not a simple question. We may feel like we know what we want, but when we drill down, we realize we don’t. What we think we want, or what we thought we wanted in the past, isn’t what we really want. What a dilemma!
Not only does a journal reveal themes, tendencies, and trends of the past, it creates clarity moving forward. Slowing down and writing out thoughts and feelings, helps us process. We may even find areas where we are conflicted and confused. A journal aids in working out what we really want out of life.
4. A Journal helps with Productivity
It’s a given that productivity is vital for our jobs and careers. What we may not realize is the effect productivity plays in spiritual practices.
The most frequent reason I’m given for not reading Scripture, praying daily, or attending worship services is “Lack of time”. A close second is, “I’m too busy”.
Yes, schedules are bursting at the seams, but some busyness and lack of time are caused by poor time management. In short, we waste a lot of time on activities that don’t matter, don’t help others, and don’t bring joy.
When we journal, we gain clarity about what’s truly valuable. Thinking through the day ahead, either in the evening, or the next morning, creates an opportunity to discern what brings value to life. A journal can capture tasks and projects that are important and truly matter.
5. A Journal Leaves Something Behind
I’ve left the most powerful reason to journal for last. During his interview, Greg McKowen also shared about the deaths of his grandfathers. He thought he knew both of them well, but at their funerals, he realized he didn’t know who their friends were, their hobbies, their hopes, or dreams. He really didn’t know them.
One of his grandfathers, however, kept a journal. He didn’t journal everyday, but would record a sentence every few days over fifty years. McKeown said that one sentence every few days over fifty years helped him know his grandfather.
When I heard this, I was attempting to journal every morning and every evening, but I didn’t always do it. I’ve tried to journal from time to time, but was never able to make the habit stick. Perhaps I never had a reason to, until know.
The thought that upon my death my family might find my journals used to scare me. After hearing McKeown talk about his grandfathers, my fear transitioned into desire. Thinking that my grandkids, or even great grandkids, might find my journals and get to know me inspires me to journal.
I do not have grandkids yet. One day I hope I do. I will probably have limited connection with them, but I can leaven something for them. My kids will know me better than my grandchildren and my grandchildren will know me better than my great grandchildren, and so on, unless I leave something behind.
I find consistently writing in a journal difficult, but given the benefit, I’ve made it a discipline. While I don’t write everyday, I’m getting close. Whether I write every day, or once every few days, I will continue to write because journaling adds value to life, both my life and, potentially, others’.
I doubt that anyone will write about my life, but I can write as my life is happening. My life isn’t all that interesting. I don’t go on many adventures. It would be great to know more about my great-great-great grandparents, their hopes, dreams, life, etc., but they didn’t leave anything behind.
Perhaps through my journal, I can not only work out what’s valuable in life, but potentially leave a gift to my family as well.