I have been journaling since the age of fourteen. It started off as homework from my Arabic teacher as a means to improve my essay writing skills and while I was always an avid reader, when it came to writing I always struggled to put my thoughts to paper. When she suggested journaling I struggled to see the benefits of writing my thoughts and events of my day as means to improve the way I wrote. However, I quickly learnt that spending time each week dumping all my thoughts and feelings onto paper did not just improve my writing, it became the single most important habit that transformed my mental well being and productivity. In this article, I will provide you just three reasons why you should keep a journal from a place of genuine experience.
You learn more about your personality and thought patterns.
Having kept a journal for over 8 years now, I have the privilege of really being able to see myself grow up emotionally in an incredibly intimate way. When I go back to past entries, I find recurring problems and worries that become much more apparent when written down instead of just being fleeting thoughts. It increases one’s self awareness and enables me to feel much more disciplined and in control of my feelings that provides a springboard to resolve any underlying issues that I otherwise would not have been even aware that I even had. Journaling provides me internal clarity in this way.
Improves your problem solving skills
Whenever I struggle with a problem that I can’t seem to resolve with friends or colleagues, my next stop is always my journal. It allows me to get under the skin of an issue without external influences and in turn allows me to exhaust different options. I am also free to speak without judgement or shame and while you should never feel these emotions when you are around those who are close to you, a journal provides you the extra layer of security to be transparent. Moreover, as someone who used to rely on others to validate their own judgements it has improved my self assurance and trusting my own intuition because I know I have a safe space to explore the different directions that my thoughts take.
Gets you clear on your goals
Journaling every week or so forces me to review my goals and how I am progressing with them. Moreover, if I am struggling with them it provides me a medium to discuss why I haven’t been reaching them and again discover any underlying problems. I have put down many times my lack of motivation to simply just laziness but journaling has enabled me, again, to learn that sometimes it goes deeper than that, sometimes I am uninspired or something else is weighing on me that is preventing me from performing at my best. Dissecting my goals and reviewing what is working and what is not, consistently allows me to achieve them better and enjoy and learn more about myself along the way. As mentioned before in my previous article about building Systems not Goals, journaling allows me to enjoy the process of reaching a goal rather than being hyper-focused in achieving it and in this way gaining the most from it.
There are many formats in which one can journal beyond pen and paper, I prefer having a digital journal using the Penzu app which can also be used on a desktop so I don’t have to worry about my handwriting, SPAG or losing any entries. However, it is entirely up to what you are comfortable with. When starting, it might take a while to focus on your own thoughts and write them all down but like with everything it takes practise (this can also be a means of exercising focus if this is something you also struggle with). Even after all this time I still sometimes struggle to find the willpower and discipline to journal but after every entry I am left refreshed and grateful as it truly clarifies what is important for me each time. Mina Murray articulates this feeling perfectly:
“Journalling is like whispering to yourself and listening at the same time”