Earlier this year, I blogged about reasons to keep a journal.
I did this primarily to convince myself to follow my own advice.
One of my goals for this year has been to keep better track of my notable accomplishments, something I’ve previously tried and failed for four years straight.
My past strategy involved making a list of achievements at the end of each month. But this ended up not working because I generally found either:
- I couldn’t remember what I’d done by the end of the month
- I forgot to make the list in general, or
- A combination of 1 and 2 (this by far being the most common occurrence).
I decided to combat this by journaling every day, both to provide myself with a written record to draw from at the end of each month and for the ancillary benefits derived from daily journaling.
These would be only short journal entries—only as much text as would fit in the 13.5 x 7 centimeter rectangles provided for notes each day in my day planner (on weekends the rectangles are only 5 x 7 cm)—and would be part of my adoption of the Bullet Journal method, a system of rapid logging that takes no more than 10 minutes per day.
In my previous post I discussed six reasons to keep a journal. Over the course of the year so far, I’ve succeeded in journaling daily, save times I was away from home and didn’t want to carry my large-ish day planner with me (although even then I’ve written about the days I missed after the fact).
I’ve also succeeded in discovering a seventh benefit:
7) Keeping a journal shows you what you’re preoccupied with
This discovery emerged as a result of the Bullet Journal method itself (although the method is not necessary for the point to still be true).
Journaling is traditionally a pen-and-paper pursuit (although nowadays some people keep various sorts of digital journals; a blog, after all, is a form of online diary), and the Bullet Journal method was specially designed to be done in this way for its greater simplicity.
One downside to paper journaling, however, is that the pages are not easily searchable. The more one writes, either in length or duration (and some folks have been journaling for years), the harder it gets to refer back and locate specific information in older entries.
And for people like me who use writing as a brain drain, the moment the words are committed to paper, they tend to go right out of my head.
The Bullet Journal method tries to get around this by having you first number every page in your notebook and then create an index of self-selected headings.
Every time you journal about one of your heading topics, you then note the page on which you did so in the index. This at least gives you a starting point for searching past entries.
It also reveals at a glance what you been writing about the most.
Looking at my own index, my two most frequent topics by a long shot are writing and work.
This in itself is instructive, knowing where my mind has been for most of the year.
The even greater value of this knowledge, though, is that it then allows for deeper assessment. Have your most frequent topics captured your attention because they’re going really well, or really poorly?
Whether you’ve got an index for your journal or are just actively going back to reread old entries (I’ve done this too the year I did The Artist’s Way, and found I was constantly writing about being tired), journals can be a valuable data source into where the bulk of your mental energy is being expended.
And if you find your frequent topics aren’t being documented in a positive light, this awareness might be the concrete motivation you need to make a change for the better.
(Image source #1; #2 and #3 – J.G. Noelle)