8 Reasons Keeping a Journal Can Help You Reach Your Goals

“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.” – Will Self

Our decision to become minimalist was intentional. It was based on the realization that our possessions were distracting us from things in life that were more important. Our possessions were stealing too much of our money, time, energy, and focus. And as a result, we decided to get rid of everything we didn’t need or love to focus on our greatest passions.

On the other hand, this on-line journal of our journey into minimalism was not intentional. Originally, the Becoming Minimalist website began as simply a humble means to inform our extended family of our goals. But somewhere along the way, it became an important piece in helping us achieve them.

Since then, I have used the discipline of keeping a journal to assist me in the pursuit of other life goals as well. And I have come to clearly recognize and appreciate its importance.

Benefits of Keeping a Journal

Consider these 8 ways keeping a journal can help us reach our goals:

1. Keeping a journal requires us to write out our goals. The importance of committing our desires to paper cannot be overstated. It is a simple process, but it pays great dividends. Writing out our goals provides the opportunity to articulate them clearly and makes their achievement appear closer.

2. A journal serves as a permanent record of our progress. Success can be quickly forgotten. And when it is, it becomes easy to get frustrated with our pursuit. As with any pursuit, there are times we may feel like we have not accomplished anything despite all the invested effort and energy. During those moments, it is helpful to look back and be reminded of our past successes.

3. Writing requires us to think through the why’s and the how’s. When we sit down behind a blank computer screen or sheet of paper and begin to write out what we accomplished during the day, we are forced to think through our process on a deeper level. The discipline forces us to answer the difficult questions of “why,” “how,” or “why not?” The answers to these questions are not just helpful as we move forward to repeat successes and avoid mistakes, they can be therapeutic as well.

4. A journal proves we have solved problems in the past. Whether we are chasing a physical goal (26.2 miles), a career goal (start my own business), or a personal goal (become a better father), not every step in our pursuit is going to be easy… goals worth pursuing never are. At some point, we will be required to overcome adversity. But we will. And the next time we face it, we’ll find motivation and strength in our written record of overcoming it in the past.

5. Keeping a journal naturally reminds us to articulate next steps. It is difficult to look back without also looking forward. As a result, when we journal, we naturally begin to look forward. And the next step becomes easier to see.

6. Writing reminds us to think beyond the obvious. Always looking for “material to journal” has caused me to see the value of simplicity and minimalism in areas I would not normally have seen it ― whether it be an article in the newspaper, an advertisement on television, or a conversation with a friend. Likewise, writing causes us to become more intentional in any pursuit ― and to find inspiration beyond the obvious places right in front of us.

7. Even a private journal provides accountability. As we script our journey, we find accountability ― not to the written word, but to ourselves. Our past success and perseverance compels us forward. We can see how far we’ve come, how much we have left to accomplish, and why giving up would be foolish.

8. A written account allows our story to inspire others. Our journal is our story. It is our account of moving from Point A to Point B. And rightly shared, it can inspire others to do the same.

Getting Started.

• Find a form that is comfortable for you. A journal should work for you ― not the other way around. You may feel most comfortable with a notebook, a computer processor, a website, or an on-line writing app. Find a form that fits your personality and lifestyle. And embrace it.

• Commit to writing every day. The intention of sitting to write every day will compel your mind to manufacture and recognize progress. It is a bold plan. And you’ll likely miss days. But don’t let that stop you. Commit again to write the next day.

• Care more about substance and less about style. Write for yourself, not for others. As you do, write with the truest goal of putting onto paper your thoughts and action. Don’t worry about spelling and grammar if those things tend to bog you down. Your goal is not to get an “A.” Your goal is to articulate progress.

• Don’t be motivated by length. There are some days where you’ll be motivated to write much. Others days, only a little.

• Recognize our need. You story is important and is meant to be shared. It may be unique to you, but we desperately need to read it. Make sure we can.

Image: thomaseagle

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    “Find a form that is comfortable for you.”

    In striving for minimalism I’ve tried to go paper free. I’ve tried using my iphone, my computer, etc… as my journal. For me it just doesn’t work, not when I just need to scribble down an idea, a goal, or a new plan. I’m old school I guess. I need a pen and paper to write my thoughts.

    Dan @ ZenPresence.com

    • says

      Dan, I am the same way: There is something about the act of writing something vs typing it. But I am doing my best to eliminate paper in my life as well. I have reached a happy compromise by using my iPad and the Notability app and writing with a stylus. Most mornings I open a new “page” and write on the screen just like I used to in my trusty paper journal. I get the satisfaction of my own cursive handwriting, but the efficiency of a paperless system. I also have the added benefit of being able to sort, save, and highlight the important parts of my ramblings.

      Thanks for a helpful article, Joshua!

  2. says

    I use this website http://todoist.com for journaling.

    Thoughts come and go very fast and this website helps me to write them down pretty fast.

    When I wake up in the morning I sit down for a few minutes and write things I have to acomplish today.

  3. says

    I have been journaling since the age of 13. Being a teenager in a Moslem country was difficult to say the least. I used my journals as a means of getting away from the tough, everyday problems, and challenges, and to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I used it to solve the daily existential angst that plagued me. I do not believe I would be the person I am today, if I did not have the solace of my journal.

  4. says

    Oh, I hate this frustrating feeling that goes with losing and idea and never being able to remember what it was… thank you for sharing these tips!

  5. says

    …in the beginning my mother verbalized (in several different ways), “Why do you have a blog?” And, I tried to explain, “it keeps me honest, it is a good exercise for me to write even when I don’t feel like it and the kids might one day want to read it.” She is still skeptical, but she is coming around.

  6. says

    I struggled with journaling for a long time.

    For some reason whenever I sat in front of my little moleskine notebook I would feel the pressure to be smart, profound, good (whatever that means), or funny. Then I would end up frustrated and never write anything.

    Then I got a tip that changed changed all that, and ever since, I’ve been consistent.

    Write down the highlights of your day.

    Writing down the highlights of my day took away the pressure for me. I don’t know why, but it worked. Now everyday when I grab my Moleskine, I start with the highlights of my day, and stuff just seems to flow from there.

    And if I might echo much of what you just said using a slightly altered quote from Beattie, “Journaling (Gratitude) makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

    Thanks, Joshua!

  7. Orlando says

    Misfortune in my case may not be what it seems to be as I lost my job over a year now. It has opened my path to minimalism and feel great to write about it in my journal. Every struggle, every goal but most importantly the accomplishments you can look back no matter how small and say wow. I use Day One for iPad since I like to add pics and be paper free. I love this new lifestyle.

  8. Tammy says

    I have been journaling almost consistently since the 2nd grade and now i’m in my freshman year of college and I can’t picture myself not journaling. It helps me so much to make decisions, clear my head, and to really understand what is important and what I want to focus on in life. Keep journaling! It’s the best thing you could ever do <3

  9. Adiel Caspi says

    Can I receive a precise definition of what you call “minimalism”. Until today, it meant for me reducing things and events (even pleasant ones) and hopes to a minimal dimension. Is it what you mean here?

  10. says

    Keeping a journal also helps us build the perseverance habit, the habit of doing something everyday consistently for a defined purpose. Any worthwhile goal will require such character of discipline in a person who wants to achieve it.

    Check out my website for an online journal tool.:-)

  11. Matthew says

    Good article. Really liked the part about articulating next steps. Really helps to get you out of that I’m stuck here mentality

  12. says

    I’ve journaled for over 30 years but nothing has lifted my spirits as much as the gratitude journal I started a few months ago. In the past, I thought recording trials and bad feelings helped me release them. I see now that all it did was make them a permanent record. I’m now thinking of burning 30 years of journals. They served their purpose in helping me deal with things in the past, but are probably not anything my children will ever want to read, or NEED to read. The gratitude journal is only filled with positive, even if there is a trial, because I can see now that there is good, and often a lesson, in every thing.

  13. Robert Macklyn says

    Good reasons to help a journal reach the goal. Way ahead at times it causes a pretty good amount of distraction to cope up with the work management during journalism to help reach the goal. A proper work management does make a better sense to come up with the end result. During my journalism period, I was using the cloud based task management software from Replicon ( http://www.replicon.com/olp/task-management-software.aspx ) for the precise reach to the goals.

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  21. says

    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

  22. Light says

    I’m 17 years old. Good thing I started early. Yeah I’m going to be successful, maybe I’ll write a bestselling book too. Thanks for the amazing points dude, it helped.

  23. says

    I really couldn’t agree more.

    Keeping a journal is so important to my own personal health that I even built a tool for myself called Journal.Today (https://www.journal.today).

    It’s free – I hope it helps those who can’t afford to grab a physical journal themselves or are always on the road.

  24. says

    Hi Joshua

    Great article, I particularly agree with 6, that it allows us to think beyond the obvious.

    I’ve been writing in https://theprivatejournal.com (a super secure journaling web app that I build) for 1 month, and before that I’ve written in paper journals for a couple of years, and that is the most impressive thing to me. Our ability to see beyond the obvious when we have a “brain dump” ritual daily.

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