“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 forever.” – Will Self
Many people are often interested in learning how to journal, but they’re unsure how keeping a journal can help them with their goals.
This online 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.
8 Benefits of Keeping a Journal
Consider these benefits of keeping a journal:
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 compel 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.
How to Journal
• Find a form that is comfortable for you. At first, learning how to start journaling is simple. Choose the method you’re comfortable with. A journal should work for you ― not the other way around. You may feel most comfortable with a notebook, a blog, or an online 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. Other days, only a little.
• Recognize our needs. Your 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.
Learning how to start journaling is just the first step. The next, and most important, step is to simply begin.