Earlier this week, I re-tweeted a great comment from casting director Dana Bowling:
Since several people asked me about my journaling process, I thought this post with a few ideas might help you start or further your own.
In short, there are no rules to keeping a journal.
Dana Bowling listed some meaningful journaling prompts in this follow-up tweet.
I’ve shared a number of journal entries on my blog (mostly 10 years older than the article date) and added some take-always. You can read them in the This Date in My History category. You might want to start in reverse order.
I also added journal entries in this post. I often add pictures and ephemera as in this example.
Lots of people are following the Bullet Journal method. I started journaling long before Bullet Journaling became a thing.
I prefer to follow Jim Rohn’s wealth of examples and instructions in his fantastic audio program How to Use a Journal. Here are a few of his golden nuggets from my copious notes when listening to that program:
- If an idea is worth reading, worth listening to, worth remembering, then it is also worth capturing in your journal.
- A journal is a textbook of self discovery and self-awareness.
- When you have written about what your eyes have seen and what your ears have heard, go one step further and describe your feelings. Capture the joy of your victories and agony of your defeats.
- Whatever you create on paper in your journal, you can, with enough belief, discipline, commitment, and desire create in your life.
For a while, I kept a physical planner/idea repository, which I have since moved to Evernote. My ideas and necessary information used to be scattered in different apps and in my journals. It was a game-changer to start saving everything in a central on-line depository so it’s accessible anywhere using any device. Since most of my journal entries are too personal to put on-line, I often take a picture in Evernote of my hand-written journal entries that I want to refer to often or repurpose in another form.
You add what you want to your book in whichever way you want. You can simply write, or you can do anything your creativity calls you to do. In addition to the entries I write almost every day (which includes a gratitude list of at least 5 things), I’ve copied quotes, affixed business cards and stickers, drawn pictures, and created collages in mine, like this one I shared in my June 2019 newsletter:
The daily practice of journaling offers a bounty of benefits, including:
- improving your communication skills
- magnifying your excitement and diminishing your fears
- relieving stress
- keeping you on track
- allowing you time for self-reflection
- visualizing your future
Do you keep a journal, or are you about to start one? I’d love to get your take on it in the comments!
Immediately after I posted this article, I noticed a couple of recent stories I wanted to add to it:
- Evernote discussed writing down your routines as a start in changing your habits.
- In a brilliant marketing move, superstar Taylor Swift released excerpts from her private, handwritten journals in 4 deluxe versions of her new album. Fans will buy all 4 to get all of the entries. I loved seeing the sneak peek into her process in this New York Times story.
Denice Stradling says
I’ve been keeping some sort of diary/journal ever since I read DIARY OF ANNE FRANK as a child. It helps me focus, keeps anxiety at bay, and can often lead to some fabulous epiphanies! I have no rules: sometimes it’s an interesting dream I had the night before, or a quote I like, or just to get my thoughts on paper. Has to be handwritten, and I always use a to top-spiral notebook… you’ve sent me a journal before, Karen (which I use for audiobook content specifically, so I’ll pay it forward to someone else!
Karen Commins says
Hi, Denice! Since we have much in common, I might have guessed you’d be a long-time journal keeper! 🙂
I, too, read DIARY OF ANNE FRANK in my youth. I wish that I been like you and started writing my thoughts at that time. It sounds like we do much of the same things in our books.
Michael Palin also wrote his diaries (which were fascinating reading) in top-spiral books, so you’re in good company there as well!
I’ve read a number of articles that indicate that handwriting a journal is a better experience than typing it. Hand writing stimulates different parts of your brain and allows your emotional state and creativity to be revealed. I remember one particular day when I was at the height of frustration over a neighbor’s constantly barking dog. The energy on my angrily-written entry in ALL CAPS and lots of !!!!! leaps off the page and grabs me today in a way that a typed entry never could!
Thanks for the wonderful discussion, and keep writing in that journal!
Shaina Summerville says
I use a journal! Still always switching how I operate. Bullet journaling is at least a portion of it because it helps me keep on track of my several different jobs and to dos for the week and digital just doesn’t work for me there. But I also like to do journal prompts and gratitude journaling in there.
You mention taking pictures of your notebook to put in Evernote. Have you heard of the Rocketbook notebook? It’s designed to scan into Evernote. But it’s a reusable notebook! With specific pens you can then wipe off with a damp cloth. No, I don’t work for them, ha! I just have one and love it.
Karen Commins says
Hi, Shaina! Thanks for the terrific comment! I find it so interesting to learn how people create their journals.
I’ve used journal prompts for some entries. I also currently keep journals specifically for daily gratitude lists and my (too infrequent) music practice.
You’re the first person I’ve known who uses a Rocketbook. I’ve never even seen one! I love the idea of making my words being searchable, but I don’t want to erase the physical record of them. I’ve thought about getting a hand scanner for this purpose. Maybe I’ll do that at some point.
I used a variety of books before settling onto Moleskines for 10 years and switching to Leuchhturm1917 books in October 2017. The paper quality for both is almost identical. Leuchhturm1917 wins for its array of colors in vibrant colors.
Thanks again for the good discussion!
I have tried so many analog organizers because I love a calendar I can touch and stick things into. I’ve used Franklin planners and similar calendars and created my own very customized ones. Just got my 2020 calendar recently and am trying something different again. I enjoyed the Bullet Journal video. Very interesting. Looking back at lists to see what I didn’t do and moving forward is important so things that are important don’t get dropped. I can’t imagine waiting until the end of the month to create the calendar for the next month though. I do some speaking and am asked six to nine months ahead of time to confirm my schedule and make commitments for dates. Ultimately calendars and journals work when you have a consistent disciplined practice…like a healthy life. 🙂
Karen Commins says
Hi, Blair! Thanks for the note.
I really loved the idea of the decorated planners that are so popular now. I even bought one and tried it.
I soon discovered that it made me feel pressured to do things in a certain way but didn’t make me feel any more creative.
Even worse, making a decorated planner actually hampered my productivity! In the time I was applying stickers or trying to draw something, I could have finished an actual thing on my to-do list!
I also prefer the auditory reminders and searchability that I get from digital tools.
My organization system consists of:
* 7 color-coded calendars in iCal
* a monthly planner note in Evernote with a list of things I hope to accomplish. These monthly notes are saved in a notebook named Planner.
* a daily to-do template in Evernote where I list the 3-5 most important things to do in a day. The Daily Notes are in a notebook named Daily Notes. I can search my lists back to 2012!
I set reminders in Evernotes when I want to follow-up with someone or take some other action. Although Evernote reminds me visually, I connected Evernote to my iCal with the Cronofy Evernote connector. That way, I can put reminders on Evernotes and have them show up and signal me via audio on my calendar. This part of my system allows me to use Evernote as my Client Relationship Manager (CRM).
I almost always handwrite my journal entries using a variety of special ballpoint, rollerball, and fountain pens. The journal is the store place for my THOUGHTS. Sometimes those thoughts even end up in blog articles!
Thanks again for the good conversation!