Why I Journal and Why You Should Too

Last week I wrote about the benefits of reading. Today I turn my attention to writing (I promise not to write about arithmetic next week). Specifically I’d like to share how journaling can help you develop as a person.

I have chronicled my life and thoughts for a long time. I have spiral notebooks full of the first years and electronic notebooks full of more current years. Until recently, I’ve never gone back to reread the old ones, yet I’m convinced this process of writing has benefited me in several ways.

I’ll share a little about how to journal but mostly I want to focus on the why. Honestly, the how should be whatever works for you. There are as many ways to journal as there are people who journal.

Each of the benefits of reading I blogged about last week are also benefits of journaling.  Here are four more.

Journaling Saves Time

Wait, what? That’s right. If you take the time to journal it will save you time. Journaling forces you to examine your life, writing about how you are spending your time. After a few days of writing about watching TV you might be inspired to put down the remote and find more time for the things that really matter. One of the things I write in my journal is how I intend to spend the hours of the day. I don’t beat myself up for not nailing it, but I throw a private inner party when I do. The truth is I’m a lot more likely to spend my time in productive ways simply because I wrote it down. A variation of this is to log your time as your day is happening. Like logging your calories help you eat healthy, logging your time helps you spend it more wisely.

Journaling Helps You Know Yourself

Because I work in the realm of leadership development it is tempting to strive to be John Maxwell or Patrick Lencioni or Les Brown. These are all men I learn from but to try to copy their style would be a mistake. Honestly it is much easier to copy someone than to find one’s own unique voice. But the process of finding your voice allows you to lead with authenticity and power. I know of no better way to get to know yourself or more important endeavor than self examination. Consider the words of  Aristotle, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” or of Shakespeare, “This above all: to thine own self, be true.” Or of the New Testament, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” You can’t delegate this one. I ask myself some key questions with each journal entry to make sure I am examining thoughts and intentions not merely recording happenings. Questions like, “What made me laugh or cry today?" or "What made me angry?” force me to look within and help me to  understand myself better.

Journaling Helps with Content Creation

When I changed careers in October of 2016 I knew that in order to gain clients one of the things I needed to do was to have substantive content to share. I could point them to the work of others or I could create my own. As I write each week I find myself going back to my journals for ideas and reminders. My primary purpose in journaling is not for content to share, but it is a nice side benefit.

One nice thing about journaling electronically is it is much easier to search for and retrieve ideas. Something like Microsoft word or Google Docs could work, but I use Evernote.

Journaling Will Change You

A life unexamined is a life that never changes. Any time you make a positive change it is because you have taken the time to look within. One who never evaluates behaviors, attitudes and skills will never change them. If you don’t reflect on your health or finances you will never adopt an improvement plan. Journaling is largely writing out your story and your thoughts about your story. For me it also includes wrestling with Bible passages I have read. It is hard to do either of these without considering change. And the more change I consider the more often I realize I need to make an adjustment to the way I am living.

Sit down a couple of times this week and just start writing. See what happens. I’d love to hear about it. If it would be helpful, take a look at my journal template here.