I keep a simple, lined A5 notebook where I write my plans for the next few months, the week ahead and then daily activities, finishing with a few lines reflecting on the day just past.
If you are looking to start keeping a journal, why not check out my free course which gives you a step-by-step guide.
Journaling for future events and chronicling the past
Journaling often combines the traditional features of a calendar or diary for planning ahead with a place for recording thoughts about past events. Journaling can be a successful blend of planner, appointment diary and chronicle.
For some people journaling helps with organisation and productivity by getting the ‘have-tos’ done quickly and efficiently they have more time to spend on the things they really enjoy. For those with big jobs and big families, it’s all about making sure everyone’s on track.
If you have the responsibility for children there’s a lot to organise. A few minutes spent quietly reviewing the day and planning for the next ensures everyone has what they need and ends up in the right place at the right time.
So, if you’ve never kept a journal (and don’t worry you’re in good company) here is my list of the top 45 reasons you might like to start. I have divided them into 5 categories:
- Reflecting on the Present
- Planning for the Future
- Recording the Past
- Timeless Journals
- Different Journal Styles
Journals which reflect on the Present
1. Marking a milestone birthday year
Marking those milestone birthdays are a good reason for keeping a journal. How did you celebrate? Who was there? And what did you do? Whether it’s coming of age at 18 or 21, hitting 30, 40, 50, 60 or more, ‘big’ birthdays are worth marking. I’m doing 60 things at sixty which I will write about in an upcoming post.
2. Celebrating a pregnancy
Having a baby is one of the most special times in parents’ lives. Keep track of the pregnancy, including those incredible images from the scans.
3. Recording a business event or progress in a career
Many successful entrepreneurs keep a journal to help them achieve their ‘big hairy audacious goals’ or ‘HAGS’. One of the most famous is Tim Ferris, author of ‘The Four Hour Work Week’ who journals as part of his morning routine.
4. Food journal
With so many people turning to a healthy diet, keeping a journal of what you eat and drink helps to monitor your intake of all the right nutrients. Nutritionists frequently recommend keeping a food diary for weight loss. Include favourite recipes and menus for the week ahead.
5. Recovery from an illness
Sometimes recovery from a illness may not just be physical. Journaling is often recommended by therapists to help with mental issues. I asked members of a very large Facebook group the reasons they journal and helping with depression was a common thread.
6. Building new habits
Making changes in our lives, such as giving up smoking or healthy eating, frequently requires new habits. Darren Hardy’s book ‘The Compound Effect ’ looks at how taking small steps is the key to success in establishing new habits. Recording them in your journal helps to keep you on track.
7. Recording New Year’s resolutions
Each New Year starts with good intentions and starting a journal on January 1st brings a sense of purposefulness to them.
8. Family journal
When children are little they need a lot of entertaining. Why not sit down together after tea and write a few words about the day and illustrate with some pictures they can colour in.
9. Getting in touch with your feelings, emotions, values and beliefs
Recording how we feel about the challenges life throws at us can be a source of comfort and allows us to work out how to overcome these difficulties in a private space.
10. Creative writing practice
Use your journal as a place to practise creative writing. Just pick a topic and off you go. Maybe add a ‘Word of the Day’ to expand your vocabulary.
11. Helping your children’s wellbeing
Terrible two’s or stroppy teenagers. Each age has its challenges. Journaling about your children helps to release that pent up frustration parenting sometimes brings. And when they are little angels, you’ll have the perfect place to pat yourself on the back.
Whether it’s relationships with partners, children, your friends or work colleagues, writing down your feelings when things are not quite right may not only provide solace but also help to unravel those complex issues we all suffer.
13. A Journal of Dreams
Journal your dreams. I forget my dreams very shortly after I wake up. It may be insightful to write down what you remember. I can see this being useful if you are interested in creative writing.
Writing a Journal for planning the Future
14. Keeping track of exercise
Thinking of running a marathon or winning a tennis competition or cycling from London to Brighton? Recording your training schedule and seeing how you are improving is very motivating.
15. Planning family events
Weddings, birthday parties and anniversaries all take planning. Use a journal to list all the details which need to be arranged for a memorable event.
16. Travel plans and trips
Keeping a travel journal can include tickets, time-tables, maps, postcards, sketches as well as descriptions of all the wonderful places you visited, people you met and overall impressions.
17. Monitoring projects such as home renovations
Moving house usually means a great deal of DiY or even bigger projects. A journal can act as a project manager’s handbook, hopefully keeping those renovations on time and in budget.
18. Documenting a Challenge
Challenges are everywhere on blogs – juicing challenges, exercise regimes, even blogging challenges. Keep on track by reflecting on how you’re progressing.
19. Hobby or pastimes
Have you ever learnt a musical instrument or started a patchwork quilt. Keeping up with any form of practice or undertaking a project which might take many months, requires determination. Use a journal to set some goals and monitor your progress.
20. Savings plan
Tracking savings can really focus the mind on how much you’re spending. If you’re saving up for a special trip or a treat, writing down your progress can be that extra incentive.
21. Wedding Journal
There are lovely journals and planners for sale which are the perfect present for an engaged couple with helpful guides to every aspect of planning the special day.
Writing a Journal to record the Past
Whilst we may think our memories are crystal clear, research shows otherwise. I looked back at an appointment diary from 20 years ago and just a simple sentence brought back details of an event I had completely forgotten about.
23. Writing about your garden through the seasons
Whether you have a window box, a small back yard or rolling acres, it’s nice to note what flowered well and when, the plants you bought to bring colour through the summer and the success or otherwise of the veggies.
24. Celebrating successes
There’s nothing more rewarding than achieving a goal, however small. Making a point of recording the times when things have gone well gives you something to look back on when events take a turn for the worse. You’ve achieved success once, you can do it again.
25. Early days in a baby’s life
The first year in a baby’s life is filled with firsts – the first smile, sitting up, first food, first tooth, crawling and taking the first steps. Writing down their milestones in a special journal for them will be a special book you can give to them when they are older (or maybe you make two so you can keep one)
26. Photo journal – Recording images and pictures
This type of journal might be easier to store online in an album or on a private Pinterest board. One or more photos could capture the essence of a day.
27. Fashion, art and culture journal
For fans of the latest trends in art a journal recording exhibitions, magazines, shows, theatre, opera and even what’s hot in the celebrity world would make an interesting read many years later.
28. What happened today in history
The internet has all the resources you might need to note down what happened on each day of the year.
29. Noting inspirational quotes
I love a motivational quote – the sort you see on social media all the time. If you have great handwriting or are an expert calligrapher write them in your favourite script.
30. Bucket list
The much-loved bucket list is a great topic for journaling. Add a new adventure everyday but don’t forget to actually make some plans to tick some off.
31. Book and film review journal
Keeping a reading list of books suggested by friends is a great way to expand the different genres you read. In our family we give books as gifts and pass on our paperbacks. A short review of the last book you read would build into an anthology to look back on.
For film or video buffs, you could be your very own critic.
32. Song lyrics
The lyrics to most songs can be found online. A song a day might make a lovely journal particularly if you’re a good singer or like karaoke!
Although you could keep a journal on your computer, most people write them by hand. Combine your daily journal with learning calligraphy or hand lettering.
I learnt a lot of poems at school and only remember a few. How lovely would it be to write out a few lines, verses or the whole poem. Include the date it was written and a little about the poet.
Whatever your religion, prayer is central to worship. Filling your journal with a prayer a day will provide 365 to look back over during the year.
36. Write a journal in a foreign language
Here’s a tricky one. How great would it be to look back over a year of journaling in Italian or Japanese.
37. Gratitude journal
A gratitude journal makes us think about the things we are thankful for, however small, even in the face of adversity.
38. Art journal
If you are looking for inspiration for great art journals take a look at Pinterest and Instagram. The beauty of some of the art journals is amazing.
39. List of lists
For list lovers, a journal simply full of lists.
Whole novels have been written from a series of tweets, so I’m sure avid tweeters would enjoy keeping a record of either their own or other people’s who have amused them during the days.
41. Ideas brainstorming
A journal doesn’t have to be a neatly presented piece of ‘homework’. It can be used to brainstorm ideas. Whatever comes to mind, jot it down. You’ll end up with a completely original piece.
Different Journal Styles
42. Use One Word.com
Visit http://www.oneword.com/ and follow the instructions. Hit GO and you have 60 seconds to write about the word that appears on the next screen. It could be fun to keep them all in one notebook.
43. Use 750 Words
The website http://750words.com/ is an online community of people who sign up to write 750 words a day. The idea for this is an adaption of writing ‘morning pages’ from the book ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron.
44. Write one line a day
For the time poor start a ‘Line a Day’ journal and simply write just that – one line.
45. Random acts of kindness
Noting random acts of kindness may not end up being a daily journal but once you start looking out for them, I’m sure more will come along.
Well I hope that list was long enough to convince you that keeping a journal, writing a diary or using a notebook for planning important events is a worthwhile activity. The key is not to worry about:
- missing a day or two,
- making a few mistakes or
- sticking to any rules.
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