9 Lessons From Keeping A Journal For 10+ Years

9 Lessons From Keeping A Journal For 10+ Years
Photo by Jan Kahánek / Unsplash

With 2,207 entries and over a million words written in my journal, there have been few lessons that I have picked up along the way.

I started journaling in 2013 with an old paper journal. Eventually, I had 10 journals filled cover to cover in 2 years. This prompted me to seek digital options, as if I kept this pace up, I would have 100 journals filled out over the next 20 years.

I ended up switching to the DayOne app and never looked back.

Along the journey of my journaling, I have learned a few things that are useful for anyone who is currently journaling or interested in creating a journaling habit.

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Focus On The Positives As Much As The Negatives

Reflecting upon many journal entries, I have found that more often than not, the focus is on the negative things going on in my life instead of the positives.

Our brains are wired to see the negative first. There’s a reason why almost every news station is gears towards making the world look like it’s a chaotic clusterfuck.

Small miracles happen every day that we take for granted. With all the flaws of humanity, it’s a miracle that the world even functions as well as it does. While humanity should strive to be better, it’s important to take a step back and enjoy how good things are.

Rereading Old Entries Isn’t A Requirement

If you journal long enough, you likely won’t reread 80% of the entries you write, and that’s okay! Journaling isn’t about writing down your thoughts and coming back to them later. It’s about slowing down your thoughts and getting them out of your head.

The act of writing is thinking. It helps structure your thinking in a way that’s digestible for your mind.

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Journaling Can Help You Identify Thought Patterns

There are two sides to the coin of journaling. If you do reread old entries, you may be proud of the growth that you have experienced as a person. You may become frustrated to see that you haven’t grown as much as you thought you have in years.

You may look back and see that you never became the person that you said you were going to become. It can either serve as a wake-up call or as a means to give up. It’s your choice.

Use Journaling Prompts

Journaling prompts are so helpful to keep track and check in on yourself during certain periods of your life.

Commonly, I’ll ask myself some simple things like “What are you grateful for today?” Or “What are you looking forward to today?”

The possibilities are endless for journaling prompts. I wouldn’t suggest building in the same prompts every single day of your life, as that can become tedious.

If a prompt gets stale, change it up. Journaling is supposed to be enjoyable and not a chore.

Get some free journaling prompts each week here.

Keep Your Journal Organized

If you keep a digital journal, take advantage of using tags. If you keep a paper journal, add a post-it tabs every time a month ends or color code certain topics.

This makes it easier to reference back to certain topics and how you felt about them. It makes reflecting upon your journal more fun and easier when you want to remember how you handled something a few years ago.

Try To Write Well

While your journal is only for you, still try to write well. When I read old entries that look like brain vomit, it makes me wonder what I was thinking. Some of the entries I don’t even understand.

If you try to write well and really focus in on the words you write, it helps you think deeper about a topic.

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Write Good Headlines For Yourself

When writing articles, we aim to write good headlines. Why not do it for your journal entries?

Whenever do you go flipping back through a journal, what makes you want to spend time and reading something that’s a 1000 words long if you don’t even know what it’s about?

Journal like you are writing an article for yourself. It doesn’t have to be as carefully crafted as an article, but it still should be well-thought-out. Think of a journal entry as a first draft.

If You Have A Digital Journal, Add Pictures

One thing I regret in keeping a digital journal in DayOne for 8 years is that I did not add plenty of pictures. Pictures liven up the entries and set a good reminder of the setting you were in.

You can always retroactively add pictures into old entries, but that feels like a chore.

No Matter How Much You Write A Goal Down, Action Is Critical

It doesn’t matter how much you write something down, it will never prompt you to act. The only action in journaling is the act of journaling itself. Journaling can provide a great precursor to taking the right action.

You can write about how you want to lose weight, run a marathon or start a new business all you want. Ultimately, you have to manifest those words into actions.

One of my favorite features about the DayOne app is the “On This Day” feature. It will filter out all the journal entries I took today on say May 4th of any given year to allow me to easily read through them.

Often enough, I find that I learn that I have been going through the same thought patters for years and that I need to act to change them.

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Journaling is an essential habit I believe that everyone should take on. A journal is personal and should fit you. If there are pieces of advice that I wrote above that you don’t like, you don’t have to take them. Journal in the best way for you to make it as enjoyable as possible, to maintain it as a habit.