One of the habits I try to develop is keeping a daily journal. Not a ‘dear diary’ but just a short record of my day with a few details. I have been doing that now for about six weeks. What have I learned?
A few times a day I open my laptop or iPad and write about what I have done or just some thoughts that pop into my head. It takes me no more than five to ten minutes each day. I learned that keeping a daily journal is not just fun to do, it is also a good way to capture your thoughts and ideas on paper. And it is even more fun to read back your old journal entries. But there are many more benefits.
I don’t use a fancy system or app for keeping a daily journal. The only thing you need is a simple word processor. The simpler the better. I personally use Evernote and only use one document for the journal. I write the new entries at the top. This way the newest journal entries are always first and the oldest at the bottom of the document.
Famous journal entries
“Captain’s log, Stardate 4525.6. A small disturbance between the Klingon crew and members of the Enterprise crew has broken out aboard Space Station K-7. I am forced to cancel shore leave for both ships.” (TOS: “The Trouble with Tribbles”)
“My name is Ernest Miller Hemingway I was born on July 21 1899. My favorite authors are Kipling, O. Henry and Steuart Edward White. My favorite flower is Lady Slipper and Tiger Lily. My favourite sports are Trout fishing, Hiking, shooting, football and boxing. My favourite studies are English, Zoology and Chemistry. I intend to travel and write.”
Above are two famous journal entries. The first one is by Captain James T. Kirk, Commanding Officer of the USS Enterprise. The second one is by an actual person (sorry Trekkies). It was the first ever journal entry of a nine year old Ernest Hemingway.
One of the earliest recorded travel journals was by the Venetian merchant and explorer, Marco Polo. His journal, Book of the Marvels of the World, documented his travels to Asia. It even inspired Christopher Columbus on his voyage to the United States.
The Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci recorded his thoughts in a series of papers and notes, which was then put together after his death. The notebooks contain his notes on a range of topics, including mechanics and astronomy, offering an insight into da Vinci’s thought process.
One of the most renowned composers of all-time, Ludwig van Beethoven kept numerous notebooks, journals and letters which provided an indication of the man behind the compositions. In one entry the German composer reveals his deafness, as well as a deep depression and struggles with keeping it a secret.
Prior to keeping a daily journal, the English geologist and biologist Charles Darwin had already achieved a degree of fame for The Voyage of the Beagle, which recorded his experiences aboard HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. Darwin then started keeping a personal journal in August 1838.
Five benefits of keeping a daily journal:
Learn about yourself
Reading back in your old journal entries you will recognize trends, actions that led to certain results. Reading your journal is similar to hovering above yourself and seeing the things you did. It is like watching a movie about your life. You will learn which things you did were successful. You will also recognize the mistakes you made. Also, when you force yourself to put your thoughts on paper you will need to think them through. That will learn you a lot about your thought processes.
Learn to write
Putting your thoughts on paper is hard. What words do you use and how do you build sentences that make sense? When you have a habit of doing this everyday you will get better at it. Ernest Hemingway started when he was nine. But it is never too late to start!
Empty your head
Writing is actually an external thinking process. Keeping a daily journal, writing down your thoughts and ideas, will clear your head and transfer everything to the blank paper that is in front of you.
Record your thoughts and ideas
When you make a habit of writing down your thoughts and ideas a few times a day they will never be forgotten. Trouble remembering that brilliant idea you had? Just read back in your journal!
Enjoy reading your old journal entries
Trust me: reading back your old entries is so much fun! What did you do this time last week? Or last month? Or last year? You will surprise yourself. Warning! You will become addicted and will keep reading for hours.