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How To Keep A Writing Journal

by Michael Wilkes August 31, 2016

How To Keep A Writing Journal

In today’s busy world, it can be challenging to step back and take stock.  More and more people are turning to journaling as a way of taking back control and really reflecting on life.  A journal can be used for many reasons, such as recording daily events, making plans and tracking progress.

Below are some useful tips on how to use your journal.

Record Daily Events

Carry your personal diary with you, so that you always have it there.  Whenever the mood strikes, write down what has happened during the day for future reference.  This can include events that you deem important, as well as anything that has amused you or surprised you in some way.

This sort of journal should be a reference point, something for you to read in the future and remember certain events.  You can also use it to remember how certain events made you feel, how you overcame problems and what positivity you gained from your experiences.

Write To-Do Lists

In today’s hectic rush, our minds are full of ‘stuff’.  It can be easy to forget things and we find it hard to focus.  You may think of something important you need to do, only to be distracted by a text alert, an email or a meeting (usually about other meetings).

Writing things down as you think of them enables you to remember them later.  It also lets you clear them from your mind, relieving the feeling of stress as you try to remember what it was you had to remember!  If you keep a to-do list, you will find that you are more organised and reliable, less stressed and far more productive.

A great way to keep a to-do list is to use a Bullet Journal.  This is a way of keeping a very quick record of what you have done, what you need to do and what is important to you.

You can make one yourself by writing down the monthly calendar in list form on the left-hand page, then writing a to-do list on the right-hand page.  Include a tick box next to each task, so that you can tick each one off as you complete it.  This will not only help you stay organized, but it will also allow you to mark your progress and celebrate your productivity and success.

When you get to the next month, transfer all outstanding items onto the next page and start over again.  This way, nothing gets forgotten about and if a certain task becomes recurring, it will allow you to see what you are putting off and think about why.

The real benefit of bullet journaling is the short amount of time needed in order to do it.  We are busy people and the thought of using a journal can seem daunting.  This system allows you to do that very thing in no time at all, helping you to feel positive and stay focused.

You have great flexibility in how to use the symbols in the bullet journal. These are the little pictures that tell you what each item means — task, even, note, etc.

See Many More Key Ideas here.


Another great method of keeping daily to-do lists is the GSD approach.  This simply stands for ‘Getting Sh*t Done’ and really is as simple and quick as it sounds.

Its creator, Bill Westerman, wanted a way to get things done properly, with no wishy-washy over-thinking and procrastinating.  Quite simply, you write down tasks that you need to do, by saying how you will do them.

For example, rather than noting ‘send party invites’ you would instead note down a list such as:

  1. Buy invites
  2. Write a list of people to invite
  3. Write invites
  4. Post invites

Like the bullet journaling system, you can migrate tasks onto the next day’s list, ensuring nothing is forgotten about and allowing you to prioritize with each new day.

Dash Plus

If you really want to bring about some order in your to-do lists, you can use the dash/plus system.  This simple key allows you to see what you need to do, what is outstanding and what you can’t complete right now.

Created by author Patrick Rhone, this simple design is quick to use and suits anyone who doesn’t have the desire to keep lengthy journals or create monthly checklists, etc.


Let it Go

Before you start breaking out into a chorus from the film Frozen, just think about what this means for a moment.  By writing down your negative thoughts and emotions, things that have upset you or caused you pain, you can quite simply let it go.

The process of keeping a writing journal can allow you to strip your mind of these anxieties and overcome them.  Quite often when reading these thoughts back, you will find that you are better able to deal with them and they seem less frightening.

It is a good idea to keep this sort of diary on your bedside table, in order for you to clear your mind before sleep.  You will have a much more restful night, if you aren’t tossing and turning due to having too much on your mind.

Make Goals

Using a journal to really focus on what you want out of life can be extremely rewarding.  Write down goals of all shapes and sizes, from the holiday you want to go on, to your dream home.  Once you have written them down, then go about writing down how you can achieve them in small, achievable steps.

As you reach each milestone, write down how you did it and tick it off the list.  You will literally see yourself reaching and smashing goals.

This makes it easier to get what you want out of life, giving you something tangible to focus on.  Don’t be afraid to change things along the way, as your life changes and different things become important to you.

Make Lists

We all have things we want to do, things we want to see, read or watch, places we want to visit.  Getting round to doing it all can be impossible but you stand a much better chance if you keep a list.  The next time you are shopping for a new book, you can refer to your list to see what books you actually want to read.  If somebody mentions a film they have enjoyed over coffee, write it down and go back to it at a later date.

This can apply to all sorts of things and you can adapt it to work best for you.  It goes back to the theme of not having enough space inside your head for everything, so keeping a reference point will allow you to enjoy life more fully by experiencing more.  Using a lined journal is the best way of keeping an orderly list.

We are all different, coming in different shapes and sizes, as well as being different in the way we think and react to things.  How you work best will differ from how your friend, colleague or loved one does.  Bear this in mind when deciding how to use a journal, for it will matter greatly.

If you are someone who likes words, who has time to craft pages and pages of thoughts and feelings and use them to self-help, then a personal diary would work great for you.  However, if you find yourself constantly on the go, stressed and missing deadlines, then a bullet journal or something similar would be best.

Consistency is the key to success.  Make sure you stick to writing in your journal regularly, daily if you can, and use the same methods.  Chopping and changing won’t allow you to chart your progress, whether that is in material ways or emotionally, and could even cause you confusion.

Have Fun

Remember to have fun with it.  Journaling can help you in many ways but benefits disappear if you dread doing it. This makes choosing your style even more important.  If you start with one system and don’t like it, or you feel you aren’t gaining anything from it, then move on to something else.  Life is too short to waste time on non-essential things that you don’t enjoy, or are not helping you in some way.

Michael Wilkes
Michael Wilkes

Michael spent way too many years behind a software desk before launching his first physical product. If he is not building something, or preparing to, or cajoling someone else into starting their own business, you'll find him craving Twizzlers and a movie with Ruth or sneaking M&M's at a grandchild's event.

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