The days when keeping a diary was for tween girls are over. Since the advent of blogging in the late 1990s, people have been documenting their lives on the internet, creating multi-media journals of their life, an up-to-the-minute memoir sometimes providing more information than their friends and family want to know.
Private journaling can be an effective tool in personal development because it allows for a level of self-reflection and observation that is not possible using memory alone. While some people choose to journal as a way to record their thoughts and feelings over time, others focus their journaling on a specific area of life. They may keep a journal of their creative process, thoughts, and inspirations or record their spiritual journey through life. Many therapists ask clients to keep a journal to work through psychological issues or to help heal from a traumatic or painful life event.
A good idea is to keep a journal of personal and career development. This type of journal can offer countless insights into patterns of thought and behavior that may be sabotaging success. It can also help journalers identify fleeting ideas and moments of inspiration that can lead to new career paths or influence personal choices.
If you plan to begin a personal development journal in the New Year, here are the main steps.
1. Identify Your Purpose
There are a plethora of reasons to keep a journal, even in personal development. Will you be recording and reflecting on your dreams? Writing about self-esteem? Tracking your progress on specific goals? Chronicling an important project? How about keeping track of moments of thankfulness and gratitude in all areas of your life?
2. Define Your Process
This involves not just choosing the type of journaling you want to do, but setting a process for your practice. Will journal in the morning, before bed, during lunch? Are you going to journal in a hand-written notebook, a document file on your computer, or make use of online journaling sites? Will your journal be completely private or will you share it with a select circle of invitees or the public at large? Will you re-read your earlier entries once a month, once a quarter, every year?
3. Experiment with Form
Most people think of a journal as words written on under a date heading. There are, however, other ways to approach journaling. Some people fill their journal with doodles or illustrations. Others take the scrapbook approach of attaching ephemera from daily life along with written text. Others use collage or photos to supplement their thoughts. Being creative is an important part of achieving personal and professional goals, so let that creativity run free in the journal.
4. Stick to It
A journal is only useful if it becomes a regular habit. It’s okay to miss a day here or there, especially when starting out. In order to get the most out of the process, journaling has to be a regular practice. Then when it comes time to reflect, there will be enough data accumulated to make patterns and cycles of behavior visible.
One last thing. Many journalers focus their writing on their thoughts and reactions. It is important to take into account the setting of events. An inspiration thought in the shower is different than an idea that comes out of attending an motivational speech. When noting important thoughts and feelings, include a description of the setting in which it occurred, or even take a quick snapshot make a sketch. Additional patterns associated with place may suddenly make themselves clear.
Doris Timmons is a retired teacher and personal coach. She has written guest posts for lifestyle and personal development blogs. She has also helped develop lesson plans like the one found here and shared her teaching experiences on educational blogs.