As the start of the new year approaches, people often think about starting a journal. There is no reason why you need to start a journal on the 1st January, but it is a popular time to start, perhaps because of preprinted diaries. If you are thinking of keeping a journal here are some ideas for the type of journal you could keep.
This is a record of events that are important to you, for instance news or sports stories. You could simply keep newspaper cuttings or you could add your thoughts and comments on the headlines. I kept one of these at school which covers the first Iraq war and my sister kept one of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. It does not need to be national events, it could be more local events, for instance connected to your local town, school or sports club.
You many want to follow your progress on a specific topic, such as your exercise habits or children. You may find it useful to start these entries using a template so you can easily track progress over the year, such as exercise undertaken, weight. These journals do not need to be limited to one topic, for instance Ira Progoff encourages writing on different topics and filing each topic within different sections in a folder rather than chronologically.
A dream journal should be written every morning as soon as you wake up to capture as many details of the dream as possible, the longer you leave it after waking the fewer details you can remember. You could just capture the dreams or you may want to analyse them using a dream dictionary , or just looking at the imagery yourself and suggesting meanings; it is often easier to do this a few days after having the dream. It is good to give each dream a title and keep an index of them so you can review them later, perhaps monthly, and notice any patterns.
Keeping a journal of holidays you take means after the event you have more than just photographs as a record. It is good to keep specific details of where you have stayed and where you have gone, for instance instead of saying we went to the beach say which beach, so at a later date you can recreate the holiday or can make recommendations to friends. It is great to use a travel journal in a similar way to a scrapbook, sticking in additional information such as postcards, brochures and tickets of where you have been. A travel journal can be particularly nice if you are going on a special holiday, e.g. honeymoon, you do not travel very often or if you are expecting to learn a lot while travelling such as on a gap year. Many people are now keeping blogs when they travel as a way of sharing their experiences with their friends and family, but they are still a journal as they keep a record of what you see and do.
For people who like reading it can be useful to keep a reading journal, and it may be worth considering buying a preprinted book although it is easy enough to create your own. A reading journal enables you keep to a record of all aspects of your reading, such as the books in your inventory, the books you want to buy, which books you’ve read and what you thought of them. You can do a lot of this online these days with websites such as Librarything and you can keep a log of the books you read or your reviews online as I do on this blog.
Specific time frame
Something unusual may be happening that you want to keep a record of, for instance you are pregnant, planning your wedding, building your own house. These are things that are not part of your usual life and that you may want to look back on in the future. You could keep a simple journal of photographs and lists, or you could also write about your thoughts and experiences as you experience the changes. Corrie Haffly has a very good example of a pregnancy journal.
Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up with the little things in our lives that we forget all the good things. A gratitude journal helps to focus your thoughts on the what is good in your life. There are many different forms this could take, for instance, a small notebook that you carry with you and write an entry whenever you realise you are grateful for something, or a list of 10 things you were grateful for during the day. By focusing on the happy things your mind starts to focus more on the positive and less on the negative so you start to appreciate even more things you are grateful for.
Group or family journal
It could be fun and eye opening to keep a group journal. This could be done by all members of the group writing an entry about their day, or their thoughts on the same topic, or it could be done by each member of the group holding the journal for a specific time frame, such as a week and then passing it on to the next person. This is a great way of learning to understand people better and building closer relationships as people start to appreciate the differences and similarities within the group.
A journal can be a good method of identifying where you can improve your life and then monitoring progress. For instance, I originally did the Wheel of Life exercise in my journal and find it a great visual way of tracking my progress. However, there are plenty of other exercises to get you thinking, some of my favourites are to list all the things I am resisting at the moment and to write a list of 25 things I wish for; both enable me to review where I want to focus my energy in the coming weeks.
If you are working on a project where you are trying different methods or are continually learning you may want to keep a journal to capture all the information. This is common practice in laboratories to keep a record of the different combination of chemicals, but it can also be used for different types of projects. For instance, I could keep a log of each piece of clothing I make, did I learn a new way of adding a zip, did something go wrong that I need to solve in the future, was the material difficult to work with. This way all the information is captured in one place and you do not need to remember it.
Gardening / Nature journal
This is similar to the project journal above as it is a record of what occurs in the garden, but it may also include observation of the wildlife you see, such as birds and this starts incorporating aspects of a nature journal where descriptions and pictures of the nature you see are included.
It can be good to have a complete break between work and home so you don’t carry the emotions and worries in to the home. Some people do this by exercising or mediating, but using a journal can also be effective. By writing as soon as you get home you can capture all the thoughts in your mind and remove the work mindset so you can then relax fully into your home life.
As soon as you wake in the morning start writing. This will enable you to capture the thoughts in your head, particularly any worries. You could write paragraphs or just a list of every thing you want to do that day, week, month or even year. This can then be reviewed on a regular basis and used to help form plans.
A creative journal could just be a collection of ideas, observation, sketches, magazine clippings that could be used to inspire creative work such as paintings, stories. Or it could be a process of developing your creativity by completing a course such as Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way Workbook.
Sometimes the thought of keeping a journal can be exciting, but also daunting. If you are keen to keep a record, don’t let the commitment put you off, Gretchin Ruben keeps a one sentence diary where she aims to write just one sentence each day. But if that seems too much Kathleen Adams in her book Journal to the Self suggests keeping an adjective journal where at the end of the day you write down one adjective to describe the day and one adjective to describe how you want tomorrow to be.
My personal journal writing style includes most of the examples above. I tend to write in the evenings when I’m in bed, although when I have a lot on my mind I write in the mornings or when I get home from work. I tend to just write what ever is in my head but often supplement this with exercises I have picked up from different books.
If you are planning to keep a journal in 2008 let me know how it works for you.