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What NOT to do when keeping a journal

Wednesday May 11, 2022

Philip writes,

I’m using my journal to support my daily life & work activities, and I wonder if you could provide some examples of what not to do when keeping a journal?

You got me thinking, Philip. Here are some important ones:

Do not use your journal the way you think it “should” be used.

Some people see others journaling a chronology of events, like “what happened today.” For you, this might be a waste of time. You can do these instead:

  • How I feel right now
  • What’s next in my day
  • What’s interesting to me today

It’s also a really great idea to start building your idea of, “how I use a journal” because this is often a very easy and effective way to make fast improvements, as long as you keep an open mind and periodically try out new approaches.

Never feel pressured to read to others out of your journal.

And by pressure I mean internal pressure from yourself, mostly.

For example, if you feel pressure to show others that you aren’t writing about them, to prove that you’re a good person, please reconsider. A lot of times this pressure is really coming from yourself, not from them. And if it does come from them, it’s often a good idea to set a boundary and not entertain others with your private thoughts.

Related: Don’t feel pressure to be unrealistically positive in your journal.

Your journal should be a place where you can write “so-and-so is a jerk and I hate them.” It’s important to have a place where you feel free to express this energy.

Avoid the temptation to stick to your journaling style, or template, when it shows signs of not working as well anymore.

Periodically ask yourself, “what do I dislike about my journaling template, or journaling practice?” Immediately make the change.

If you don’t do this, there is a really good chance that you’ll start to procrastinate.

For personal support, know what TYPE of journaling is appropriate.

Use the right type of journaling to support yourself. For example:

If you feel like you’re not getting anything done today, stay away from imaginative journaling practices, and instead use the emotional-informational dichotomy.

You can start with “I’m not getting anything done!!!!” instead, followed hopefully soon by a list of things that should be done, and maybe followed by more venting…this is all really appropriate for diving into lists, especially big lists.

For more information on that kind of emotionally-balanced productivity, see Task BATL, my free productivity system.

If on the other hand you’re burnt out, or getting things done isn’t super important right now, it can help to move to intuitive or imaginative journaling exercises for example.

That ought to be good enough for now Philip! Good luck. —Marc

Filed in: Productivity /119/ | Therapeutic Practice /144/

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