4 Tips to Keep a Personal Journal That Can Help You Disconnect and Focus
We rely on technology for nearly every activity in our lives, from scheduling our days, organizing tasks and projects, keeping track of contacts and even tracking your favorite craft beer.
While I am no different than most -- addicted to my iPhone and employing a number of apps every day -- I am also still partly stuck in the 1990s with my written journal, which I use daily to manage tasks and record activities and thoughts.
In meetings, people sometimes stare at it like a rare, prehistoric fossil.
After years of insecurity, however, I have finally found validation for my age-old journal habit. Recent research has demonstrated that taking notes by hand is better than taking notes electronically for remembering conceptual information over the long term. The findings were published in Psychological Science.
Does this mean that every entrepreneur needs to adopt a leather-bound journal and ditch their laptops? No, but if you find yourself tethered to your electronics, you might consider taking up a written journal as a means of helping you disconnect and refocus from time to time.
Here are a few tips to get started.
1. Invest in a good journal.
You are much more likely to keep and use a journal if you find one that is easy to use, reliable and does not embarrass you during company meetings. This means not settling for a cheap composition notebook -- unless that is what you like -- but rather "investing" in something that will encourage its use.
Consider a few of these options:
Moleskine. I have used Moleskine notebooks for years. It is small, sturdy and reliable, and I like that you can find it in a number of different sizes, colors and styles to meet your needs. On a side note, it is worth pointing out that the company’s fantastic performance since its IPO in 2013 is proof that the journal is alive and well in today's digital world.
Passion Journal. After graduating from university in 2012, Angelia Trinidad launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a new type of journal to help young professionals find direction in life. While I prefer blank journals, the format of the Passion Journal is a great template for those just getting started.
The Bullet Journal. Organizing items, tasks and thoughts in your notebook can be a challenge and become redundant. Although everyone should have their own "system" for organizing, the Bullet Journal provides a great tutorial for a very effective method. If you find the tips useful, the founder, Ryder Carroll, will soon introduce a custom journal that integrates his organization methods.
2. Find the right pen.
For me, using a bad pen, such as a ball point pen (sorry Bic), is enough to make me chuck writing altogether. For that reason, I like to stick to a particular type of pen that not only writes well but feels great in my hand. Over the years, I have found that price is not an effective measure of usefulness, so experiment with a variety of writing tools until you find one you like.
These days, I use the new Sharpie non-bleed pens, which are affordable and write great.
3. Invest the time.
For those who have eliminating writing in their lives, getting started over again can be tough. Consider making it part of your routine, either in the morning when planning your day or in the evening when debriefing. Also, allow yourself a little time each week to free write or doodle, which has been shown to help improve focus and creativity.
4. Ditch perfection.
Lastly, you need the right expectation about a written journal. Your notebook is not meant to be a manuscript or memoir, but rather a place where you can "brain dump" ideas, organize your day and spark your creativity. It is not going to be a work of art archived in the Smithsonian, so don’t treat it as such.
A journal can be used for many different personal and professional tasks, but the one I find most beneficial is its ability to help you reflect. Because I have kept all my journals through the years in a box in my closet, I occasionally read one from the past. Doing so has helped me see the sad amount of time I have wasted on mundane tasks or stresses that eventually passed with time.
Being able to reflect in this way will put life in perspective and teach you to manage your time and be better focused on the things that matter most. This may well be the best reason of all to keep a journal.
Do you keep a journal? What tips do you have for others trying to create this great habit? Please share with others in the comments section below.