Apparently I can only figure things out in retrospect. After journaling off and on for more than 25 years (youch!), here is what I have learned.
For a few years I lost the journaling habit, much to my dismay, which I detailed in this post (Journaling, Journaling, What To Do?).
Then last year (2013) I got back in the daily journaling habit very successfully with my day per page diary. I wrote about that journaling success here (Journal Evaluation 2013).
Part of my success was that I redefined how I thought of journaling. Now it's not my innermost thoughts, it's more a record of what I and my family did each day. I get a lot of inspiration from this woman's post on how she uses her journal to capture everything about her life, from the mundane to the great.
This has completely freed me from any journaling constraints. The result is an excellent record of my life, which is what I want it to be.
Here are some lessons I need to keep in mind for the future when journaling:
1. Write something every day. I like to be able to see an account of what I did every day, even if it's only, "Rainy day, sat on the couch and read a book by the fire all day." (Which never actually happens, by the way, but you get the idea.) When I look back through my book and days are blank, I feel like I've lost days of my life. It's not helped by the fact that I have a terrible memory, so this record really is essential to help me remember what happened and when.
2. Use whatever book I'll actually use (and carry with me all the time). Over the years I've gone back and forth between dated day per page diaries or undated notebooks. Right now I'm having huge success in an undated notebook
and am thoroughly enjoying not worrying about overfilling pages. I just
use it. It's so liberating. But there are advantages of using a dated
day-per-page book: it's already dated, and the whole year is in one book. The
bottom line is, I need to use whichever type of book I will actually
use every day, and I need to be able to carry it everywhere with me.
This is the most important thing, having it with me all the time. The reason I fell off the journaling wagon was because there was a barrier to getting out a separate book to write in. When I have my daily book with me all the time, more things land there than I would take the time to haul out a separate book at home to record. I like to capture all the little things, and that's most likely to happen in the book that's with me all the time.
3. Use an index. I have tried several types of indexing, and I have found the best way for me to find information and events is to use a monthly calendar where I write a summary of events each day. This is similar to how Patty uses her index pages in her Franklin Covey planners.
When I use a monthly index, I can see patterns (like my kids'
illnesses, if I'm exercising regularly or not, how often we're filling
the heating oil tank, etc.).
4. Tape cards directly onto the day's page. Recently I went searching through all the card holders in all my old Filofax binders looking for the card of a self-catering apartment where we stayed in Dubrovnik several years ago. I can't find it, dang it. If I had taped it directly to the page in my journal when we stayed there, I would know exactly where to look. I did this in my Diary 2000 for places we went and stayed, and now I can still find those cards easily. Similarly I need to write details on the daily pages so they are easy to find years later like restaurant names, names and email addresses of people I meet, and those other types of details. I never know when that information might prove useful again.
I've captured some wonderful things in my daily books over the years, despite my inconsistent use of them. In my Exacompta Daily Pocket diary from 2001 I have the hand-drawn map of how to get to a friend's flat in Paris. In my Textagenda I used in Nepal I have details of teacher trainings and daily Nepali life. In my Diary 2000 I have details of that very eventful year. And in all my diaries since my kids have been born I have all those little memories that I would otherwise forget.
Journaling is a journey, and I've learned lots along the way. Now I feel like I finally know what I like to record and how I like to record it! But of course that can change when my life circumstances change.
Do you like to record your days? What have you learned works for you?