A Quick Start Guide to Journaling

by Haider on December 8, 2008 · 2 comments

in Journaling

If you’ve been putting off journaling for a long time, or have recently discovered the advantages of journaling but don’t know how to begin, then this post is for you!

But before we get started, it’s important to be clear on what the purpose of journaling is. That way, you’ll know exactly what you want out of it, and you’ll notice how silly the main obstacle to journaling is (we’ll get to that in a minute).

The Purpose of Journaling

The most basic purpose of journaling is: to express your thoughts in written form.

While your thoughts are floating in your head, you don’t really have a good grasp of them, or how they relate to each other. By writing your thoughts down, you can manage ideas as though they are building blocks that you can rearrange to form the structure that you want. This is almost impossible to achieve if you are simply thinking, without writing.

Writing is what brings clarity, and journaling is the process you use to express your thoughts in written form.

The Main Obstacle to Journaling

What prevents many people from journaling is the false assumption that their thoughts must be clear and well structured as soon as they put pen to paper. In other words, if they can’t see their thoughts flowing gracefully onto the paper, then they aren’t good at journaling!

But journaling isn’t about writing well. It’s about writing your thoughts down, no matter how scattered or messy they are. Your thoughts don’t even have to be true! What matters is that you write them down. You can then see your thoughts more clearly, and refine them later on.

Therefore, expect your writing to lack structure and your thoughts to lack clarity. This is normal. And this is what journaling will help you improve. You will begin to structure your writing and clarify your thoughts with journaling.

In other words, structure and clarity are the outputs of journaling and not the required inputs.

Now that we got this obstacle out of the way, let’s consider our journaling options.

Paper or PC?

There are two main ways you can keep a journal: on paper, or on a computer. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. To list just a few:

Paper Advantages:

- Portable (though smart phones can offer the same advantage)
- Comfortable for some people (myself included)
- Flexible (you can write, doodle, draw, etc.)
- Can see the entire page (without needing to scroll, zoom out, etc.). This might not be an advantage to others, but it’s certainly an advantage for me!

Paper Disadvantages:

- Strain on the wrist (which can get you to stop writing before you run out of ideas to write!)
- Can be difficult to read after some time (especially if your handwriting is as bad as mine)

Computer Advantages:

- Easy to search
- Easy to edit and organize
- Faster (especially if you increase your typing speed. A keystroke will always be faster than writing a letter)

Computer Disadvantages:

- Can lose your files if your computer files aren’t well organized

I actually use both approaches, to combine their advantages and overcome their disadvantages. I mostly use a notepad to write my thoughts down while I’m in a meeting, or for brainstorming, or planning, etc. I use my computer for when I need to write a lot and writing on paper would seriously slow me down. I also use my mobile phone to record my thoughts while I’m on the go.

Getting Started

1- Buy/Grab a notepad (preferably with a hard cover), or use a word processing software (it can be Microsoft Word, or Notepad, or a specialized software, like The Journal)

2- Think of an issue that’s bugging you, or is looping in your head

3- Give this idea a title (e.g. buying a new PC), and write the title at the top of the first page of your journal (or at the top of your computer file), and include the date (this can be important for reference)

4- If you already have thoughts on the matter, write them down as they come to you (but don’t force yourself to think more about the issue)

5- If you have another (unrelated) idea that’s on your mind, repeat steps 3 and 4, but on the next page of the journal (or under a new title in your computer file. Try not to write in a new file, because the files will be more difficult to manage later on)

Of course there’s more to journaling than that, but this isn’t called a QUICK Start Guide for nothing :)

Use this as your first step towards journaling, and I’ll give you more tips to make the journaling process much more rewarding for you.

The main advantage to a quick start is that you overcome the main obstacle of journaling and become used to writing your thoughts down, without caring about how structured or presentable they are.

Let me know what your experience of journaling is using the Quick Start Guide :D

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kathleen October 2, 2009 at 5:30 am

Another disadvantage of journaling is the journal may be read by somebody else who steps over the boundary of honoring your privacy.

2 Haider October 3, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Thanks Kathleen!

I can’t believe I left out privacy in this post!

Fear of having someone read your intimate thoughts can be a major obstacle to getting into journaling (especially if you want to explore thoughts and emotions you rather others not know about). I tend to use The Journal (PC software) for computer journaling, which has password-protection.

Thanks again!

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