It doesn’t seem that journaling would be a hard thing. Look at any retail outlet with a stationary section, and note the journals and dairies available – hard covers, soft covers, post it sized pages, legal sized pages, and more colors than a psychedelic rainbow. Yet, for the life of me, I struggle to put down the events of my life in any meaningful way. However, this post is about four types of journals that I think that are meaningful and ones that I am grateful that we have – and why I think that they are important.
The top spot goes to the gratitude journal. Obvious, to be sure, considering the blog, but there are solid reasons why a gratitude journal is important. It can be combined with other journals and also as a way to get the brain moving as you consider what to record. This is the type of journal that I am the most consistent with. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of space, especially if you are in a hurry – three to five short lines will do the job well. The main point is to be grateful for the small and large things in life, not to write an essay. When I put the daily list in my journal, it’s usually the small stuff, like getting my exercise routine done, getting to work on time, having a great conversation with my wife. Small things to be sure, but important as well. Life is built on the small things and I think they need to be celebrated.
A second type of journal is the events journal, which is one of the more common types out there. In essence, I write down the events in my life. Now, depending on the event, I put down details about what happened, who they happened with, and any special meanings or consequences of the events. A day’s events can be short – a single sentence will do for most things. Also, if I am tired, I may just jot the bones of the event and hopefully come back to it the next day to flesh it out. Yet, if I don’t, then no stress. The important thing is to make it a habit and put down something. Also, if I worked on any goals, then I put down what I did and how far I got – although I often put any goal progress in my gratitude journal as I am grateful for any and all progress that I am making on a daily basis and I want to recognize that.
A third type of journal is the feelings journal. This is a more involved type of journal and the entries tend to be longer than the first two types. Here, the journal is about getting what’s in your heart onto the page. In a way, it’s like meeting with a therapist and sharing what is bothering you or what is making you feel great. It can be similar to a gratitude journal if you focus on positive emotions, such as the things that happen that make you happy. In any case, it’s great for getting feelings out that you have harbored within and are stagnating there. It also tends to combine several journal types together, including the two previous types mentioned above.
The fourth and final journal type that I am grateful for and has created value in my life is the roles-based journal. I got the idea when thinking about the scheduling method put forth in 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Dr. Stephen Covey. The basic premise was that we all have a number of roles that we play in life: employee/employer, father, mother, son, daughter, artist, reader, etc. My weekly schedule is based on the time during the week that each role takes up. The journal concept is that the journal entries are based on what happens during the blocks of time where I am fulfilling each role. This type of journal does pre-suppose that I am is making a schedule and working it as I run through the journal process. This method takes the most work, but also allows for the most personal development and feedback.
For myself, journals are primarily for me. I know that some people write them to one day share them with their children or close friends, but I see them as a way to learn from my own past – my mistakes as well as my successes. Events, as they recede into the past, become vague and I make mistakes about my recollection of them. By writing them down and how I feel about what occurred, it allows me to reflect on them in the future and remember the lessons learned and come to a greater understanding of my choices and how it has affected my life.