Journaling When You Can’t

Journaling can occupy a special place in your life: as a way to document interesting scraps from life, mark significant events, or to create a timeline to revisit memories and work as a time machine.

You can do it in various ways.

This post is a quick primer to start with keeping a journal when you feel clueless.

So, where do you begin?

I’ll share what has worked for me over the years – and you can tweak the ways I suggest to your own convenience.

Cool? Let’s go.

Firstly, I’d break down the whole journaling process into three simple steps:

  1. Start with an intent
  2. Choose a medium
  3. Add stuff to it

Now, let’s dive into the details.

1. Start with an intent

This means, ask yourself why you’re journaling.

  • Creatives like picking inspirational nuggets
  • The business-kinds track finances
  • Some do it for their well-being and mental health

Your reason could be a different one, but identify it, and make sure that you’re doing it because you see a place for it in your life.

Coming to the step two.

2. Choose a medium

It’s likely that you have concerns regarding privacy, format, and quantity. And all of that can be controlled by the medium you choose.

Here are some mediums you can use to create and keep a journal:

  • A password-protected document. Create a word doc, set a password to it, and you’re done.
  • A bullet journal. A concise way to plan ahead, track habits, and jot any details that matter.
  • An old-school diary. Many people avoid keeping one due to its lack of privacy – but unless yours is going to be full of confessions, you can keep one.

Coming to the third step.

3. Add stuff to it

Now here’s the thing – some people think that there’s a ‘right way’ to write a journal. But that’s impractical, to expect all people to save their thoughts in the same way.

Years ago, I too searched for proper templates and formats, but then I realized that writing a journal the way I prefer works the best.

So, what can you add to your journal?

  • To-dos and life plans. I have several lists: like documentaries I want to watch, stuff I plan to buy, and things I wish to do. You can fill your journal with dreams and plans and ideas.
  • Habits and progress. I’ve tracked my sleep and meditation for three months – I might not do that forever. But if you feel that a habit is important enough to be tracked, track it.
  • Genuine thoughts. I have a word file in which I write the date and then pour whatever is on my mind – that frees me from a lot of overthinking. And I assure you that it’s among the best things you can do for your mental health. I call it the ‘mind dump’ document.
  • Back of the head stuff. I have a page or two dedicated to what keeps bothering me – like, incomplete tasks, the documents I didn’t make, the electronic item I didn’t fix, or anything similar. Instead of thinking about what I’m missing every time, I can look at that paper.
  • Ideas and inspiration. I keep a list of post ideas for my blog, I also save the links of what I find inspiring. I’ve created an Excel sheet to track the movies I’ve watched and the courses I wish to complete.

That’s how I did it when I kept a journal for six months or discovered newer ways to organize the chaos in my head when I felt restless.

But the more I look around myself, the more apparent it becomes to me how I found ways to save all that matters to make in various ways. You can’t keep a single journal – because you’re journaling in different ways.

And while it might not fall under the traditional definition of journaling, it’s what has worked for me like a charm.

For example, I’ve been keeping a WhatsApp notes folder to save links and ideas, and recently I’ve started categorizing work-related stuff using the Toby add-on in Chrome. For you, it can even be your social media timeline or the Google Fit journal.

You see, there’s a lot going on there.

We’re all journaling already in some or the other way.

Additional thoughts

Don’t worry about the frequency. You can either document and track things daily or scribble your thoughts occasionally.

There’s no perfect time. You need not wait for the start of the new year, your birthday, or some special occasion. Start your journal right when you think about doing it.

Find what you like. I like writing one word a day to remind myself about what I did on a certain day. Maybe you’d like to keep a video diary or a scrapbook.

Journal however you want. Keep the core intent in mind, then the medium and manners almost wouldn’t matter. As long as your way does the job and keeps your thoughts organized, you’re cool to go.

Yep, that’s all.

You’re all set to start a journal if you’ve never had one before. And buy a fountain pen maybe. They never go out of style.