Some things I've learned from journaling for 754 days in a row
put away your calculator, it’s 2 years and 24 days
I’ve written a journal entry in an app on my phone for 754 days in a row now.
Here are some things I’ve learned:
I haven’t changed all that much, really.
Even though I set time aside daily to reflect on my day and my feelings, I haven’t noticed any meaningful changes. I’ve noticed patterns, which I suppose I should be learning from, yet I keep making the same mistakes and perpetuating the same bad habits.
A small sampling: I’m quick to get defensive, I succumb to Parkinson’s Law too often, and I usually stay up way too late.
It takes more than only writing about your missteps to change your behavior. Working with a therapist or coach and setting personal goals and boundaries can help too.
Sometimes it feels like there’s no point.
But that’s beside the point. It’s more about getting the thoughts that are rattling around in my head all day out of my head.
There’s this concept called the monkey mind. Google is telling me it stems from Buddhist principles and it’s “a term that refers to being unsettled, restless, or confused.” It’s your inner critic, basically. Journaling is excellent at telling your monkey mind to shut the hell up for a second.
On days when I need to, I can essentially scream onto the page, and it feels good. On days when I don’t, I can just give a quick rundown of my day, and that’s fine too.
I’m a sucker for a streak.
It’s part of why I’ve only missed one week of this newsletter, even though I have a million excuses I could use to skip it each week.
The funny thing about my journaling streak is that no one gives a crap about it but me. It’s like some sort of competition I’m having with myself, even though I’m usually not a very competitive person. My wife Allison knows I’ve been journaling for a while, but she learned about my 754-day streak when she read the title of this piece, the same as you did.
But whatever, I’m gonna keep going. I’ve got to hit 1,000 days at least, right?
I’m really, really bad at typing on my phone.
There are sooooo many typos in my previous entries. It’s shocking how terrible I am, and I only seem to be getting worse.
I like that there’s no pressure.
It’s part of why I don’t really care if I make typos. Journaling, by definition, is writing to an audience of one—unless someone invades your privacy and reads your stuff, of course. It means I can rant, rave, and react without any judgment from others. It’s freeing.
Despite this fact, I still take pleasure in coming up with a clever turn of phrase or discovering an interesting insight for my future self to read.
Writing about the small, everyday things matters.
The app I use sends me a notification when I have entries from the same day in prior years. I underestimated how much I’d enjoy reading my words from the past. It’s more satisfying than you’d think to be reminded of a mundane situation you were dealing with at work last year or how you went on a nice walk with your family two years ago.
Before this 754-day streak, I would only journal sporadically. It always felt like I didn’t have anything of substance to write about. But then I was commuting to work one morning and I heard someone on some podcast give a simple piece of advice: start small. Just write one sentence about one thing you did today. That’s it. If you want to write more, great. But you don’t need to. There’s no rule that says you have to dive deep and unveil some inner truth about yourself every day. It’s cool to just write about what you had for dinner or whatever.
My only wish is that I’d started journaling regularly earlier. There are so many days that are forever lost in the recesses of my mind but I’m sure I would love reading about them again.
But as they say, you’ve got to start somewhere. You should start today.
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