The Benefits of Journal Writing

Personal Journal Writing

“Writing is only boring to the people who are boring themselves.” ~ Anonymous

I’m doing journal writing for over 3 years now. It is a simple Word-document. Well, at least it started out as simple. I have to say that I am very happy that I started it and I am constantly amazed what a powerful tool it is. I remember when I wrote the first entry saying something like “I wanted to start this some time now, but somehow I always felt a bit childish going for it.” Strangely enough I had the limiting belief that writing a journal is something weak. Boy, what a stupid idea :)

Finally I went for it …

The following list describes the greatest benefits to start journal writing. I call it a success-journal. And the number one reason to do it is …

1. Self-Reflection: You attain clarity and keep your inner space clear

Writing can be so powerful. It forces you to crystallize your thoughts into written content, which simultaneously forces you to think deeper into the topic that is important to you. I had several powerful realizations that were the perfect solution to my challenges back then. It is incredible what you can achieve if you get your issues out on paper and expect to find a solution. Of course we do this in our head constantly, but writing it down makes it much more easy to think trough complex issues. Sometimes it is really the only way to dig deeper and find the underlying principle or cause of your “problem”.

The most important fact to succeed reflecting is to get to the core and to stay honest with yourself. If you are truthful with yourself (and what is the use of lying in your own journal anyway? ;)) you will get to the point where you see the next level of thought that you avoided so far, leading towards a solution. Self-Awareness is always to key to advance.

And it always feels so great to get the inner space clear again. Do you go to you gym and to your doctor to keep your body in shape and clear of problems? Why not do same to your mind and spirit by getting rid of the mental ballast you accumulated over time? Self-Reflection is the method to do this and writing a journal is the key, at least for me.

2. Write down your goals

In a personal journal you also have a fantastic place to write down your goals. I wrote my goals, divided into personal and professional goals, at the top of my personal journal. They are then further divided into the areas of importance and written down. I also put down a link to these goals so I can jump directly to them from anywhere in my journal. For instance if I write something like “Today I achieved the important step of … for my goal …”, I can jump from there right to the goal by linking to it.

3. Review your goals

Think about it, you see your daily journal every day. What could be a better tool to develop the habit of reviewing your goals regularly, if not daily? As said, I always can jump to my list of goals and focus myself on it, right before I start into my day.

You can review and set your goals new every quarter just by creating a new goal-page in your journal. I prefer this over editing your list of goals, because you can see the old goals that you achieved later and it also prevents you from changing your goals too often.

4. It gives you something to hold yourself responsible

If you write something down it is a different level of commitment to yourself. You can use this fact to your advantage. Let’s face it, sometimes we all could use a small kick in the butt to get us going into the right direction. By using your journal in this way, you will become your own coach. You can really say something to yourself and by writing it into your journal you can put a commitment on yourself. In this way you can literally lead yourself. This kind of self-leadership is a great way to push yourself to where you want to go. Someone really cares, and that someone is you ;) I personally love this, it is just important to balance it fitting your own needs.

5. You write a book about yourself

This is the typical idea of a diary: you write what happens to you, you reflect a bit about it and add your feelings and thoughts. I also add pictures I made of the locations or of the achievements that were important to me. It is really great to review your personal development over the time. I remember Tony Robbins saying a life worth living is worth recording. Now I sometimes go back to the first journal and check my goals, thoughts and ideas that I had back then. It may also be a great document for our relatives or even be inspiring for other people, who knows who you will reach in your life from now on?

It will give you a sense of your own personal growth and by that it will also motivate you to grow.

6. A great place to plan

I use my personal journal to do my weekly planning. Every Sunday I sit down and plan the next week ahead with the big tasks connected to my goals. These tasks are divided into personal and professional tasks, put into the areas of importance and then prioritized. It includes a list of the tasks I want to accomplish over the week and it follows the pattern “Priority [Area] Task”. I then put these tasks into my daily tool, which is iCal and execute them over the week.

7. Idea-Journal: You can jot down your ideas

I also collect great ideas in my personal journal. These ideas may appear out of thoughts, of intuition, of talks with other people or out of something I read, heard or saw anywhere. You could also use an idea-journal for this and I use one for my profession, but you can also keep these ideas right in one place.

8. You exercise your writing skills

This is obvious but I think it is worth noticing. By writing a personal journal you get into the habit of writing. I think without my personal journal I would not write this blog today. It is not necessary to write the greatest poetry of the world into your personal journal, neither is it the point unless you are a poet. But simply by writing a personal journal writing will become a much more natural expression of yourself.

Here are some final practical tips:

  • Use one journal for a year, or depending on your output change the journal every 6 or 3 month. My word-document is usually about 6 MB and about 400 pages by the end of one year, including some pictures.
  • Use links inside the document to point to important areas and times
  • Use a table of content where you link your most important entries for quick reference
  • Use different colors and styles for different content: i.e. red = important, italic = quotes from any sources etc.
  • Use a templates for repeating content, such as the weekly planning process or your written goals

Finally I hope I could encourage you to start a personal journal and show you some benefits of doing so. If you already write a personal journal, hopefully this was inspiring anyway. I’d like to hear about your experiences, just write them into the comments below!

About the Author

Myrko Thum

Myrko Thum is author and creator of THE SYSTEM, the holistic personal development training course based on the "Top-Down System". You can get a FREE 4 Video Intro-Course of THE SYSTEM here.

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50 Comments

  • Michaela

    August 5, 2008

    I write my diary for over 4 years now and I’m going to write a screen-play now. I think “You exercise your writing skills” is important, but I also like the reflection habit you mentioned on #1. Overall great blog, see you at stumbleupon!

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    August 5, 2008

    Hi Michaela, learning to write and doing it regulary is quite a routine. Someone said the pencil is the tongue of the mind :) See you at Stumble!

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  • Mandiann

    August 5, 2008

    Ironically enough, I just started my own journal about a week ago. However, I am handwriting my entries in a notebook. I spend 90% of my day on the computer and it is a refreshing break. Thank you for this list, it is going to be a helpful reference to jump start my writing!

    Mandiann’s last blog post: Te Casan on sale!!

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  • INcubator

    August 5, 2008

    Sounds interesting. I like the idea-journal, this could be handy so often, usually I forget the best ideas after some time. If I would have it one my notebook …

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  • Myrko

    August 6, 2008

    @Mandiann: I think it is not that important where we write, just writing is important. In fact, handwriting can be a very pleasing experience. I think it’s a good contrast if you are on your computer for so much time over the day.

    @INcubator: Happened to me constantely, until I opened the journal ;)

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  • brianohio

    September 10, 2008

    I liked this post so much that I have linked to it. Thanks for the insight.

    brianohio’s last blog post: Why do I blog?…

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    September 10, 2008

    Hi Brain, thanks for the link. Checked it out and liked our statement “Writing helps to control the intensity of the emotions and forces me to organize my thoughts and express them is some sort of a semi-intelligent way.”

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  • Jonathan Beebe

    September 18, 2009

    I completely agree with all of your points, and especially like the one where you say you’re writing a book about yourself because that’s so true.

    And for those who don’t think they can keep up with a journal, starting a Tumblelog may be a great alternative.
    .-= Jonathan Beebe’s last blog .. “Tumblelogging” for Personal Development =-.

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  • Fiercely Mild

    May 20, 2010

    I would be lost without my personal journal. It’s always great to carry around to make notes and jot ideas down.

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  • Pam Hirsch

    September 7, 2010

    I loved your statement, Myrko, early on when you said you felt a bit childish about starting your journal. I have resisted writing a journal for so many years because it reminded me of the journals my girlfriends kept about their boyfriends and such. I’ve been writing 3 pages every morning now for almost two months and wish I had started a long time ago. The benefits have been astounding. It works best for me to write in the morning – in the evening, I’m usually too tired and find that I spend too much time rehashing the events of the day. But in the morning, it’s all fresh and my thinking is at it’s most original. I’ve learned who I am and I have become more confident and accepting of myself.

    Thank you for your great post!

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  • Soli Goodes

    September 15, 2010

    I LOVE journal writing and have been keeping my personal journal for about 11 years now. Recently I’ve gone into business http://www.journaljunky.com.au and my mission is to bring this amazing transformational tool to the main stream. Thanks for sharing your excellent tips and personal experience. Love your post :) Soli

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  • used tires

    January 4, 2011

    I love the fact that you can go back and read what you’ve written in the past. It’s always surprising to read yourself from 2 years ago, I always still surprise myself with what I’ve written in my High School material, back when I used to keep a journal.

    Till then,

    Jean

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  • Komodo Dragon

    February 10, 2011

    I have always strived to maintain a journal or diary. I feel my thoughts are lost unless I note them down. It also helps me look back on things and reflect on past decisions and mistakes to help me become a better man in the future by not repeating some of those ways. It’s a great habit to have for any person, that is for sure.

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  • anuz

    May 16, 2011

    i used to write blog regularly, but since i have joined uni, i dont have time to even die.
    however i realize that i am writing other kind of stuf(report and stuff) every now and then.
    Besides when i write on paper with pen and pencil, i feel so uncomfortable.

    ReplyReply
  • finest man van

    June 7, 2011

    I dunno. I think they manage to get it out but can’t bear to have their feelings out on paper, open, so they start ripping. I personally keep everything, even stuff I wrote during very difficult times. I guess F

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  • Property Marbella

    June 22, 2011

    A good way to get their thoughts and ideas on paper and then be able to read them and maybe understand themselves better.

    ReplyReply
  • sara

    November 9, 2011

    i agree .

    ReplyReply
  • Govind Choudhary

    February 23, 2012

    Started writing ma personal diary from today through ma one of personal blog and feeling so awesome now..Thanks for all these extra info that push me to start it from today only :)

    ReplyReply
  • aune

    July 25, 2012

    Interesting. Want to start my own Personal Development journal to improve myself – self leadership, and Building self confidence

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  • Myrko

    July 25, 2012

    Aune, good luck with that. Maybe you let me know how it goes!

    ReplyReply
  • Nilu

    October 1, 2012

    I really enjoyed reading this post, I’ve been writing personal journals for more than 5 years and when I read the old ones I see an evolution! my thoughts, my beliefs, things I liked, they all changed through time, it’s really exciting to look back and remember the things you used to do, things you used to like, and see the changes, sometimes I think if someone finds and reads my journal, they’ll just know who I am and what’s going on in my head, I’m so “me” when I write my journal, no lying, no hiding, pure me.

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  • Myrko

    October 1, 2012

    Hi Nilu, yes that’s what wrinting a journal is for. It’s such a great self-reflection tool and when you look back just 1-2 years, you see your progress.

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  • joana

    October 1, 2012

    hello, i started to write my journal last 2009 until now, it is my way to relieve all my worries and problems, and jot down all my achievements, new experiences with the people and new enviroment..=)

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    October 2, 2012

    Sounds great Joana, congratulations! Indeed journaling has this self-reflective power.

    ReplyReply
  • Jackie

    November 24, 2012

    I’ve kept a personal journal or diary since I was 8, believe it or not, and I’m about to turn 35 in just a few days. I don’t write in it every day and sometimes a few days or a few weeks go by before I write anything in it…but I always find it comforting in a way and a place where I can truly be myself and reveal my deepest thoughts. And you’re right: keeping a journal is a great place for attaining clarity and keeping the inner space clear, which is a big reason I’ve kept journals all this time. Of course, in the 27 years since I started keeping a journal, I’ve held MANY over the years; it hasn’t all been the same journal…

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  • Myrko

    November 24, 2012

    Great Jackie, 27 years of journaling is already a lot, I bet you can see your development through journal writing, looking at the first journals as well!

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  • JS Man Van

    December 1, 2012

    I would love to have the commitment to doing that as it definitely is a great help for keeping the momentum going but congrats on what you have done so far!

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    December 1, 2012

    @JS Man Van it’s not that difficult when you feel the actual benefit after doing it, which draws you to it naturally.

    ReplyReply
  • Goodnightjournal

    December 29, 2012

    Hi Myrko, great article to inspire people to write a journal. I was wondering if I can get a link of this page on my website. It’s free online journal or diary website that allows people to write their journal privately or publicly. http://www.GoodNightJournal.com
    Thank you!

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  • Janette Kelley

    January 25, 2013

    Faithfully wrote a daily journal, after a course in writing. Still write, but not on a daily basis. My dream was and still is to write a book, about true life experiences in my life.

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  • Ayah

    March 2, 2013

    I’m an avid journaler myself; have been so for years. Journaling has become very gendered and it is refreshing to hear from men who benefit from this practice. The idea that a male who journals is weak or an the far side of mentally stable has been a dangerous inhibitor for too long. I want to see that men of my generation accept more of the things that can give them healthy catharsis and self-actualization.

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  • Nacer

    March 6, 2013

    Yes I can definitely see the benefit of this and like you say on reflection really helps see progress.

    ReplyReply
  • Dave

    April 16, 2013

    Yes personal journals definitely have some positive benefits for sure and something I will be starting anyday now

    ReplyReply
  • kay

    April 24, 2013

    I read this literally part way through my first ever entry and point #1 nearly had me in tears I was just writing in detail about how I felt my thoughts might have been inhibiting me my whole life….thank you for confirming this it really could help me change for my own better :)

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  • Unai

    May 15, 2013

    Hye Myrko,

    I used to write a journal,and I abandoned it for a long time,but after reading your article,Im absolutely inspired to write it again.Its really good that you showed how we can write journal in much more organised way by having templates,table of contents etc etc.I cant wait to write again,Thank you so much!!

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  • Myrko Thum

    May 15, 2013

    Very nice Unai, really glad I could inspire you to start writing again! Stick to it and you will see the benefits quickly!

    ReplyReply
  • jak

    June 4, 2013

    excellent article, myrko!
    journaling has given me my life back…and you know what?
    there is magic in journaling….whatever i wish for and write in my journals, comes true sooner or later!
    if that isn’t magic, i dont know what is!
    pls drop in to my blog about journaling etc http://www.filmcamera999.wordpress.com

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  • Dr. Jordan B Peterson

    June 29, 2013

    Dear Myrko: You and your readers might find the articles available in the left hand column at http://www.selfauthoring.com. interesting. They describe (1) a specific study done at McGill University showing that personal writing increases grades among academically struggling students and (2) review two decades’ worth of experimental evidence showing that careful writing about personal experience, past, present and future, makes people substantially physically and psychologically healthier and more productive.

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  • AH

    October 5, 2013

    I’ve been writing in my journal for 10 years now i started when i was 8 and just looking back and seeing who’ve you’ve become is an amazing experience. I recommend anyone to start. Its never too late.

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  • ally

    November 19, 2013

    i like journal writing very much, when i was in middle school, i wrote it almost everyday.but i have lost all of them, when i read your post and think about those i lost, i feel very sad. during these years, i just wrote some, even few, sometimes put them into the places that i even forget. i found a software that can write diary, i feel very happy and use for a long time, it is good. you know, there is no need to use a pen, but as one myrko referred to that pencil is the tongue of mind, totally agree with that. although i began to use journal software but i still like use paper and pen the most. if you guys want to try to use diary software, i think efficient diary can be a good choice http://www.efficientsoftware.net/diary/

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  • sravan

    January 6, 2014

    very good post!learned a lot , will start writing journal ,thanks for the wonderful post.

    ReplyReply
  • aya

    April 6, 2014

    hey Myrko …
    i enjoyed every single word you have done .. it’s the first time that i read something like that .. i was searching the internet for such qoutes to write it in my own journal for my teacher .. and i’ve changed my mind this time to write about the benefits of our personal journal writings .. i’ve read all what you written and it inspired me .. although you’ll not believe what i am going to tell you now coz it’s the first time i hear about you after reading what you wrote.. the qoute you have post for anonymous made me interested , also it attracted me .. hope you have read my comment and replay .. i’ll be thankful to that .. with all my love and best wishes ..
    an arabian girl …

    ReplyReply

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