Self-reflection & progression: the best way to keep a diary

I randomly wrote a list of things that I wanted to work on and named this list “Aims, Goals & Aspirations.” My list consisted of long term-goals to work towards and short-term goals that I could meet in the next few months. My “aims, goals and aspirations” consisted of anything where I felt there was room for improvement including relationships, fitness, language skills, personal projects and work. We all have areas that we can on, it’s just whether we choose to do anything about it.

I don’t have time to keep a diary
Same. I made the time to keep a diary. I scribbled down the date, wrote an appropriate sub-heading for each entry and dedicated time to recording what I had been up to. Just like when we dedicate time to going out with friends. Sometimes I filled several pages at once, sometimes I only managed a few bullet points. The length my diary entry wasn’t really important, rather the fact that I dedicated the time, whether it be 3 mins or 30 mins, to get the words down.

Positive writing vs negative writing
I had always written to offload negative energy, but there was something refreshing about recording positive memories to share with myself in the future. An iPhone photo says a million words, but it’s the words themselves that really take you back to that exact feeling. This can of course go both ways, in that reading back on difficult times can potentially bring you back to a dark place, but equally make you feel amazing because you’re now so much further than you were before.

Progession Check
After three months of writing about what I get up to on a daily basis and keeping my aims in mind, I flicked through my pages and did a quick progress check. How close (or far) was I to reaching certain goals and what would I do next to get there?

Write what you want
Just so you know, I actually write whatever I want in my diary. I mean, yes, I do a progress check every 3 months and sometimes look back to see if I am on track, but there are plenty of times when I write about things that are completely unrelated like why I was annoyed that the train was delayed or how I had a crap dinner. I just write what’s on my mind and I’m only writing for myself so I really do have the freedom to do so.

What is actually the point in this? 
It’s therapeutic. It allows you to stop making up excuses. It allows you to be honest with yourself. And when you put pen to paper and can finally write about that huge obstacle you’ve overcome, reading back on when you thought it was impossible gives you a tremendous sense of achievement.

Six months
It depends how much you write, but by time I had reached around 6 months I was coming to the end of my notebook so I decided to wrap things up with another progression check. Ticking things off my list was so satisfying! I was getting stuff done quicker than I knew it and having my diary to assess my progress along the way was definitely a big contribution to the speed. There are some things that stayed on old pages, some that I carried onto new pages and others that  still tend to creep up again as I realise they’ve slipped off my radar – oops!

How did you keep on top of your diary?
Sometimes I fall behind. If I realise I have gone a week or so without writing, then I set myself some time aside to go to a cafe or maybe a park where I can just sit for an hour or so and write. I enjoy the time on my own and sometimes it’s nice to be somewhere where you won’t get distracted. (Put your phone down.)

Less is more
Sometimes less really is more. The words “Practice Spanish” are flashing in big red lights above my head as I type this. There was one point where my Spanish was better than my German. If you heard me speak the two languages now, you definitely wouldn’t believe it. Hmmm… So I’m thinking that as I set new goals for the next 6 months, I will just set 2 instead of the usual 3 or 4, giving me more time to focus on less activities.


Is it private?
Well I don’t have “private, keep out” scribbled across the front of my diary, and I’m sure that’s not what would ever stop someone from taking a peek. Sometimes I choose to share snippets of what I’ve written with other people, but that’s on the rare occasion and only if it’s appropriate. I prefer to keep my pages for myself. And if there’s anything that I do want to share with others, I usually do it verbally. If anything, I guess my blog is a public diary and the battered notebook that has been bashing around in my handbag for the last few months is my private diary.

Why did you start a diary?
After going through a rough time, I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and I was determined to make it shine brighter. So I started writing, for myself. Nearly 3 years later, I am still using the exact same journaling technique and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.


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