Everyone Should Keep a Diary
Whether you are famous or not, you should keep a diary. The point is not to make it public, but to keep in touch with yourself.
How exactly you keep your diary is not important. The structure of an entry can and should evolve over time. However, in order to take advantage of the benefits, you should keep the following basics in mind.
Keeping a diary forces you to reflect on the past day. Because you recall the events of the day in your mind, you begin to question your own behavior.
This reflection process is very important if you want to improve yourself and your behavior. You will learn about your weaknesses, but at the same time you can work on solving them. Recapitulating one's feelings is especially helpful in the process of letting go.
While reflection is important, it is important to remember that actions cannot be separated from reflection. What you are doing should be guided by reflection, but only action changes the world.
Storing all your memories in your head is impossible. Events get mixed up, memories get distorted, and you forget how you exactly felt in the past.
A diary records these thoughts and feelings. When you read about an event 30 years ago, the words will still be there. You only need to read your diary entry to find out how you thought at the time.
Of course, the diary should not replace your own memories, but only nudge them. Just like a picture, a smell or a feeling, a diary entry can activate memories.
If you want to learn more about how to remember your life, you will be interested in my article “How to Remember Your Life.”
Through the diary routine, you will learn to focus on the moment. If you remember the beautiful and precious moments of life, you will also recognize them when they are happening.
Negative experiences can also be better processed. You know that you have delt with setbacks in the past and you recognize that challenges offer the chance to learn something new.
You also use your attention better. You live life with your eyes open instead of running toward a finish line – only to realize that the journey was the destination.
My Diary Routine
I divide my journal into three parts: The daily, weekly, and yearly overviews. This division allows me to think and plan for both the short and long term.
My daily diary routine takes about ten minutes. The weekly overview takes about 15 to 20 minutes and for the annual overview I set aside one to three hours (spread over two days).
I use the program “Obsidian” and save my files in Markdown. This way I will be able to open the files in the future, too. I have published my Obsidian templates on my website.
Every evening, I write down my daily highlight, lesson of the day, and contacts of the day in my Moleskine weekly calendar. I also note the times I got up and went to bed. In the calendar's integrated monthly overview, I check off my habits.
In 2021, I created this overview on the computer, but I enjoy writing by hand on paper and want to limit my screen time in 2022, especially just before bed. I think it will be nice to be able to flip through the old calendars in a few years.
Every Sunday evening, I type the highlights and contacts of the week up in the computer program Obsidian so I can access and search them later. I also pick the most important lesson to write down as the lesson of the week. After that, I note three things for which I am grateful. These can be people, events, experiences, or something else entirely.
At the end of my weekly overview, I write a few free-form paragraphs about how I felt during the week.
The annual overview is the most extensive part of my diary. In this review, I write down the year's successes and opportunities for growth.
Then, I reflect on the areas of my life. Where have I made progress and what should I pay more attention to? These areas are:
- Character & Integrity
- Habitation & Possessions
- Money & Finances
- Career & Profession
- Knowledge & Education
- Health & Fitness
- Social Life & Relationships
I also write down whether I achieved my goals for the year. What do I want to do better? What do I want to maintain?
At the end of the annual review, I set five goals for the next year and decide on a main focus. For example, in 2021, the main focus for me is mindfulness.
Through this practice, I can look at what the most important event of each day is, how I felt each week, and what my goals are. I can reflect on what is going well and recognize when things are going wrong.
For me, my journal is a compass through which I stay on track and through which my daily habits are in alignment with my long-term goals.
A diary offers benefits to everyone. Looking back on your life is important if you want to move forward. That's why everyone should keep a diary.