Ten Important Benefits of Journaling
The person who seeks an education must involve himself in discovering the meaning of his own life and the relation between who he s and what he might become. Without that vision of a personal future and a hard look at the reality of one’s own situation, the ultimate purpose of education itself — that is, to grow, to change, to liberate oneself — is almost impossible to achieve. — Harold Taylor
In the picture below, we see Julio writing in his journal. He is reflecting on his future. Julio would like to start his own business but he needs to decide what kind of business. He’d like to do something new and innovative. He is beginning with brainstorming.
1. Journaling helps you know yourself better. You might reflect on your past, on who you are now, and on who you hope to be in the future. This can lead to setting better goals which, in turn, can lead to improving study habits.
2. Journaling helps you improve your learning. As you reflect on what you heard in a lecture, what your read in your textbook, and what you already knew, you will begin to make connections, to see how things fit together, to discover the big picture.
3. Journaling helps you reflect on your personal experiences, on how they made a difference in your life, and on what you have learned with your experiences. Doing this can take negative experiences like failing an important test and turn it into a very positive learning experience.
4. Journaling improves your understanding and helps you remember more. Reflecting on personal or educational experiences, adds a new level of memory. When you reflect on a lecture soon after you hear it, reflect on a section in your textbook soon after you read it, reflect on your research, you improve your understanding of the main ideas, picture how this information fits in with what else you know on the topic, and helps you remember more.
5. Journaling about current issues leads you to clear, logical, thinking on these topics help you develop well-reasoned opinions.
6. Journaling develops discipline and willpower. A financial journal that includes a detailed record of your spending, helps you plan and follow a budget. A time management journal that includes a record of your time use, helps you manage your time better. A weight-loss journal including a record of your eating, helps you eat healthier meals and lost weight. An exercise journal with a record of time and effort (as miles walked) will develop better exercise habits. A journal can help you break bad habits such as smoking or loss of temper.
7. Journaling can provide inspiration. We are most familiar with reflection based on scriptures. In church (and I imagine in other places of worship), a pastor or other spiritual leaders may read scripture and reflect on its meaning. For most of us, it is more meaningful if we reflect personally rather than listen to someone else’s reflection. But this doesn’t need to be about religion. You might build a collection of quotes that are meaningful to you and, perhaps each morning, read one and reflect in your journal about the meaning and how it is relevant for you.
8. Journaling can involve asking important questions. Writing questions leads us to new and better questions and greater insight. As we read back through our questions we may begin to find answers.
9. Journaling can lead to exploring your possible futures. You might consider many different careers, living in different places, marrying different people, accomplishing many possible goals. The greater the possibilities you explore, the better your chances of reaching higher goals.
10. Journaling can increase your creativity. You might brainstorm a multitude of “wild ideas” and find new ideas for a term paper, a research project, starting your own business, a new invention, a new way of doing an old job. Think of new creations like Facebook and Google. Think of all the new technologies. Think of new educational methods. Developing your own creative thinking may lead you to some innovative idea that will make a difference in the world.
Practical suggestions for journaling
First of all, you really don’t need to keep half a dozen journals going at the same time and you don’t always need to write in your journal every day. Decide what sorts of journals will be most helpful and fun for you. You might combine journaling in a number of ways.
1. You might take five minutes after each lecture and add your reflections and questions at the end of your notes. Or you might wait until later when you organize your notes and reflect at that point. Do the same thing with reading. After doing ‘reading notes” on a chapter or other section, you might take a few minutes to add reflections and questions.
2. You might focus on a single area where you want to improve (weight loss, stop smoking, regular exercise, control anger, organize finances, or time management) and use a journal to keep records of your successes and problems with daily reflections. Depending on the problem, you might continue this journal several months or even years. You really should stick to one main area at a time. You might, of course, at the beginning of a school year,set goals, create study plans, organize your space, material, time and finances all at the same time. With many of these, you can focus on the problem for a few days or weeks. Do your journaling for the long-term changes you want to make.
3. I strongly recommend that you keep a photo journal of your college years. Include pictures of each of your friends with a little information about each one — how you met and things you did together. Then use pictures and written description for a dozen or so main event of the year. If it was a campus wide event, you might include newspaper clippings. You might include a short relection at the end of each term, discussing the most important events, what you have learned and how you have changed.
4. A single journal can serve many functions.
a. You might set one day a week for questions and creative thinking
b. another day for reflecting on inspirational quotes,
c. another day for personal reflections, past, present and future.
To do this, you could write 15-20 minutes three days a week or you could an hour once a week covering all three areas.
5. You might add, either to your daily journal or separately, reflections that will help you reach your particular goals. If you want to go into business, collect and think about new types of businesses you might start. If you want to be a writer keep a record of great books you have read, ideas for characters, ideas for plots, etc. I learned a lot about teaching because, as a bored student in High School, I began taking notes on the methods my teachers used, what worked well and what didn’t. I often added how I would have taught that class or handled that problem student differently. I didn’t know more than my teachers… but calm reflection is easier for the observer.
Ronald Gross, in his book, Peak Learning, describes the characteristics of “Peak Learners” p. 2 :
…They are keenly aware of what they don’t know but that doesn’t bother them! As they wander along the shoreline of wonder — the boundary of what they know and the vast sea of things they could know — they feel exhilarated by the prospect of constantly learning new things. They know that there are always things to know more about, to appreciate more deeply, or learn to do.