March 05, 2020 9 min read
I’ve always kept a diary of some kind. But I’m not a daily diary type person.
I’m one of those people who starts the year with a beautiful, perfect new diary and every good intention to write in it – then never get further than the end of January.
Now for me, planners are different. Planners I use religiously and have done for years.
Every year I buy a new one and proceed to organise my life for the next 12 months – and I stick with it.
Because my daily work planner is a useful tool. It helps me keep my work on track, with plenty of space to record customer orders; deadlines; phone calls I need to male; design ideas I want to remember, blog post titles and other musings.
But the purpose of a diary is different. There’s no real need to keep one, so it’s a habit that slips.
If I forget to write in my personal diary, I won’t forget that today is Post Office day. I won’t forget to order those new tools I need. I won’t forget to renew a membership subscription and I won’t forget to take and send photographs to a customer.
Despite knowing the many benefits of forming a daily journaling habit, I really struggle to carve out that time and make it a priority. Even though in reality, it only takes 10 minutes.
And daily journaling is really beneficial! When I keep a daily diary up for any length of time, just like exercising, I feel better for it.
One quick Google search brings up pages upon pages explaining how journaling is therapeutic, restorative, beneficial for your mental health, helpful for developing organisation skills. ALL the positive adjectives.
But, still, it slips:
And yes, finding 10 minutes to sit down quietly, collect my thoughts and write is in fact quite difficult.
At the end of the day, when all my tasks are complete seems like it could work really well! ……. And then I fall asleep.
My days often feel like they blur into each other. School runs; homework; kid’s clubs, violin practice……. The list goes on, but you get the point. Not really different or eventful is it? Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but there aren’t many Instagram-able moments.
But despite not feeling a need to document the mundane details of every single day, I do still think it’s important to document some of the important things, so over the last few years, I’ve developed a different approach to diary writing.
I made things easier for myself and I invented a journal filing system.
Kind of like the filing system you have on your computer or mobile phone – saving different photos and documents to differently named files, so everything is easily found.
Except that I keep a number of different physical journals on a shelf, like old fashioned photo albums, for different kinds of thoughts and musings – and it actually works really well.
So here’s 10 ideas for different journals that you could use yourself.
You could buy a set of notebooks and label them, or if you’re a whizz with your computer, you could put something together using something like Adobe InDesign.
Diaries for people, who don’t do daily diaries - A way to store the memories that really matter, so they’re not lost.
So have I missed any? What kinds of diary do you keep?
Getting married (or divorced), having or adopting a baby; going off to university; buying a home. You don’t need to write something down for every single day, because some days nothing will happen and nothing will change, but you might want to keep a diary by your bed to write down the stand out moments.
Booking a wedding venue or choosing THE dress; your lists of baby names and details of baby scans; the day you finally got the keys to your new home (ahem, renovation project) and of course, the day all the electrics blew or the kitchen ceiling fell down (in said renovation project).
Monthly reviews or reflections are so much easier to write than a daily log. It’s easier to take note of the seasonal changes and more happens in the space of a month.
Birthdays, days out, important meetings. You can always keep quick notes of anything you don’t want to forget, to write up properly later. Pop them in a note app on your phone, or dictate and record them – Just remember they’re there!
Love them or hate them, it can be really valuable to make plans and set goals, then come back and review them at a later date.
It can be really eye opening to look back on goals set over a decade ago!
I tend to start these diaries at the start of each new year, just because I find it helpful to set my intensions for a whole 12 months, even if I am wildly optimistic about when it comes to getting things done.
What did you want to achieve? Have you set a self-imposed deadline?
Then, did you manage to tick those things off your list? Or get them done on time?
If not, write down the reason why. Are they not relevant anymore? Has something got in the way? Or have your goals shifted for some reason?
Maybe you’ve had to carry some goals forward to the new year, or maybe you’ve decided to scrap them altogether.
Whatever happens, it can be good to look back and see what mattered to you at any given time in your life.
Some people travel the world several times a year. Some on a more regular basis and the travel journals of these lucky people must be amazing! But for most of us, jumping onto a plane every weekend isn’t really an option.
That doesn’t mean we can’t keep a travel journal though.
Why should travel journals only document our travels overseas? Or even just our holidays for that matter?
Why can’t we use them to document our weekend escapades? Or things we do in our free time?
Even if we don’t travel very far all that often, most of us don’t just sit at home 365 days of the year.
And the nice thing about consciously keeping a travel or weekend journal is that it can actually encourage us to make the effort to go somewhere or do something, instead of staying home.
It’s no secret that I love to bake. I experiment with recipes I find via Instagram, Facebook, blogs and just online. Some are a resounding success while others, unmitigated failures.
Then a few years ago, I got tired of having a kitchen cupboard full of untidy recipe print-outs and decided to write all of my favourite recipes into a journal. Carefully copied out, with the date; where I found them and any tips and tricks I’d discovered while trying them out.
I put them in sections for sweets and savouries; jams & chutneys; bread, cakes & biscuits, then cordials and wine.
It really has been lovely to see the collection grow. Memories of things we’ve made together, when and why. It’s also nice to see that the book is already coveted by quite a few of my children (I might have to make copies).
Annual diary entries are probably the least time consuming of all diary types, but they can be some of the most special.
A lot can happen in the space of a year. Things and people can change so much as time rushes past.
I tend to actually write them at different points of the year that matter to me. January New Year’s reflections on the year gone and hopes for the year ahead; September - the start of the new school year and birthday letters for each child spaced out over 12 months.
Dear diary or, Dear______________ (insert person’s name).
Letter writing is actually one of the easiest ways to write a journal, particularly if you’re suffering from the dreaded writers' block, which is why these are one of my absolute favourite kinds of diary.
Now, remember when I said I didn’t keep a daily diary? Well, I don’t, but I never leave the house without a diary in my bag. Let me explain…..
How many times have you been out when you’ve had a random thought that you don’t want to forget? Or maybe something happens that you’d like to record?
I used to type these things into the notes app on my phone – but I almost always forgot about them. Lost amongst all the shopping lists, appointments, and general to-do lists.
A few times when I was out, I even videoed a few good ideas and blog openers on my phone - conscious of the fact that I looked rather odd.
So I started to carry around a book and a pen, so I could stop and write things down.
A journal for important thoughts. No shopping lists allowed.
It’s also useful to keep it next to the bed at night, for all of those epic thoughts you have just as you’re drifting off to sleep.
One single place to write down my random thoughts and musings so you can’t lose them or forget about them.
Baby books and childhood milestone books have been traditional baby gifts for decades. I’ve bought a few myself and I even have the one my Mother lovingly kept for me almost 40 years ago.
They’re a great way to record firsts and significant moments during your little one’s (and older one’s) childhood years.
You can either choose a shop-bought one, complete with handy prompts for things like the first time they smiled, laughed or walked, or you could go the non-traditional route, creating your own scrapbook and adding memories as you go along.
Having kept milestone logs for each of my children, I can say for certain that I prefer the flexibility of making my own, purely because even though shop bought books are beautiful, I like having space to record “extra” memories.
Shop bought books have a very rigid format, often only including the most common milestones and having little space for photographs; to write about special days out or other memories that have mattered to me.
If you do decide to make your own, it’s definitely a good idea to put together a list of prompts (or you’re very welcome to use mine).
Over the years I’ve lost count of the many funny things my children have come out with and I’m sad to say, I’ve forgotten a lot of them because my mind only seems to grip onto the most important things.
I love the funny way they mispronounce words when they’re tiny. Then there’s the things they hear you say – and repeat at the most inappropriate moments (obviously).
There’s their misunderstandings; their rather bizarre logic, their amazing imaginations and their habit of being ‘just’ a little bit rude sometimes.
Often purposefully witty. At times, hideously (and publicly) embarrassing, but all definitely worth documenting – even if it’s just to look back and laugh when they’re teenagers.
Remember to keep this journal close to hand, or you’ll almost certainly forget what they say.
Keeping a daily diary might be really difficult, but only writing down the really positive things that happen or the things that have made you smile is a lot easier.
One way to do this that I’ve personally found to be really successful, is to create a memory jar and place it somewhere you can reach it – or ideally, see it.
Write down the moments that have made you happy, or that have made others around you happy, on small cards or post-it notes.
Carry the notes around with you in a bag or pocket when you’re out so you don’t forget about them. Then place them into the jar.
Dating them is a really good idea, as it can prompt your memory and help you remember the occasion.
We’ve been doing this for a few years now. The jar is started at the beginning of the new year and placed onto the kitchen windowsill so it can’t be missed.
At the end of the year, you’ll have a really special collection of events and people that have made you smile. These can then all be carefully copied into your gratitude journal.
Now I know there are loads of other kinds of diary, but I’ve deliberately left out the fitness tracker or Morning Pages type diaries just because they fall into the category of daily writing.
I feel that while admirable, they’re more ambitious; more work and they involve developing a daily writing habit. Something I haven’t managed to master – yet anyway.
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