I'm using Hacked Man as a tool to ensure I keep writing a diary. First 20 years I managed fine without any diary. Then at some point I realized that I don't really remember anything about those 20 years.
After that I've always sort of tried to keep writing a diary. The success has been varied, at best. I always seem to start ok, but then just as always, I stop. Keeping a diary is another one of those good habits, where it's hard to pinpoint the direct benefits. Sure, it might be nice for the coming generations or something. For the contemporary me, the benefits are harder to spot.
Still, there should be some, so let's see if I can get myself convinced:
Writing is an extremely efficient way of learning. On the basic level, this might mean taking notes when listening to a lecture. Taking notes already helps with recollection quite a lot (sidetrack: interesting thing about how taking notes on a laptop might be less effective than writing them down by hand). Lecture diaries are the next level, where you actually have to process the material.
I've noticed this most clearly when I started a literature blog. I've always read quite a lot, but I didn't really have that refined or clear opinions on books or literature. I just read. After keeping a literature blog for a couple of years, I suddenly had developed much more clear tastes and analytical skills on reading books. I could actually discuss literature.
This happened without really trying or receiving any formal training or anything. It started to seem like I have only read a book only after I had blogged about it. Before that it had just been skimmed. Writing gave me an opportunity to actually realize what I had liked about the book and how it compared to other books.
Writing's always been a great tool of self-knowledge for me. I manage to surprise myself quite often when I start writing about a subject and see on paper what I actually think and feel about the issue at hand. It's a curious feeling. You can be more blunt and honest and even vicious in writing (especially when you are writing just for yourself), so stuff gets out into the open. Always great to be able to surprise yourself.
Making decisions in writing is somehow more real, than just thinking about them in your head. That's one reason why I do Hacked Man, for example. You can conveniently forget things you have decided in your head or bend the original idea a bit etc. but writing is absolute.
It's also easy. Deciding things when writing a diary is much easier than actually doing something. But as you get them down in writing, it's harder to not do them later in real life also, so it works out quite beautifully.
I should consciously do more of this actually. Maybe include a bunch of decisions into the diary weekly or something. Get some mileage out of this realization...
which I had while writing this post. So see, it works!
Other good stuff about journaling
There can be found lots of other benefits on the Internet also. I won't elaborate so much on these, but just list out quickly some I found.
- Reduced stress, anger, etc. - "Write it out."
- Dealing with stuff - cancer, traumatic experiences, etc.
- Increased creativity - sort of just happens, or something
- Personal Growth - Calvin's father sort of thing
Looking at everything I have written here, I feel that I'll have to change my view on keeping a diary slightly. I've always thought that keeping a diary is a sort of an end in itself type of thing. It's just something that is good and you should do it. Even though it is sort of boring and you never actually remember.
Looking at the list above, I actually want to keep a diary just to reap all the benefits of the habit. Here I have a pretty nifty trick to solve problems, learn stuff, work out what I feel and want and make big decisions about life. This might actually make writing a diary a bit easier. Doing something out of a moral obligation has always been pretty hard for me. If I start treating journaling instead as an extremely efficient tool, I might get more mileage out of the habit and also find it easier to keep up. Hmm!