Do you keep a daily journal or diary? Why not?
Honestly, take a moment and think about the reasons you don’t keep one. I’ll wait…
Good, now let’s talk about why journals are so powerful and see how your reasons compare.
Reasons a journal is so powerful
It’s excellent writing practice
Writing is harder than other language skills like reading. Short, daily journal entries about things that interest you are a great way to get lots of practice in without it feeling like doing a lot of boring homework. Worried about making mistakes? Don’t be! You’ll make them, but more importantly you’ll be practicing what you know and improving! Then, months later, you can go back and see how much you’ve progressed. You can also correct them for extra practice!
It’ll help you remember what you learned
As the saying goes, «If you don’t use it, you lose it.» So true. This is a way to immediately apply what you learn. Putting things you’ve learned and your own thoughts into writing helps you review them again and remember them better. Additionally, months later you can review them again and remember anything you had forgotten.
It helps you remember your goals and stay motivated
In my last post I talked about the importance of setting goals for language learning. But what good would they do if you just forgot about them after writing them? In your journal you can mention what you’re doing (or not doing) to progress toward that goal. Even just a few sentences is enough to remind you of your goals and start thinking about new ways to achieve them.
It helps you organize your thoughts and emotions
Sometimes letting go of frustration, excitement or any other emotion in a journal can be so relieving. It’ll also help you learn more about yourself and perhaps see where you need to improve.
These are just some of the benefits, but maybe you have other concerns like time constraints, embarrassment, etc. Let’s talk about how to make journal keeping easier.
Tips to make journal keeping easier
10 minutes a day ONLY.
One reason we fall out of the habit of journal keeping is that it consumes time in our already busy day. But can you find 10 minutes to write each day? Be firm about this – write 10 minutes each day and ONLY 10 minutes. It’s tempting to write more, but the next day you’ll feel less motivated because you feel like you’ll lose more than 10 minutes again.
Plan exactly when you’ll write
When can you spare 10 minutes? Right after work? Right after dinner? On the train? Find a time you can dedicate to journal keeping for 10 minutes every day and remember to ALWAYS write during that time. Open your calendar now and schedule that time with reminders if needed.
Keep your journal nearby
Make sure that during those 10 minutes you planned you’re always near your journal. If you’ll be at your desk, keep it there. Or keep it on your night stand if you’ll be writing in bed. I personally keep digital journals with Evernote. I have the app on my phone and access it through the browser on my computer. Another good digital journal I’ve used is Penzu. You can password protect these, so no one will see them but you.
Decide what you’ll write about
For example, you could dedicate the first paragraph to talking about how you’re keeping your language goals and what you’ve learned today. The next paragraph can be your thoughts, problems you’ve had, possible solutions to those problems to try tomorrow… Then you could spend the rest of the time talking about anything that’s important to you.
You can also use a writing prompt to give you ideas about what to write. Click here to get a random writing prompt.
Start now and continue every day until it becomes a habit. Then you’ll find it so much easier to keep doing and will learn to enjoy it!
If you’ve taken my advise or have been keeping a journal, let me know in the comments below how it’s going!
If you have any other concerns or issues that are keeping you from doing it, let me know as well!