How should I use my new "a few lines per day" five-year journal?
January 1, 2014 8:16 AM   Subscribe

I have never been a consistent journal keeper, and I would like to start today! I bought myself one of those five-year journals that has just enough space to write a thought or two each day. Because I overthink and like structure, I am thinking through all the ways to use it before I make that first entry. I have separate apps for exercise and to-do lists. I guess I am looking for a daily prompt or two for this journal. Please help me out: Five years from now, what would you be interested in reading about your daily life?
posted by quixotictic to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
I have one of those, and have been faithfully recording in it every day for years. I write down trivial things that are interesting to me -- errands run, accomplishments by me or the family, if someone is sick, the weather. I enjoy looking back and remembering times I met a friend for coffee, or noticing that my daughter consistently gets colds at a certain week every year, or remembering a store that's out of business. I don't write anything private; with just a few lines, this isn't a place for personal reflection.

So my prompts would be: Where did you go today? Did you see any friends? How's the weather? Any big news? Did you finish any books?
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:31 AM on January 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

Oh, and keep it simple. If you try to make this a journal of your profound thoughts, you'll get overwhelmed and quit (I bet). You need to be able to just jot down a few lines without thinking about it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:33 AM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

A gratitude journal is really great for improving mood, thinking positively, etc- it really works. Just write down what you are grateful for in your life every day.
posted by bearette at 8:34 AM on January 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you do it at the end of the day, you could do Best Thing That Happened to me Today/Worst Thing That Happened to me Today.

I used to like reading the descriptions of clothes in historical novels, so I kept a journal for a while describing what I wore every day. I'm not much of a journal-keeper, though, so it didn't last. Maybe I could have made it more interesting by having certain days every week where I described what a certain other person was wearing.

Maybe each day of the week could be devoted to describing a certain aspect of your daily life, e.g.,

Sunday: What’s going on in the book I’m reading
Monday: What I wore to work/school/whatever today
Tuesday: What I ate today
Wednesday: What my partner/friend/boss/significant person in my life wore today
Thursday: The best thing that happened to me today
Friday: Something I need to get off my chest
Saturday: What’s going on in the TV shows I’m watching/movie I’ve seen lately
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:38 AM on January 1, 2014 [8 favorites]

This is an awesome habit! The key is consistency and brevity, or else you will be like me on New Year's Eve, going through old texts trying to remember what I did this past year. I think the hardest days are the regular days, because sometimes it's hard to find things to write about. I write about things I did and then list who I did them (e.g. Dinner at Mario's with Dad), keeping the essence of what happened so it triggers my memory later. I also like writing down the general feeling of the day.

I also write down funny things people say, record workouts and news events, mention a new song I heard or a book I finished, or a new recipe I tried. I also like writing down menus that I planned for parties. Finally, I try to thank someone or something everyday for making my life better. It can be funny (thanking a man at the cafe for naming his chihuahua Killer) or serious (thanking someone for helping me through a rough patch). It's really nice looking back at the thank yous throughout the year and remembering the ways people make our lives gracious.
posted by topophilia at 9:15 AM on January 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

1. what I have today that I'm grateful for, 2. what do I wish for in a years time, 3. what I wish for in 5 years time.

it doesn't have to be profound, just whatever you're feeling in the day. some days I wish I was 20 lbs lighter, some days I wish for vacations or travel experienced, etc.

It would be interesting to see how many of your wishes end up coming true!
posted by katypickle at 9:34 AM on January 1, 2014

I've been doing it for 9 years (starting the last section of my 10-year journal!). Sometimes it's "Met Belle for coffee at the Co-op and sometimes it's "Hard to get out of bed today, knee v. bad." My journal has Extra Pages in the back where I write when I have more emotional/profound thoughts I want to express.

The most interesting thing for me -- and it took me awhile to figure this out -- is to note all the milestones, no matter how small. It takes a couple of years, but it's so fun to glance back now and then and say, "Three years ago today the big wind storm took all the birch leaves down in one night" and "We bought the cat scratching post five years ago" and "We finally gave away that picnic table one year ago." Also, if you garden, noting when and what you've planted, unless you have a dedicated gardening journal.

After saying all that, I will say that many years ago I used a desk calendar for a Gratitude Journal. It truly changed my life. At first all I could put down some days was "Made it through the day." But I began to look for, or at least be alert to, things to put in the journal. "The glimpse of the lake through the trees is lovely" or "What a wonderful tasting peach." The habit of looking for simple goodness has stuck with me, and enriched my life tremendously.

Just remember: it's only a few lines, and it's only for you. Don't get stuck on making it Very Good Every Day. It's a wonderful habit -- enjoy!
posted by kestralwing at 11:05 AM on January 1, 2014 [12 favorites]

Maybe answer one of these questions:
- If you made a pie chart of today's thoughts, what thoughts/person/idea/task/mood/etc occupied the most real estate in your brain today?
- What is something that surprised you today?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:25 PM on January 1, 2014

I'd include any time I started a new book/read something interesting, and when I buy/hear a new bit of music.
posted by ersatzkat at 3:50 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I use a five-year journal and keep it to factual basics for the most part. I like to note major purchases, significant happenings, meeting new people, etc.I keep it brief and draw simple smiley/frowny faces to illustrate how I felt about things.

Last year I used one line to note one thing I'm grateful for, one good thing that happened that day, and some details about exercise and lifestyle habits that I have a short code for. An estimate of my steps for the day, quick note about other exercise I did, whether I drank alcohol that day, etc.

I think this year I'm going to combine the grateful and good things into just one line. I'm going to add an entry for Something New I Learned Today as a way of being more observant of such things.
posted by bink at 5:27 PM on January 1, 2014

Be a phenologist. When you pay close attention to life cycle events, you pay close attention to life. You will learn to look more closely. You may become a bit of a botanist, a bit of an ornithologist, a bit of an entomologist, a bit of a climatologist, a bit of a local historian, a bit of a gardener, a bit of an astronomer. You will also be a witness to climate change. All by taking notes like "First frost" and "First apple blossoms" and "First ladybirds" and "First swallows" and "Grey geese flying south" and "Snow" and the like. (Guidelines for more rigorous observations can be found online. For example, a couple of PDFs are here and here.)
posted by pracowity at 5:14 AM on January 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Using Oh Life (a website) I've written about 65 pages in the last two years, a few lines at a time. Sadlly, it is going out of business. I have an Askme I just posted looking for replacements.
posted by mecran01 at 4:22 AM on September 21, 2014

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