On Journaling

by RobertLumley 2 min read10th Feb 201222 comments


(Warning: Intermittent gooey personal details inside)

I'm surprised I haven't seen this topic brought up before, but I haven't, and cursory searches of "diary" and "journal" came up with nothing, albeit largely because the latter got a bunch of hits for scientific journals. But I digress. I have recently started a journal. So recently, in fact, that there are only two entries. There were a number of motivating factors that went into this decision, which correlate rather directly with the number of goals I have for this project.

First, I think it will help me be less stressed. I estimate that at least 60% of my stress is due to the fact that I refuse to even think about the things I need to do until I actually start on them. Because I haven't actually thought through what I need to do, I often feel swamped and very stressed, even when I have comparatively little that needs done. When I actually start working on it, I realize that I don't have as much as I thought, and worried for nothing. One of the things I want to do in this (and haven't in my first two entries, very well) is briefly mention things I know I am procrastinating on. I haven't done this yet, because I forgot for the first two entries, but I intend to have a section of "What am I procrastinating on" for every entry.

Speaking of which: Secondly, I want to stop procrastinating so much. Stopping to actually think about what I need to do will naturally make me more productive. I've noticed that whenever I actually start thinking about things I need to do, I start doing it immediately. I also want to have a section "Productive things I've done today". This will give me some kind of incentive system to actually be productive, since I won't want to acknowledge when I haven't done anything I didn't have to.

Third, I have a terrible memory for things that don't matter that much. I don't know if this will help that or not, but at least I'll have some record of what I've done. And it only stands to reason that reviewing one's activities in a day would help one remember them. I first got an idea of this when I made this comment. I doubt this would specifically address that problem, but at least I would have a record of something.

Fourth, I want data on what makes me happy. Part of what I'm doing is keeping a companion Excel file to my OneNote folder. For each entry, I assess my emotional levels on a scale of 0-100, with 50 designed to be what I perceive an average day to be like. Emotional levels I'm currently using are: Happiness, Stress, Motivation, Energy, Relationship Satisfaction, and an arbitrary category called "Winningness". I'm sure everyone on LW understands what I mean. :-) I also record about how much time I spent doing various things that day. Under the productive category, I have going to class, homework/studying, Extracurricular Activities, Work, and a total category. Under the social category, I have time spent with my girlfriend, and time spent with general friends, and another total category. Under recreation, I record time spent watching Television, reading, and playing various games I enjoy, as well as a total category. Lastly, I'm recording miscellaneous things:

  • Sleep the previous night (hours)
  • Current length of To-Do list
  • Tasks added to To-Do
  • Items checked off the To-Do
  • Day of the Week
  • Where I am that day (Rather, where I'm sleeping that night)
  • How much I've eaten that day (Again on a scale of 0-100, 50 average)
    • This is somewhat of a problem for me, I don't really eat as much as I should. I considered recording specific foods, but that seems like it would get out of hand very quickly, even though it makes a lot of sense, neurologically, that the type of food I would eat would be correlated with happiness levels. It feels wrong not recording the difference in the gooey butter cake that I ate for breakfast this morning (It was fast, and I needed to study, don't judge me!) and a bowl of oatmeal. I'd also like a better scale, like an exact caloric count, but that would really take too much effort.
  • How much I've exercised that day (Same scale)

I will probably post again on this topic once I actually have some form of history doing it, including evaluations of the practice, recommendations, things I would change etc. But right now, I would like advice from you all. What am I missing that I should be doing? Does anyone Journal? Is it as involved in this? Has anyone tried and failed? I would particularly like advice on things I might include in the Excel file.