Is the habit of journaling worth the investment of time?

I’ve been journaling daily for just over 18 months—550 days to be exact—long enough that it’s become an entrenched habit for me. It’s also long enough to ask the question: Is the return on this activity worth the investment of time?

Is the habit of journaling worth the investment of time?

I’ve spoken with many who have said “no.” They tried journaling and found it a waste of time. Those who I talked to largely fell into three camps:

  1. The disoriented are uncertain what to write about or what they hope to gain by doing it. They give up because the uncertainty makes them uncomfortable.
  2. The distressed hope that by supercharging their introspection they can sift through their beleaguering questions and find tidy answers that will finally give them relief. They give up because the persistent focus on the past leaves them feeling depressed.
  3. The disenchanted approach journaling with the optimism of a treasure hunter but with the attention span of a hummingbird. The give up because today’s entry and perhaps yesterday’s did not inspire something brilliant within them.

I’ve felt all of these from time to time. There were days when I wasn’t sure what to write about (most of them, in fact). Days when I’ve felt discouraged about what I learned about myself. And many, many days when I felt that what I had written was a total waste of ink and paper.

But there were also days when I wish I could write even more. The euphoria on days like that is not unlike those rare times when I rip a golf ball down a narrow fairway, over the bunker and onto a green. Shots like that make me thirst for more. I have that same thirst for journaling too.

There are other ways, I suppose, that I could have spent those 365 hours (40 minute sessions x 548 days — I missed two since I started). I could have watched 182 movies or 121 NFL games; and been better entertained. I could have played 80 rounds of golf; and improved my play for the next round. I could have played 2 games of Monopoly (they seem to last that long); and become a real estate mogul. You get the idea.

Instead, I journaled. Sometimes early in the morning. Sometimes late at night. Many times when I didn’t even feel like it. But I wouldn’t trade those 365 hours. There has been few activities I’ve engaged in as an adult that has yielded more value to me than that simple habit. So, I don’t regret that investment at all. I only wish I had spent 7,869 more hours on it. Had I started it the day I married Anna, I’m sure she would be married to a better product now.

Have you found journaling to be worth the investment of your time?

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8 thoughts on “Is the habit of journaling worth the investment of time?

  1. Yes, I do find journaling worth the time, effort and paper or computer power. I used to write all my journals but have found a Word document with a password feels much more secure and a place where I can honestly express myself.
    Over the years my journaling has become my prayers…just like the Abilene-character in the movie, The Help. I am “driven” to my journal when my emotions are high/low, when I’ve had a disturbing dream or when someone I know needs prayer. I often journal about the people I work with: my fellow teachers and often my students.
    I often ponder scripture in my journaling, seeking God’s direction on how to established that Word into my daily life.

    • Hey Kenda. Great to hear from you. I often fill my journal, as you do, with prayers for others. Who could measure the return on that investment? In fact, I’m quite sure my prayer life is richer, more meaningful, because of it. That alone would be worth it for me.

  2. The answer I would give is a qualified ‘yes’.

    The reason is that journaling, which is what I suppose is the modern term for ‘keeping a daily diary’, is useful in helping you to remember things.

    I know when I took my meds, who happened to call on what day, if something interesting happened (I figured out what I want to passionately write about today on a walk!), my girlfriend came by and brought me custard….

    But for me writing is a compulsion; I need to get the words and thoughts out of my head and down on paper – computer/word processor doesn’t cut it. I must be pen (or pencil on occasion) or paper.

    People loved reading my ‘Quiet Time’ Journal when I was in the church (A story for another time), and that was when I first realized that maybe I should keep writing, and that my writing wasn’t so bad after all.

    Keep journaling, Mr. Gates; it is healthy for your heart and mind, and it is like weaving a tapestry that you can always go back to and look at and see what colors and events were occurring oh, say, three years ago? And the good and the bad are both there, written with the immediacy of your first first thoughts and feelings, and not the hazy patina of nostalgia.
    I wish you well.

  3. Okay, I’ve made the decision to begin journaling. My hope is to see a pattern in what brings me passion. From what I know so far, it is helping people see their gifts. Maybe journaling will bring about a new or additional twist to my passion. In the past, writing down what was on my mind seemed to clear my mind to rest and become refreshed. My goal is not to make a giant “to do” list that overwhelms me. Instead, I hope to discover what direction to take my career, for now, through daily insights. Some days, it may be more of a gratification journal and that’s okay.

    • Congratulations Nancy! I hope you report back here after a month or so and let us know if you found it to be worth your investment of time. Wishing you pages upon pages of insightful discovery.

    • Hello Rajiv. I use the Moleskine Cahier journals (XL) and simply put them in a leather insert I purchased separately (just for the journal I’m presently recording in). I like the weight and feel of the Moleskine journal and they are relatively inexpensive. Plus, the leather jacket is a nice touch for the current journal of record. Personally, I’ve found that investing in leather journals makes me too self-conscious about what I write–thinking that I need to somehow not be wasteful of something that costs as much as leather journals do. I like the freedom of not worrying about expense.

      At the end of the day, however, what matters most is that you find something, even if it’s an inexpensive spiral notebook, that you can be consistent with. Thanks for dropping by.

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