Write it down! (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Kaizen Nguyễn on unsplash.com
Welcome to the first post of 2018!

Are we feeling fresh and rejuvenated? Popping with ideas and plans for this year? Filled with resolve and determination for the things we want to get done?

Well, I am! Mostly. When I'm not wilting with the heat and contemplating moving to a snow-bound locale for the remainder of the Melbourne summer.

Despite the wilting, the thing that's energising me at the moment is the idea of journalling. It is, after all, a key New Year resolution-ising activity! Here are 14 ways to make journaling one of the best things you do in 2018! How could you resist? I know I didn't!

Journalling means to keep a diary or journal on a consistent basis. It could be a catch-all for your thoughts and ideas across the facets of your life. Alternatively, you can choose to keep a focused research journal, or one that is attuned to your career. It can be private and only for your reference, or you can post your journal online as a tracking and collaborative exercise (many personal blogs started off as online diaries, remember?). Journalling is very different from the craze of 'bullet journaling', a.k.a. 'bujo', which leans much more towards the productivity/to-do list end of things.

I was a dedicated journal-keeper for most of my teens and into my university years. I loved the feel of sitting down to fresh pages of any kind - dead tree or pixels - and letting ideas, perspectives, and feelings flow onto the page. Often, in the writing out of situations and problems, I worked out ways to handle them or gained insight into how others might have seen things (and realised I was in the wrong...ahem).

As a researcher, aside from working through my ideas and thorny theoretical question-marks, the greatest value of journaling for me was in keeping track of positive overtures I had from my peers. Whether it was after attending conferences and seminars, or through incidental meetings with colleagues' colleagues, I would note things like "Big Wig X was really encouraging about my reading of the comparative national contexts" (because of this, I gained the confidence to submit a successful book chapter proposal), and "Not sure if anything will happen, but Y said to get in touch about next year's conf - possible panel?" (consequently, I sketched out a possible panel while waiting for a plane, contacted Y later, and we convened a darn fine panel).

There's heaps of journalling advice about how to get started, do it, keep doing it, and gain the most from it. For those of you considering it, here's why keeping a journal is good for your health (from PsychCentral):
  • Clarify your thoughts and feelings. Do you ever seem all jumbled up inside, unsure of what you want or feel? Taking a few minutes to jot down your thoughts and emotions (no editing!) will quickly get you in touch with your internal world.
  • Know yourself better. By writing routinely you will get to know what makes you feel happy and confident. You will also become clear about situations and people who are toxic for you — important information for your emotional well-being.
  • Reduce stress. Writing about anger, sadness and other painful emotions helps to release the intensity of these feelings. By doing so you will feel calmer and better able to stay in the present.
  • Solve problems more effectively. Typically we problem solve from a left-brained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition. Writing unlocks these other capabilities, and affords the opportunity for unexpected solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.
  • Resolve disagreements with others. Writing about misunderstandings rather than stewing over them will help you to understand another’s point of view. And you just may come up with a sensible resolution to the conflict.
    (For the full article: Health benefits of journaling)
Alongside the self-knowledge work that comes from regular journalling is the basic value of keeping a record of your doings. We may have online calendars that seem to micro-manage our days - for better or worse! - but there are things we do that may not be entered as appointments, meetings, or a formal activity. Getting a bit lost, for example, and finding that fantastic, quiet, hole-in-the-wall cafe that would be great for future meetings with collaborators.

There's a novelty and joy in capturing elements of your life just for you. You're not assessed on it, it's not for review or on show, and you don't have to keep it forever. There is no set style. You can mix drawings and writing, photos and ephemera.

It can be intellectually liberating. Let me know if you give it a try!