Can You Keep a Thought Journal?

Have you ever wanted to instantly recall an interesting fact or a life event? Have you ever wished you had a ready-reckoner or a journal for all the things that you wanted to do but couldn’t? You are not alone.

If only I had a penny for every time I wanted a system to record why I chose to buy a certain product; or to recollect the latest update on a particular work related issue; or to write down a new nugget of learning that I experienced that day!

The human mind is an extremely complex, multi-layered animal. We all have many different thoughts running through our mind over the course of the day. We also have a higher number of distractions to take our focus away from those thoughts.

We can of course try to improve our memory through a series of brain exercises. Yes, we can easily spend an hour everyday with puzzles and hidden object games that ‘improve’ recall. After all, we don’t have anything else (or better) to do. We don’t have to spend time with family or catch up on our workouts or anything. Right? Which family does not appreciate an adult who’s playing puzzle games on her/his phone, sitting in the middle of a room strewn with unsorted laundry and toys?

So, how can you get started?

Well, I have come up with a lot of options for you to try out. These have to do more with knowing the limits of our brain and finding other ways to write stuff down and then refer later. For people who prefer to do everything on portable devices, you can try out note taking apps like Evernote, OneNote, ColorNote and the like. If you wish to do it the old-fashioned way and carry a pocket diary around, that works too. Some even use voice recording to add descriptions.

But you have got to keep it simple. People familiar with the Pomodoro technique would tell you to write down all your distractions and immediately get back to the task at hand and work on it for 20 mins continuously . We will do something similar here. All you have to write is a three word topic, an equally short remark/action you want to take, and the date.

27th Jan 2019 – TED talk on Memory – Write about using journals

This tells me what my inspiration was, what I should do, and anything else that may have occurred to me in that instant. The result? This post that you are reading right now.

I know you are saying “Come on! You made me read through all these dense paragraphs only to say ‘Write a short sentence’?”. Try it out, dear Reader. It’s extremely powerful and even rejuvenating, especially when you look back after a few years. More importantly, it lets you get things done.

It doesn’t have to be the same method for everyone. When my wife looks at skincare products or baby accessories, she writes down why she doesn’t like a particular product. Even if that product becomes famous in the future, she will always know she doesn’t want it. My mother makes a hand-written to-do list every morning and I know that her brain will always remember one item more than the 42 already on the list!

You can record your reasons for not selecting a specific tourist destination or even something as abstract as a mathematical equation. You can pen down your feelings when your kids cross their growth milestones. There are no rules. Just let the pen glide over the paper. Or fingers on keys. Whatever floats your boat!

If you wish to upgrade your journal to something more on the lines of a diary, you can also include happy thoughts and things you are grateful for. They will serve as beacons of happiness when you read them in troubled times.

Before you go, take a look at this map I drew for myself. It shows a list of everything I want to learn in the next few months, and how I plan to do it. Mind maps help you structure bigger activities.

The Learning Journey_shortened1

There are a lot of tools like Freeplane that let you do this for free.

Now, the next big question. Do you really have to structure all your thoughts? Aren’t they better left untouched (like most of our feelings)? I personally find it therapeutic to go back in time and see snapshots of various stages of my life. These thoughts lay your mind bare before you for intro/retrospection at leisure.

My earlier post on how a writer’s work should be graded is a good example, although I had no idea at that time that I would even read it after 10 years.

Will I ever go back and refer this journal? Maybe. Maybe not. But that’s not the point. I will sleep sound, certain that every little thought of mine (that matters) is tucked safely away somewhere.

I envy those who don’t have to keep a journal because their brains say “Hey! Please! I have everything ready right here!”

What methods do you use to structure your thoughts and act on them? Do let me know in the comments section. I need inspiration. Everybody does.

3 thoughts on “Can You Keep a Thought Journal?

    • Travel journals are a different category by themselves. A rich mixture of word and text – it’s like reading a photo album with notes!

      • Very true, but used to keep them as my memory isn’t great for name places so as a photographer, I had to know the names.
        I guess travel blogs replace travel journals these days…

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