The Benefits of a Private Diary, from Productivity to Practice

I have long kept track of my lucid thoughts, feminine hysterics, and deepest fears in the form of a private diary. There is a little pile of random booklets and piles of paper stored away in a cardboard box somewhere in my childhood home which constitutes the first portion of this endeavour. More recently, a few scribble-filled journals have found their way into my bookcase.

I enjoy occasionally reading through my youthful thoughts and reflecting on what elements of my person have changed, and which have remained the same, over the years. Much of the writing is put down without concern for grammar, spelling, or audience, and was merely sought out as therapy or interpretive space (some may argue that a personal blog is a similarly unprofessional platform). My experiences with writing as a daily practice came in very handy when I was doing my Master’s research, however; it meant that I was conditioned to write down everything, even the most trivial details. My retention levels were thus higher and I recalled more easily everything that I did (and why I did it).

Maria Popova, author of the well-known blog Brain Pickings, has much to say about the creative value of keeping a diary. In Maria’s article, Virginia Woolf on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary, she points out that a diary can allow you to:

  • try out the art of writing;
  • maintain a record of your self-aware reflections;
  • engage with combinatorial creativity; and,
  • enjoy a therapeutic outlet.

To extend the value of the diary even further, it can give you permission to be ‘sloppy’ in your writing. Perfectionism in writing can keep you from sitting down to do work, reducing your productivity and/or motivation levels. If you maintain a regular diary in which you are totally unconcerned with your prose and the assumed outcomes of your writing, you may be better at sitting down to write productively.

The Pomodoro Technique is based on the related idea that sitting down to write for brief, 25-minute periods and rewarding yourself for staying focused until the timer ringers is a very powerful tool for productivity. It encourages you to think about editing later and writing unhindered.

I do not regret the time that I have taken over the years to write down silly or nonsensical things in my diary. Over time, it has helped me to build my self-awareness, increase my productivity, and reduce the pressure of ideas in my brain. I hope that you, too, find the diary to be a useful tool for your everyday experience!


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