Keep a Journal

I once had a couple of sessions at work with a “life coach” although, being British, we pretended that wasn’t what he was, really. More like a mentor.

We chatted for a few hours about work-life balance, goal setting, self-development, continuous learning and all the usual suspects that people who have the luxury of being a bit self-obsessed are allowed to indulge in.

At the end of the session, he reached into his pocket and said, “You know, you should really keep a daily journal for yourself”, as he dug out a small Moleskin notebook. “You can jot down your thoughts and feelings in this – I find it quite therapeutic, and I wouldn’t be able to go a day without filling it in now”.

This daily journal is what we used to call a diary. Personally, I’d been filling one out for years, and was able to smuggly inform the coach, “Been there, am doing that”, but had to agree with his assessment. It is therapeutic, and I find it hard to start the day without first writing down something in my own.

My Psion 5

My Psion 5

The thing that moved me from thinking about keeping

a diary to actually doing so was technology. I bought a Psion 3 back in 1994 – it was then called a Personal Digital Assistant or PDA – and it enabled me to make entries into its word processor and save them to a disk. Better than that, you could password protect the files. I never looked back and I still think that the keyboard on the Psion 5, which I duly upgraded to, was a work of genius.

Unless you’re a celebrity* your diary is your own. I’m pretty certain mine would be fairly boring to any other reader but, as Mae West said, I keep it and it often helps to keep me. There’s a comfort in knowing that your life and thoughts flow in a certain way, and those that you see most often repeated are what life coaches would probably call your “values”.

Since 1994, technology has stormed ahead, and these days I keep my diary in “The Cloud”. Otherwise known as Google Docs, which doesn’t sound as sexy, but is pretty suited to my needs. The ability to store words, and maybe the odd picture, and access them from pretty much anywhere is all I need.

I’m sure there must be plenty of on-line applications that offer a more “diary like” experience but I can’t recommend them because I’ve not tried them. Google Docs gives me everything I need, although I sometimes worry about the profile that Google will be able to build of me when they finally come to govern the world. Much of my life since 1994 is on there.
If anyone has experience of a good on-line diary let me know. And, if you don’t keep one, I’d recommend you head to Google Docs and start today.

* I do enjoy reading “celebrity” diaries too. Some of my favourites are:

Michael Palin – I think he’s published three volumes now, and all of them are pretty entertaining.
Gyles Brandreth – yes, he’s a bit of a prat, but these diaries are really funny and at the same time totally enlightening about the media and political worlds.
Low Life – not a diary in the traditional sense, but an account of one man’s progression through his own days. One of the funniest and slightly odd books I’ve read (and I’ve read it twice).
Chris Mullen – forget Alastair Campbell, these are the best diaries of the Blair years by a mile.
Piers Morgan – A chronological account of Morgan’s decade as editor of the Daily Mirror. Given the man, and the inability of most of us to stick him, you won’t believe how incredibly enjoyable this book is.
Kenneth Williams – candid in the extreme, funny, bitchy and will make your toes curl.

7 thoughts on “Keep a Journal

  1. Hey Jim,

    Nice to get round to reading your blog. It’s a shame I did not get to say more than a few words to you at the York FIRE/ERFI Gathering a few weeks ago, so hopefully I can catch up with a bit more at the October Gathering.

    Totally agree that writing a diary/journal is awesome. I have done it on and off for many years. It’s quite therapeutic and also goes some way to reinforcing things in your mind, like gratefulness for the little things and past decisions that actually turned out in our favour e.g. saving and investing regualrly over the years instead of blowing all our money on sh1te.

    Cheers and keep up the good work!


  2. I go through phases with a ‘diary’ or journal. I have gone for years without writing a word then other years I have documented key events every day. I like to keep a physical diary rather than an electronic one.
    Looking back on some of my old diaries, I concentrated on negative thoughts – a mental release? – I see that I didn’t enjoy work even then and wanted to escape (the background FIRE thoughts in mind – before I started reading FIRE blogs). I also hated the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ situation I was in at the time. How I have changed that with my frugal ways and dropping my ‘competitive friends’ who were only interested in you for your ‘status’.
    I haven’t read any celeb diaries, I may give that a go in the future..


  3. From the age of 12 up to my early 30s, I kept a daily diary – you know, one of those Letts ones that you get from WH Smith! I then moved onto blogs and updated a personal blog until last year, when I found that I was… pre-occupied with other things, ie my impending FI journey and my new PF blog!

    My current blog kind of replaces the need to keep a journal, although I do miss writing about stuff off the top of my head that is not finance related. However, I guess I do sneak a few things in, such as my home brewing, holidays and such like, although it’s easy enough to link a post to £££s to make it relevant!


  4. I don’t think I’ve kept a diary since I was about 11 (and dread what to think what kind of rubbish went into that… hah!)

    I agree with the sentiment that it’s a good idea to write down your thoughts and I’ve found doing that on the blog has been much fun and I guess kind of therapeutic as well. And it’s getting me in check financially as well so a triple win! I’ve written some personal stuff on there and some rants as well which always feels good so at the moment I don’t feel the need to have a private diary, but if the blog lovin’ ever “ends” I will definitely consider starting up a personal journal.


  5. >> “I’m sure there must be plenty of on-line applications that offer a more “diary like” experience”

    Err, you mean, maybe, like a blog platform? The very same thing you’re using to create this website? 😉


    • You know, you’re absolutely right, but I hadn’t thought about blogs that way. Probably because I see them as a public forum as opposed to private. Incidentally, I cringe every time I realise that a blog I’ve written has posted (I tend to write things and then auto post them days later). My years of keeping my diary strictly private means that blogging seems a somewhat reckless activity!


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