Whether you’re a dedicated diary keeper or not, I’m sure we’ve all faced the same question: Should I keep a journal? Am I missing out on something if I don’t? Is there some magical, journal world that will mysteriously and wonderfully change my life? Will I be super duper judged if I fall off the journaling wagon and quit after a few weeks?
If you’re anything like me, you definitely have. I’m one of those people who, in an ideal world, would journal every day, but here I am: a crazy-busy student and employee, feeling like I’m doing something wrong by not keeping a diary to remember the “best years of my life.” But it’s hard enough for me to keep my planner on track; how can I possibly have time to confide in a diary?
Let’s weigh the benefits. You have a way of venting that won’t “burden” your confidant or potentially hurt someone else, you have a window into the past and a way to remember the small things that you’ll like to reminisce about before going off to play shuffleboard, and you have a way of sorting out your thoughts without making yourself vulnerable. In short, pretty dope.
Cons? It can take some serious time commitment — especially if you’re into the whole bullet journal trend — and could be potentially disastrous should anyone find it. I’ve also never been one for addressing or treating my diary as its own being, even though I feel like that’s the thing to do.
But, if you’re feeling the pressure to record your thoughts and memories in some way other than your Insta pics, here are some alternatives to the traditional journaling method that will take a little less time and will probably feel a little more accessible:
I can’t take full credit for this idea. This is actually an exercise that my high school creative writing teacher had us do every day when we came to class. It was a way of centering ourselves and focusing our minds.
A haiku is a short poem from the Japanese literary tradition. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, and the typical 5-7-5 structure assigned to it by (nearly) every grade school teacher. The thing is, that’s just how linguists of the past have attempted to translate the number of Japanese syllables to English. Having 5 syllables in one line, then 7 in the next, then 5 in the last is not a hard and fast rule for the original Japanese structure. Really, it’s just a poem that is brief but illuminating, and absolutely minimalist. 5-7-5 is a good pattern to set for yourself at first, but try to break out of that mold as time goes on. The best part is, these take just a minute or two to write, especially if you free yourself of constraints and stop thinking, “This sounds stupid.” If you experience something in your day that stands out to you, try to iron it out in a little haiku. That way, you give your mind a break, do something creative, and commemorate your day in just a few minutes.
2.Planner, but with a twist!
I’m sure we’ve all kept a planner (or been forced to keep a planner) at some point in life. If you’re into planners, whether paper or digital, then this might be the thing for you.
Start leaving a tiny section of each day blank when you’re writing out your usual tasks and appointments. At the end of your day, jot down just a few sentences, phrases, words, or even doodles (and maybe in a different color pen) that describe the important things that happened to you in your day. On your phone or laptop, create a note or even a little event for each day and type out the same. Depending on the size of your planner, these entries can be either short or long, whatever suits your time constraints, and you can do this at the same time that you cross off your list at the end of the day.
3. Wall cal, but with a twist!
This is pretty similar to the last one. If you’re busy as heck and you keep a wall calendar (either above your desk or your bed or maybe on your fridge) that’s paper and not a whiteboard, this might be the thing for you. Hang a pen next to your calendar so that every night, when you cross off the day or add events or whatever you normally do, you can jot down a few moments from your day. This does not have to be coherent, and it will probably be more of a word jumble than the planner entries I described above. This is my journal of choice, and because I keep my wall cal above my bed, I do this each night before I go to sleep. It only takes a minute or two, and it’s totally worth it. You wouldn’t believe how many of the small things you can forget.
Now this is a bona fide 21st century alternative…
Using this app, you record a video every day that only lasts one second. At the end of each year, the app compiles them into a short movie (around 6 minutes) that shows you everything that happened to you each year (and you get to save them, of course). I have some buddies who are obsessed with this. This app is a great option for especially busy or tech-crazy people, especially since you can plan the recording around specific events that you’re excited for. It’s very user-friendly, simple, and quick, not to mention unique and fun.
And there you have it! Some journaling alternatives for those of us with busy schedules and some kind of mental block about committing to a diary long-term. Try a couple different ones and see which one works best for saving your memories!