3 Reasons Why You Should Keep a Journal in College (& 3 Ways to Start)

I got you, aspiring introspectors and memory keepers.
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row of journals stacked next to each other

I can smell the paper from here.

Virginia Woolf, Theodore Roosevelt, Leonardo da Vinci. What do these people have in common? A great love for journaling. Perhaps you've thought about taking up the habit but need some persuasion as to why you should put in the effort. 

Today, I'm going to share the benefits of keeping a journal in college and share a couple of my favorite journaling formats to get you started. Ready? Let's get into it.

So, why should you journal?

Here are three benefits of it that go beyond the basic function of storing memories: 

  1. It's like meditation for people who wish they could meditate but are terrible at meditating. Journaling helps clear up cluttered, wandering minds. 
  2. It increases ambition and creativity. Writing about your goals keeps them at the forefront of your mind and reflection sparks ideas. 
  3. Like any healthy habit, it helps improve your self-discipline. All habits that require self-discipline create a domino effect. For instance, maybe habitually journaling in the morning also means you're going to bed earlier. 

How to start journaling?

The best way to form a habit is to create a structure for it that consistently works for you. For example, maybe the best way to eat healthy for you is to not have any junk food at home and carry a list of good eating-out options. The same goes for journaling. Below, I'm going to list a couple of formats that can help create this structure.

Before you pick a format, keep in mind your preferences. Are you concise with words or a word vomiter? Are you good at remembering to do things daily? Do you prefer analog or digital? Picking a structure that is customized to you is a terrific way to start a habit and keep it alive.

Without further ado, let's talk journaling formats.

Morning Pages

Julia Cameron devised the concept of "Morning Pages," which is writing three pages first thing in the morning. This is great for word vomiters, morning people, etc. Loosen up the brain and let go of any concerns or plans rattling around your head. 

You could go analog with three written notebook pages. For those who like all things digital, a basic Microsoft Word/Google document is great too.

If you enjoy nifty websites, check out 750words.com. Membership is $5/month (there's a free trial) and comes with some cool features. You get a lot of statistics about your writing, habit badges, and access to community challenges. This is for you guys who run on data-driven heart thumps.

750words statistics
750words statistics

All these factoids are making me swoon

My Daily 3

mydaily3 subreddit

Isn't the Snoo, the Reddit alien, adorable?

Maybe you don't want to spend so much time on journaling or you're a concise person. What's more concise than pages? Bullet points. Three of them.

It's a basic concept for paper notebooks. You could also set up a blog for it using Blogspot, Wordpress, or Tumblr. If you enjoy being part of online communities for built-in accountability, Reddit has a subreddit devoted to this very thing. 

Past, Present, Future 

monthly journaling format

This is for anybody who isn't a fan of daily habits or doesn't want to get down to the nitty-gritty of everyday life while journaling. Monthly journaling to the rescue! 

Anytime during the month, jot down what you thought was important to you (event and/or mindset-wise) last month. Then write down what's going on this month. You know where this is going. Throw down some plans for next month. 

You could dedicate three pages to each month in a notebook or set up a Word/Google document, like pseudo-morning-pages. Feel free to either use bullet points or paragraphs for each time section.

What's up with you and journaling?

Are you a journaler, wanna-be journaler, or have never journaled? What method do you use? 

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