Taking the Mystery out of Logbooking/Journaling for Improvement

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about you, but I’m really welcoming 2018 because 2017 included some tough challenges as well as continued change.

Many consider a new year as the time to clean one’s slate . . . a time to begin anew or the perfect time to start a resolution.

“I’m going to go on a diet; I will finally actually use that gym membership I pay for month after month; I’m going to try to be a better person.”

There are MANY things we can begin in the quest to continually improve ourselves. We are so busy we can barely keep track of everything. 

Also, many of us have problems we are dealing with or thoughts we feel we can’t share with anyone.

My new Logbook for 2018. More brewery stickers to follow . . .

So, what can we do to keep track of everything, feel better emotionally and help motivate us to keep going every day?

Well, one way is by combining the greatest benefits of a journal, diary and daily list into one vehicle . . . a logbook.

Back in the day, people kept private diaries of their most intimate thoughts. But a diary alone would not be helpful to me, personally.

I have tried journaling, but I could never find the right format for me . . . paper or electronic? Writing prompts or freeform? Lined, dotted or blank pages? And what format do I record things in it?

What I have ended up finding most helpful is a logbook. Logbooks were originally used for a different purpose and have now transformed into the perfect tool for logging everything I want in my life.

Wikipedia says “A logbook (a ship’s logs or simply log) is a record of important events in the management, operation, and navigation of a ship. It is essential to traditional navigation, and must be filled in at least daily.”

Some of the key points the original form of ship logbooks have in common with the current daily logbooks are that it is still a record of important events and should be filled in daily.

These days, logbooks have become the most convenient way to record our daily thoughts, how we feel, favorite quotes, interests, meals, exercise, weather, notes for work or classes and anything else we want to record.

Why would we want to keep a logbook?

First of all, lists help keep us on track. They record daily activities, things that we need to get done and might want to check off to let us know we completed them.

Second, Therapists and Counselors highlight the mental benefits of journaling. Journaling has been found to help people deal with depression and anxiety by giving them an outlet or a release. Writing also helps them deal with traumatic or stressful events in their lives.

On LifeHacker.com, Alan Henry states, “The key, however, was to focus on what you were thinking and feeling as opposed to your emotions alone.”

Next, a logbook documents important events in our lives so we don’t forget them and it can also be used as a form of measurement if you want to change something.

If you want to lose weight, you can record your daily meals, exercise, amount of sleep and water consumption. Then, as you look at the week, you can see where you’re succeeding or where you can make improvements.

If you are mostly eating healthy, but not exercising much, and you’re not losing any weight, you can take a look at your logbook and either bump up your amount of exercise or see where you didn’t eat healthily and that will motivate you next time.

Also, studies have shown that the physical sense of writing something by hand fixes/imprints that information in your memory and subconscious better than typing that information on a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Alan Henry further says, “…writing about your experiences not only helps you process them, it helps you see trends and opportunities that may not have been apparent at first glance.”

Keep in mind that everyone is different. There are many types of daily recording books and apps people find work well for them . . . gratitude journals, diaries, sketchnotes, food/exercise diaries . . .

The only format that consistently works for me is a paper logbook. I don’t care for electronic versions because I’m kinesthetic and need to touch the pages and be able to see it all quickly by paging through it. I like the physical nature of it.

However, a physical book can be lost or destroyed by spilling a glass of water on it or fire. But there are ways of to get around that. I take pics of my pages with my smartphone and then upload them into a folder named as the present year on Dropbox.

That way I get the benefits I need from a physical book along with an electronic copy for reference anywhere or as a backup.

So, you’re on board now and want some tips on how to go about it, right?

Here are my favorite tips for keeping a logbook:

  • IndexLeave the first couple pages blank to make an Index. I don’t index my daily recordings, just things I might want to reference in the future. Maybe notes from an online course I took, notes on a book I’ve read or from a seminar I attended. Or you could index an important event or even a vacation.
  • On the page after the index, I wrote an inventory of the previous year (2017) where I listed the bigger moments or events that happened . . . good and bad. A few examples of bigger things are my new job, needing to put sick Chewie down, the vacation with my son, and online classes I took.
  • The next page is where I record all the favorite URL’s I’d like to keep track of and refer back to.
  • On all my daily record pages, I draw a vertical line down the outside of each page, creating a smaller column to list my health: meals, alcohol, and exercise (you could put your hours of sleep and how many glasses of water you drink in a day too). To simplify things, I write a B, L & D for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. Plus, I add an S for Snack between each meal if I have one. Also, X = Exercise and A = Alcohol in my logbook.DailyPageSpread2
  • Number all pages (if your logbook doesn’t already) so you can link the index to actual pages.
  • I don’t always keep track of weather, but when I do, I draw a sun when it’s hot, a raindrop when it rains, clouds for cloudy days and icicles when its cold.
  • The main area of my daily record pages is left for logging my thoughts, tasks, quotes and URL’s that I may want to check out later.
  • My favorite way to log is just a bulleted list
  • I typically begin a new day’s section first thing in the morning when I get into work. I keep my logbook open next to me all day and as time goes by, I update things as I go. I don’t typically log items after I leave work, but sometimes will record things I don’t want to forget in my notes app on my smartphone. The following day I go back and fill in the previous day’s evening events and other details (dinner, alcohol . . .).
  • You can use a small notebook or journal. My favorite is a Moleskine Classic Notebook, Large, Ruled, Black, Hard Cover (5 x 8.25). It has rounded corners, acid-free pages, a bookmark and an elastic closure – (perfection!). Find it on Amazon here.
  • A Sharpie Fine Point black permanent marker. Find it on Amazon here.

Blank logbooks work best for me, but different people like different formats. Some people need writing prompts, want a gratitude journal and others want an app to keep their logs.

DailyJournalPageTo help you get ideas or make it easy for you, I made up a really fun logbook page for you, that you can print out copies of and record all your great stuff on. Get a PDF of the DailyJournalPage here.

(I provided a black & white version in addition to the full-color one in the PDF.)

Following are some helpful resources for logging or journaling:

  • BulletJournal sells a nice journal and has a system for identifying tasks, priorities and events. You can always adopt their system to use with any logbook you choose.
  • The Sketchnote Handbook and Workbook are great for logging. Sketchnoting is a way of graphically depicting your information by drawing pictures and using text as graphics. The best at Sketchnoting is Mike Rohde, who created the Handbook and Workbook I refer to.
  • Day One Journal is a very popular phone app if you want to go electronic. You can also just use the Evernote app or Google Keep for free if you prefer. Their main purpose is for taking notes, but there are many other features to them.
  • The Five Minute Journal provides writing prompts, inspiring quotes, an area to write something you’re grateful for and to write three amazing things that happens daily.
  • Also, here are 365 Creative Writing Prompts to inspire you. You’ll never be at a loss for what to write about!

Whatever format you decide to use to keep track of all your daily information, give it at least a couple of weeks to try and make recording in your logbook a habit.

Feel free to fine-tune your style or what you want to include to your heart’s content!

If you have any tips you’d like to share with us, please leave a comment to this post.

Happy logbooking!



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