swap's musings

Screenshot Your Mind

June 28, 2020

TL;DR Watch this on YouTube

In this post, I’ll share a practical way for you to get started with journaling. I’ve been journaling for more than 6 years now and trust me, it’s life-changing.

Let’s start with an analogy.

When you’re on a vacation, or just simply out - what do you do when you see something nice?

You immediately take out your phone and snap a picture of it. Why, because you want to preserve that moment. I want you to think of journaling in a similar way. By writing, you can preserve much more information than in a picture. You can capture your state of mind at that point in time.

Let me show you an example. Here’s an entry from my journal:

Aug 17, 2019

Done with long hair! Too much maintenance; I don’t have that kind of time right now. 😂

This is from a time when I had a lot of things on my plate and I decided to cut my hair short. I don’t remember much about it but seeing this entry helps me remember the time commitment in case I’d want to do that again. The point I’m trying to emphasize here is that “human brains are designed for processing information, not remembering stuff”.

Let me give you another analogy.

As developers, we like to commit early and often.

We commit because we want to have that luxury of going back in time. You can definitely work on a project without version control, but life’s just way easier when you’re saving your work frequently.

On similar lines, you can go without journaling, but once you start, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Coming to the why part. I’ve seen people use journaling for two purposes:

  1. Tracking goals
  2. Maintaining some sort of an emotional database

If you’re starting out, just focus on the latter, i.e. get in touch with your emotions first. What happens when you start tracking goals in your journal is that you start having expectations that you have to improve in those goals. That’s not the best way to get started. That’s not the point of journaling. Use it to take screenshots of your mind.

But I don’t have time!

That’s the number one excuse I hear. Going back to the commits analogy, we know that having 10 commits in a project are better than 3, 3 are better than 1, and 1 is better than not using version control at all.

So I’d advise you to not think about writing everyday for now.

Start with once a week or even a month maybe.

I’m not very regular as well. For example, I don’t have any entries for the months of Feb - May 2018.

Don’t worry about finding the right tools; tools are there to help you optimize something. What you should do is just get started. Open whatever notes app you find first or just go with a good old txt file.

What do I write about?

Now a typical way to journal is writing these dear diary type of posts, where you pour your heart out before going to bed everyday. But that’s not easy to get started. I don’t do that even now. I just create an entry when I come across something I want to preserve.

The prompt I have for you is:

Try to remember a moment from your past and jot down as many details as you can.

The urgency with this is that a few years later, you probably won’t remember as many details as you would do right now.

So try it out and let me know how it goes. If you have any queries, feel free to drop a comment on the YouTube video linked at the start of this post.

Until we meet again, this is swap signing out. 🖖


Personal blog by Swapnil Agarwal, who's on the quest to find his Ikigai. Subscribe to my newsletter if you'd like to get these posts in your inbox.