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Web Extra
Journaling in the Round
Sept '05

I do really enjoy Helen Fielding's Diary of Bridget Jones, but my journal is almost nothing like hers. I have been journaling consistently for about eight years, and my journaling process has gone through some transformations.

About four years ago, I was looking for a way to include lots of detail in my journal while also shortening the process — because I was tired of writing everything out in prose, and I wanted to give myself a limit (one page) so that I wouldn’t go on journaling for an hour or more. I wanted to journal each night for no more than 15 minutes. So, I invented a system that has worked wonderfully for me. Would you like to see?

A sample journal page

I’ve chosen a journal with a durable spiral binding, unruled pages, and hard covers. My journal is about 10" x 6.75". I especially like the journals of this size made by Michael Roger Press. They are usually $10 to $15 each, and each one lasts me about six months.

I spend about 15 minutes journaling each night as I get into bed. I’ll explain each part of the journal page.

1. When I started this system, Jon helped me cut out a sturdy piece of plastic in the shape of a circle. We punched a hole in it, threaded a ribbon through the hole, and attached it to my journal as a handy stencil for my circle. I use this every day.

2. Inside the circle, I write the day and date. Then I make four marks at the 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock positions (if this were a clock). They represent time, but not like a clock. The topmost mark stands for midnight, then opposite is noon. The sides are 6 am (on the right) and 6 pm (on the left). This gives me a structure to record the events of the day.

3. All around the circle, I write out the events of each day with varying degrees of specificity. I usually begin with sleep, then continue on with each major event. This helps to jog my memory about what I did that day, which also reminds me about different thoughts and emotions I had about the events.

4. On the sides, I write out my reflections about the day. Recording around the circle that I had a quiet time might remind me of a thought or insight I had during that, and I’ll write that on the side. I think through different reflections and emotional reactions that stand out to me from the day’s activities, and I write down the ones that seem significant. Sometimes I have lots of thoughts, but I try to limit myself to one page, and that is almost always sufficient. If I want to write or think about something further, I may make a note of that for further journaling at another time.

5. In the upper left corner, I write the words "consolation" and "desolation." This is my practice of The Examen by Saint Ignatius, which I wrote about in a previous Web Extra. When I’m done writing about things on the sides of the page, I answer the questions “What was most life-giving today?” (consolation) and “What drained life from me today?” (desolation). I find it interesting to look for patterns in my consolation and desolation reflection. For instance, this was one way that I learned that swimming was such a gift from God for me.

That’s it! I know that not everyone loves to journal, but whether you do or don’t, I hope my system might been helpful to you — maybe you’ll try it out, or invent your own.

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