When you journal, you’re not only focusing on one thing, you’re also automatically practicing and consolidating several skills at the same time (vocabulary & grammar through writing or speaking).
I write in a journal every day. I use "the five-minute journal" here (this isn't an affiliate link) but you can obviously just use a normal diary or notebook and make your own entries. You journal when you write your thoughts, plans and experiences down on paper.
Many successful leaders in their fields also kept journals during their lifetime: John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Steve Jobs, Bridget Jones(!) and Tim Ferriss to name but a few. You can see why in these articles here and here.
Here’s a summary of what I think are some of the main advantages of journaling in general:
- Journaling clears the clutter in your brain. If you have a problem or a challenge and write about it in your journal, you transfer it from your head to paper (or to your voice recorder in the case of oral journaling) and are able to observe it from a different perspective. It also empties your mind, leaving you with more space and resources to find solutions and make better decisions instead of just piling up problems. You feel calmer, more in control.
- When you write by hand, you're more present as the action is more deliberate. This obliges you to slow down and explore your thoughts and experiences. You use several different senses, which makes it more memorable to you. It also highlights to your brain that what you're writing about is important, which makes it more likely for you to stayed focused on the essential.
- It gives you a big-picture view of your life, which enables you to assess whether you’re on the right track with your goals. It makes you more mindful in general about your daily life, helps you appreciate what is going well and improves your overall wellbeing.
- It encourages you to take stock of where you are and what you want. Instead of constantly jumping from one experience to the next, you need to take time to reflect and make meaning of these experiences. This helps you to grow.
- Thanks to this dialogue with yourself, you get new insights.
How does it help your English?
- It helps you to think more carefully about how you're forming your sentences and which vocabulary you need to use. This helps you find your words more easily when speaking and writing and improves your flow.
- There is no right or wrong answer in terms of content. It is the form that we're focusing on.
- As you're talking about yourself, it makes the vocabulary more personal, relevant and useful so you retain it better. You can use the vocabulary you already know and become more aware of what you don’t know.
- You feel more in control and focused in your learning journey; you’re more motivated.
- It's brain-friendly and helps optimize your learning.
In a nutshell, it "compounds" your English. In the banking world, compounding describes the process by which we add interest to a fixed amount and this new amount then earns interest, which creates a new amount on which interest is calculated and so on.
Whenever you journal, your English also compounds, as you build on new vocabulary, insights and feelings.
Persevere and these small changes will add up to a much bigger difference: you and your English will grow.