5 Warning Signs Your Journal is Not Effective

Jack, Journal Guide

Yeeks! I went on a weight loss diet and I gained 5 pounds.

Phew! I bought a fancy plug-in-the-wall deodorizer and my house smells like fish and flowers.

Arrrghhh! The exterminator was here last week and my office is crawling with nasty little bugs today.

Diets, products and services can all prove to be ineffective. Usually you KNOW when something is simply not working, not living up to the all the marketing hype or causing more trouble than it is solving.

But do you know when you aren’t getting the most out of your journal? Do you understand why your journal isn’t working for you? Do you know when your journal is not effective?

Be on the lookout for these 5 warning signs

You are afraid to tell the truth in your journal

The only way to pull good information out of your journal is to put good information in. When you, for whatever reason, are less than honest about your activities, your accomplishments or your part in a joint effort you’ve lost one of the most important uses of your journal – analyzation.

By being honest, brutally honest about your thoughts, ideas and actions you are able to see areas in which you can work to improve. You can also see periods of learning, areas of growth and the breadth of your achievements.

If you are tempted to gild the lily you will find your journal is not as useful as it can be with conscientious recording. When you are honest with your journal you are able to take advantage of the best evaluation tool available. Your journal is a basic evaluation tool which easily encompasses all areas of your personal and professional growth.

You spend too much time writing in your journal

How do you feel about that cute, young clerk who is supposed to be ringing up your purchases but is instead visiting with her friend at the other end of the counter?

Or, have you noticed the result when the first baseman is so busy checking out the fans he doesn’t notice the ball flying right at him?

What about the bride whisked off by her groom to some romantic isle who can’t seem to find time for new hubby because she is on the phone with Momma?

My mom used to put things in perspective with a short phrase – a time and place for everything. She meant that while many activities are worthwhile there is . . . well, a time and place. The young clerk, the baseball player and the bride are engaging in activities which have merit. It is nice to have friends to chat with, it is great to have one’s confidence boosted by the rush of fans, it is wonderful to have a loving mom to chat with. But each of those activities needs to be relegated to the proper time and place.

If you are spending so much time writing in your journal that you have no quality time to get out and live life, your journal is likely to be a repository of little value.

By the way, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take time once in a while to let your ink roar for whatever time it takes to reach a conclusion, solve a problem or get rid of the junk that is swamping your mind. And, many people find going on a journal retreat occasionally is an excellent way to come back refreshed, ready to take on life’s challenges with renewed vigor.

You are mired in self pity

Nobody loves me

Everybody hates me

I think I’ll just

Go eat worms

If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all.

Woe is me, everywhere I go there is a dark cloud hanging over my head.

If you are constantly assured the world is out to get you, you will do well to heed the advice of Dr James Pennebaker. Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin has spent years studying the effect of writing about the bad things you experience. 

He says, “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health,” Pennebaker goes on to say, “They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function. If they are first-year college students, their grades tend to go up. People will tell us months afterward that it’s been a very beneficial experience for them.”

His major caveat is to write about the bad thing (two weeks at most) then get on with your life. Improper use of your journal, spending hours, months, years writing about one or more horrific or even mundane “bad things” will do you no good. Following Pennebakers advice, write about the junk then walk away from the junk. Used wisely, your journal will lift you above the “woe is me doldrums.”

You never go back and read what you’ve written in the past

If you want your journal to provide the highest ROI (Return on Investment) you need to look at what you’ve written in the past.

While the simple act of writing is a good way to remove junk from your life, (as noted above) there is still much value in looking back through your journals from time to time. You will be able to note patterns, recollect inspirations, study ideas, see growth (or lack thereof) by the simple act of reading what you’ve written.

If you are striving toward a goal you can be uplifted by seeing the benchmarks you’ve already reached.

When you are trying to determine ways to improve your performance you can note how people or situations have compelled you forward or held you back.

As you seek information concerning what works and what doesn’t you can see in black and white what did and what didn’t work up till now. You can also note how often or when particular activities were beneficial and when they were detrimental.

Learning from your own history is important when you are planning for your future.

Your journal is covered in dust (and you aren’t sure where it is anyway)

What more can be said? If you aren’t using your journal it is of no value to you at all. Totally ineffective.

There is something you can do about it

For an easy and simple way to get started or get back into the habit of beneficial journal writing you can invest in a guided journal to help you get used to and become proficient in regular journal writing. 

One or more of these journals is designed just for you. Take a look and you will see what I mean.


As a lover of words, pens, paper and the dictionary I'm a natural for journal writing. But, I wasn't always faithful to the task and had to learn the hard way. Some trial and error as well as input from my journal writing friends helped move me along. I have a burning desire to help people who want to use and get the most out of their journals and diaries. I see journal writing as a self improvement tool and a way to avoid costly mistakes, bad relationships and my stinky-self. Finding my kindly self is part of the journey which keeps me writing. I Journalate and so can you.

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