Journaling Tip: Don’t Catch Up


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If you keep a journal (or are just dabbling at it), and if you also happen to be quite methodical and/or perfectionist, one constant temptation is to catch up. I frequently suffer from this.

You want to make sure that your journal contains everything of importance, or that it contains everything. You want to make sure that all things, conversations, places, people you find interesting, or that somehow impact your life, are recorded. This is particularly the case when I go travelling, or attend events, and have incredibly full days where lots of things happen. The downside of lots of things happening is that it’s really difficult to find the time to journal, particularly time to journal a lot.

The temptation to catch up remains. I jot down what I can,when I can with the intention of doing a detailed catch-up later. I start from day one, in great detail. However, what happens is that by the time I get home, I am super busy with my regular life, and there are present-time events to record. I am also usually unwilling to spend both thought and time on things that happened last week (unless they were really significant), and so I end up with a partial glimpse of a particular time which has detailed information about a day or two, and hardly anything for the rest of the time.

Fortunately, I have learned from these past mistakes. Now, I rarely try to catch up. The impulse to do so still remains, but accepting that I may not do it, I now jot down information daily as time permits, without attempting to write EVERYTHING. If I manage to write further details later, great. If I can’t, then I don’t worry about it.

If you are going to be a regular journal keeper – without breaking the habit – and if at the same time, you have a very busy life that does not allow for an hour of reflective journaling every day, then lose the obsession to catch up and your journals, and your peace of mind will be better for it.


Share your views / perfectionist tendency on “catch up” in your journal in the comments below. 

17 Responses to “Journaling Tip: Don’t Catch Up”

  1. Manon October 1, 2015 at 14:13 # Reply

    Agreed! Growing up, I wrote inconsistently, finding myself only doing it when I had bursts of energy/motivation. This changed the day I stopped writing to recount events and instead wrote about how I felt in the moment. Writing about past events that had resolved themselves made me feel like I was doing extra, unnecessary work. But writing about thoughts and feelings that were unresolved or especially strong (good or bad) transformed my practice into an incredibly useful and enjoyable activity. This has motivated me to write almost daily ever since.

  2. Jill October 1, 2015 at 18:59 # Reply

    Hi Dolly

    Can I ask how this works in my case. I keep a journal which I use to off load and I write in that as and when I feel the need so its not daily. But I also keep a scrapbook type diary which I do log the basic daily events and paste in any memorabillia when appropriate. I dont really want to merge the two and am sometimes catching up on my scrapbook diary, how can I be more sparodic with this. I used to use an appointment diary to keep as a memory of daily events but now I use my phone for this and Ive started adding memorabillia.

    • Dolly Garland October 7, 2015 at 08:49 # Reply

      Hello Jill,

      I’ve a question for your question – currently, does catching up with your scrapbook stress you out, make you procrastinate, or is it something that brings you pleasure/satisfaction?

      If it’s pleasure/satisfaction, then you are doing fine. If it’s not, then you need to change something. Just from what you wrote, it seems that your system may work for you. You keep a journal when you feel like it, so there is no pressure on it. There is no reason to procrastinate. But you keep a daily log. Daily log sounds much more succinct than a journal. I am assuming that you are not necessarily describing everything in detail, but just capturing events, key moments etc. If that’s the case, then there should be no problem about catching up.

      If it works for you then continue as you are, and if you want, just try experimenting with new things now and again and see how/if that enhances your journaling experience.

      • Jill October 11, 2015 at 17:11 # Reply

        Hi Dolly, thank you for your helpful reply. I do enjoy keeping my scrapbook diary and it does work for me, I guess I just wonder if it seems like duplication but your reply has made me realise that both diaries have a different purpose and it doesn’t matter if some things do get duplicated.

  3. Sarah October 1, 2015 at 21:05 # Reply

    I’ve been a daily journaller since 1984 (aged 12). I have to confess though, because I’ve done it for so long, I don’t want to spoil it with breaks and so I force myself to catch up. The longest I would ever leave it is about 6 days – and then it’s hard work, but I always jot down key things on paper (more recently on my phone) so I don’t forget the main points for when I have time to write up. Also I check emails, texts etc to jog my memory.

    I find that if I am anxious / upset, I always write that evening (or 1st thing next morning) as if helps me and I need to get it down on paper. If life is going really well I am more likely to let several days build up before writing – does anyone else find this?

    • Jill October 2, 2015 at 19:33 # Reply

      Hi Sarah, I tend to write more in my journal when I have things on my.mind. I would like to have one journal but the other one is less private but sometimes entries get duplicated. Do you keep just one journal?

      • Sarah October 3, 2015 at 16:43 # Reply

        Yes just time one proper personal journal really – I keep a log book of where we go with our campervan on holiday (mileage, places we’ve visited, meals, weather) etc – some of this is duplicated in my daily journal. However nothing personal in the van log book.

        I also keep a kind of reflection journal regarding work – including making a note of anything I learn new each day with regard to my job, so I can see my knowledge grow, but nothing really personal either in this.

        I start a new volume each year so I have over 30 volumes of personal journals – needs quite a bit of storage! I do worry about who will read them when I die!

        • Jill October 4, 2015 at 12:08 # Reply

          I know what you mean about wondering who will read your journals. I destroyed my previous ones due to this worry which I now regret but can’t do anything about it. I’m determined to keep the ones I’ve started again. Have you ever done journalling on the computer? I’ve tried this as it is more private but it doesn’t feel the same at all. I prefer books for journalling.

          What types of books do you write in?

          • Dolly Garland October 7, 2015 at 08:53 #


            I don’t know if you have read these before, but these may help on the question of what happens after you die:



          • Sarah October 9, 2015 at 05:58 #

            I always write on paper (even though I can touch type fast). I like it to be hand written – more therapeutic plus I can tell my emotions even 20 plus years later by the handwriting. I’d also worry about confidentiality about an on line diary / blog, even if it was password protected.

            I buy actual diaries with a date printed each day and plenty of space to write , often narrow lined. Sometimes I don’t fill it all, but it’s there if I need it. I feel I need a printed date to make myself account for each day, or I fear I’d miss or combine days together. I am in the UK and often buy journals in Paperchase. Sometimes a friend / family member buys (i.e. pays for and wraps up) the journal for me (Christnas presesnt) but I always choose the design for myself.

    • Dolly Garland October 9, 2015 at 22:57 # Reply

      I love Paperchase scrapbooks. I recently used one for my Prague trip. They come out with gorgeous stuff.

      I agree about handwriting. I strongly advocate it. I know lots of people do and love e-journaling, but I feel it misses something when that connection with hand-writing is severed.

  4. Karen October 8, 2015 at 17:38 # Reply

    Thank you, Dolly, this is such a timely post for me. I keep a planner where I write lots of notes about my day — even menus — because I have a terrible memory. Then, I have a journal where I write entries about things I want to remember in more detail, or just musings about what’s going on in my life. Sometimes, I want to write more in my journal, but I just don’t have the time. I definitely need to ‘lose the obsession’ about always needing to catch up, and enjoy the writing time when I have it.

    • Dolly Garland October 9, 2015 at 22:58 # Reply

      Hi Karen,

      Absolutely, enjoying is the best way to go. There is a difference, however, between being lazy or procrastinating (which people who are not in the habit of journaling may suffer from), and genuinely not having time or energy.

      If it’s the former then it requires some practice before it becomes a habit. If it’s the latter, then that obsession is better to let go of.

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