How to Remember What You've Learned Each Day

Many of us spend a little time every day writing about what’s going on in our lives, or how we’re feeling, or what we’re grateful for.

Whether you do Morning Pages or a single-sentence journal, consider adding one more item to your daily ritual: writing down what you’ve learned.

Or, as economist Tyler Cowen puts it:

Every day I ask myself “what did I learn today?”, a question I picked up from Amihai Glazer. I feel bad if I don’t have a clear answer, while recognizing the days without a clear answer are often the days where I am learning the most (at least in the equilibrium where I am asking myself this question).

We’ve shared this tip before, though it’s been along the lines of “write down any new words you learned that day” or “keep a log of new work-related skills as you learn them.” 

When I tried asking myself “what did I learn today,” and being honest about the answer, some of the entries were in fact work-related. (In one case, for example, I learned that I had misunderstood an editor’s instructions, and took note of the miscommunication to prevent it from happening in the future.)

But the majority of the entries were personal—and many of them were about stuff I already knew but needed to repeat to myself, like “if you stay up 30 minutes past your usual bedtime you will get less sleep than you need and feel tired the next day.” Some of the entries were about stuff I knew in my heart, as it were, but had not yet articulated; putting those truths in writing for the first time helped me understand how to deal with them.

So I very much recommend adding a “what did I learn today” section to your daily journal practice. It will show you not only what you’re learning, but also remind you to prioritize and value what you already know.

It’ll also help you connect what you’re learning with what you need to do next. In my case, for example, I now have my laptop set to shut down every night at a specific time, to help me prioritize and value sleep—because I know that sleep is important, but it was only after I recognized that knowledge that I was able to act on it.

Which is what journaling is often about, and why it’s such a powerful tool for so many people. Adding “what I learned today” to your journaling practice is just one more way of honing that tool.

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