Keeping a detailed written record for a few weeks is a great tool for gaining clarity in a particular area.
One example of the usefulness of this method is in monitoring your spending - to understand how you spend your money, see your highest spending categories (you spend the most on what you value the most - see a previous post on voting with your $), or simply to budget better. I have kept detailed financial records for decades, now in Quickbooks, but in the beginning (and before there was Excel) in a handwritten spreadsheet. Checks and credit card expenses are easy to track, but to track those elusive cash expenses I keep small pieces of scrap paper in my car and note one for each cash expense until I log it. At the end of the year my Quickbooks records are also a terrific tax tool. But that is not where I was going with this. We think we know where and how we spend our money. But do we really? In our household we spend no money at all on sports events (no interest), and relatively little on clothing (a lot of 2nd hand shop shopping). After the mortgage our highest spending categories are healthcare, groceries, and for the time being college expenses (#1 just finished, #2 is starting). Hence, after a roof over my head my health and wellbeing come first, and next is our children’s education.
Many years ago, when I took a course in non-violent communication during my graduate studies, I kept a journal of undesirable dialogues, which I used for analyzing what went wrong and how I could have handled the conversation the non-violent way instead.
Another application of this method is keeping journal of what you eat and drink to understand better what you put into your body and recognize its effects – how you feel in your stomach, your mental clarity, your energy level, how your skin looks, or perhaps your weight. After a while patterns come into awareness, such as feeling sleepy after certain foods, or feeling light in your stomach after others. For a while I drank a green smoothie every day and noticed how my skin noticeably cleared up after about a month.
Bringing awareness to something that we often do on auto-pilot, whether eating, spending money, talking, or something else (you could monitor how you spend your time to know how much goes into household chores, commuting, spending time with friends, what have you) opens the door to implement changes for the better.