Journaling has become a valuable tool in many successful people’s toolboxes. But if you haven’t had a chance to give it a try, you may wonder, “What are the benefits of journaling and how can I use it as a tool to help me accomplish my goals?”
For one of the months for my Responsive Resolutions, I decided to try journaling every day. I had heard of the benefits of journaling from colleagues, but had never actually spent the time to commit to it. However, I was willing to suck it up and try it, at least for a month.
Finding time to journal was actually relatively easy. I decided to keep my first month’s resolution of waking up at 5 am – which on a side note, has been a game changer for my productivity. I now have plenty of time to get a work out in, write, read or now journal before the craziness of the day begins.
“Writing about myself always seemed superficial”
I’ll admit I was a bit of a skeptic with the idea of journaling. Writing about myself always seemed superficial. I never fashioned myself as a guy that kept a “diary”. I already spent a lot of time reflecting on my personal life, work, goals, etc. Writing them down almost seems redundant to me.
What I found was kind of interesting.
Benefits of Journaling
“…the things I am reflecting on are always within my control”
The process of journaling wasn’t so much about writing, as it was planning. I was learning a lot about myself, as I would expect, but it was the increase in productivity that really caught my interest.
Over the course of reflecting on success/mistakes of the past and setting new goals for the future, one thing always stood out in my mind: the things I am reflecting on are always within my control.
“Why am I not doing anything about it?”
So, naturally my reflection of these thoughts was, “Why am I not doing anything about it?” THIS is where the magic happens. Inevitably, this reflection caused me to take some action, even if it is only to add an item to my task list. I don’t beat myself up over anything, but taking some action to improve the future ensures I am always growing.
My journaling has drastically shifted away from free-form writing or prompt/question and answer to more of a goal review and task planning for the day. Here’s a quick look at the structure and benefits of journaling I am seeing in my daily life.
Time To Complete: 10 minutes
Each journaling session starts out with a list of things I have completed or failed in the day(s) since I wrote last. This can be anything noteworthy, planned or unplanned. The goal is to acknowledge accomplishments, which is often a step that we over look and call out mistakes for further reflection.
Benefit: This is my way of measuring productivity and creating focus on personal growth. Reviewing the last few journal entries also gives me the opportunity to make sure no Must-Do tasks are getting left behind.
After I review the pervious journal entries and get my Completed list done, I transition into my must-do list. As the name describes, this list is designed to reflect on the things I must do that day. Often these task items were already on a task list somewhere, but by journaling about them first thing in the morning, I am mentally moving them to a fresher part of my brain. And if I know I can’t complete something in the given day, I move it to my longer-term digital task list.
Benefit: This prevents me from filling up my Must Do list with with items I can’t complete and gives me much better focus for the day.
The third list I create is a “learn, share or give” list. This list is a catch-all for anything that I want to accomplish, but is not a Must Do item and doesn’t really fit the category of a task. It includes things like ideas for learning or sharing information and goals toward giving back to others. Sometimes i use this space in my journal to do a diagram about a problem I want to solve or an idea I want to explore.
Benefit: This area achieves the advantageous of free-form writing and I can often generate new ideas from just a few minutes of time reflecting.
I highly recommend The Decision Book by Mikael Krogerus. Each page is a different diagram that you can model to make decisions as well as explore different ideas, alternatives, etc. I use this weekly for new ideas on ways to tackle problems or make decisions.
The benefits of journaling are really personal. It can be an outlet for thoughts or simply a way to better plan your day. Whatever the benefits, I encourage you to give it a try and experiment. Often it takes some trial and error, as it did for me, to find the sweet spot.