How to journal for self-growth and self-improvement
Table of Contents
Journaling is a keystone habit. The question many people ask is “How to start a journaling practice?”.
This post is geared towards individuals looking to journal for self-improvement, self-growth. It will equally apply to beginners learning how to journal or individuals who have journaled for a long time to increase the effectiveness of their journaling practice. It will cover how to journal, what to write in a journal, and journaling ideas to get your practice going.
I don’t think I can stress that enough. In the fast-paced world we live in today a mindset of self-improvement, and self-growth are part of the new norm. To support self-improvement and self-growth, journaling is the first skill you should learn.
Journaling captures where you have been, where you want to go, and all your thoughts and feelings along the way. There is too much change both internally and externally to keep all this information in your head.
Your journal becomes an extension of who you are. What you remember from the past and what really happened in the past can be two different things. A journal helps you to see what really happened and how far you have come.
Your journal is a way of keeping thoughts, ideas, actions recorded so that you don’t need to keep them in your head. Thoughts that are articulated and written down tend to reduce the emotional response to those thoughts.
Journaling over time accumulates your thoughts, reflections, and actions. This makes your journal your perfect life coach.
There is a dichotomy in journaling. There is a tendency to think journaling is more than it is, it’s simply putting your thoughts and ideas in your journal. That said there is a tendency to minimize what a journal is once it is created. It is your thoughts written down, there cannot be anything more valuable than that.
A journal doesn’t need to be perfect. It could be one word and still have value. Even a blank page in a journal has value. A blank page shows that you couldn’t figure out how to get your thoughts on paper on that day.
A journal is all the complexity of your life in one place. It becomes the context for the wisdom you receive from others.
Ideas that have been articulated can be played with, explored, and expanded upon. This is where new ideas are born. Have your thoughts written down allows you to build on those ideas into something new.
Purpose of journaling
At a high level, journaling is a method of documenting your thoughts and actions over time.
There are two main purposes of journaling, one is the collection of knowledge we create, the other is the growth and understanding that comes from the act of journaling itself.
It would be awesome if you could just memorize everything but that simply doesn’t work.
As we go through our journey through life, our outlook, our views, our priorities change. This changes how we view and interpret our thoughts and ideas.
What was once just actions in our life now become learning experiences. Thoughts and views that we had are no longer relevant. Understanding how we grow, and change allows us to continuously grow and change.
The process of articulating your thoughts into your journal has a huge amount of value. Articulating your thoughts forces you to have a clear understanding of those thoughts. It also removes much of the emotion attached to those thoughts. That is the reason why once you write things down, they don’t seem as bad as you thought. Or the great idea that was in your head doesn’t seem nearly as good when it is written.
Writing is an activity that can produce a flow state. A state where you are effortlessly contemplating one aspect of your life.
If life is meant to be a lifelong journey of learning and growth and your journal is the repository of that knowledge, then your life purpose and life vision have a very important role in your journaling. Your purpose and vision will help you organize and bring focus to your journaling.
Your journaling is a gift to your future self to help your future self better fulfill your life purpose.
You never know what wisdom/experience/reflection from your past self will help your future self.
There will be short term reasons and long-term reasons for journaling. Short term reasons are focused on your current situation.
Journaling to work through issues, journaling for stress relief etcetera. Long-term journaling is focused on your life journey and your life purpose and your legacy.
Journaling for the long term gives you your history for making better decisions and living more in alignment with your purpose. There are practical long-term reasons for journaling such as stories you can use for job interviews, especially if you are changing careers. Your journal will long outlive you. It is your legacy. Your children and their children will all benefit from your life lessons. If your journal is digital, it potentially will last forever.
Journaling becomes a natural extension of your larger practice of lifelong learning, self-improvement, and self-growth.
Benefits of Journaling
Five traits that are important in one’s life are awareness, responsibility, focus, gratefulness, and holistic thinking. These traits will lead to a person having a more fulfilling, meaningful, and happy life.
Journaling is a keystone habit in life that can foster all these traits.
Knowing yourself and understanding the path that you are on is key to creating the life you want. Understanding who you are, where you are heading, what your plan is, and how you are living that plan every day.
Journaling requires you to organize and articulate your thoughts. Writing is the last step in the process. Writing your thoughts makes you aware of where they came from and how they relate to your life. Writing builds the skill of introspection which allows you to better see who you are. Effective prompts for journaling helps cultivate awareness.
You are responsible for your life. It is your life and you get to chose how you will live it. If you want a different life you will need to make different choices.
Journaling puts the focus on you, which will cause you to live on your behalf. Journaling with a focus on the life you want to live reveals where you have control. You will see the parts of life that are in your control, those parts that you have no control. You will see areas where you have given control to someone or something else.
Being aware of your life and the path that you are on results in better decisions. You are not living life by chance. Focus is coordinated action rather than haphazard action. Focus results in well thought out decisions.
Journaling creates one place where your reflections on life live. Reflections are what you need to make quality decisions. Decisions that will move your life in the direction you want it to go. Your journal becomes your sounding board for creating the life you want.
What you focus on grows. By journaling with your purpose and vision in mind will result in your purpose and vision growing. Your subconscious mind will look for ways to get you closer to your purpose and vision.
We are all part of a greater whole. Being grateful recognizes that whole. It opens us up to that whole, it opens us up to all the possibilities of life. It connects us with the rest of society and to the world. Being grateful for your life will bring meaning to your life.
Journaling is a place where you can document what you are grateful for. Being grateful opens you up to be more grateful. Practicing gratefulness will increase your satisfaction and happiness with life.
“Holistic thinking is the inquiry of a complex whole. In the case of business organizations, holistic thinking takes into account its purpose, values, function in its environment, process, and structure. It is the basis for the development of the business design construct, systems thinking, and strategy formation.” – Managing Research Library
Life is complicated! It includes the self and its complexities, and it includes all the complexities of the world we live in. It is very easy to get lost looking at one part of life and forgetting other areas. It is easy to miss the forest for the trees.
Keeping a journal allows you to document all parts of your life. At different times you will focus on different areas of your life. You can only keep 7 things in your head, your journal will remind you of the other parts.
You will always have a record of your experiences, thoughts, ideas, and reflections to learn from.
The act of writing has many benefits. The skill of organizing and articulating our thoughts is a skill that is used in all areas of life. This skill will allow you to write better emails, explain yourself better, and have better relationships.
There is evidence to show that writing in a narrative form focused on positive outcomes makes stressful situations easier to deal with.
By writing in a narrative form including your feelings and reactions will lessen the strengths of the stressful situation. The process will release nagging thoughts and allow you to be more focused.
For situations where there are strong emotions, using your journal to vent can be very beneficial. You don’t have to worry about what you write; you are just writing to release the emotions. You can either throw away the journal or if it is digital have that section of the journal password protected.
For more benefits see the Benefits of Journaling blog post.
Rules for Journaling
- What you write in your journal does not have to be perfect, or even close to perfect.
- Whatever you write is ok
- A journal is private. You specifically choose who you allow into your journal if anyone,
- Make the conscious choice to share
- Password protect your digital journal
- Be free when you write. You can always go back later to clean it up. The important part is to get your thoughts and ideas down.
- Flow and edit are different ways of thinking
- Either write or edit, don’t do both at the same time
- Journaling is a personal pursuit. It is for you and your growth.
- Journal with a lifelong learning growth mindset
- If you miss a day or a few days don’t sweat it. Just start journaling the next day
Creating a Consistent Journaling Habit
Even though we understand that journaling is beneficial, it is still a habit that needs to be formed.
One of the most effective ways to create a journaling habit is to make journaling part of your identity. Enjoy the process, enjoy reading and reviewing your journal
“With outcome-based habits, the focus is on what you want to achieve. With identity-based habits, the focus is on who you wish to become.”
― James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
According to James Clear it takes 30 days to form a simple habit and up to 66 days to form a more complex habit. See James Clear
The two best times for journaling on a consistent basis is the morning and before bed. If we have a morning or an evening routine already it makes forming the habit easier. You can stack the journaling habit on top of the habits that form your morning or evening routines.
Starting the habit will always be the hardest.
Once the habit starts to form, your subconscious mind will start to anticipate your journaling sessions and you will be looking forward to writing. You will start to notice opportunities to journal during your day. A side benefit of your subconscious mind being triggered is that what you are journaling about will be what you are thinking about during the day.
Creating an environment for journaling will help to solidify your habit. Create a space where you will journal. This could be your favorite chair, your bed, anyplace as long as you consistently use the same place so that you associate it with your journaling practice. Make sure the environment for your journaling is quiet and you won’t be interrupted.
Set out all the materials that you need to journal at your journaling place so that you can just sit and start journaling. If you are digitally journaling, make sure you have power/recharging cords in case you run out of power.
Incorporating your journaling practice into other habits also helps to solidify the journaling habit. If you journal at night and you also have tea at night, put the two together. One habit will help support the other habit. Making your cup of tea at night will trigger you to start your journaling habit.
You can create other triggers to help you start journaling. You can leave sticky notes from thoughts and ideas you had during the day to journal. You can create reminders on your phone. You can even go so far as to get a mug printed with a journaling quote on it to help you remember.
The hardest part of creating a new habit will be starting. Once you are sitting in your journaling place you have succeeded. It is like creating a habit to exercise. Once you get through the gym doors, you are going to exercise.
You may have tried to create a journaling practice before and felt like you failed. You journaled for a while and then gave up. You may not have seen the benefits or understood what the value was in journaling. Understanding journaling, the benefits, and how it fits into life helps to alleviate much of these feelings.
Maintaining a Consistent Journaling Habit
The biggest advice that I have for keeping your journaling habit is to remember that it grows with you.
If you journaled even once, and then stopped for a while, all you need to do is to journal again once, and then once after that. As the journaling gets more frequent the habit will start to stick.
If you haven’t seen a friend in a year, you still have a relationship with your friend. It is the same with journaling.
There are several specific issues that people will have with journaling. For all of the reasons, just keep a journal, keep adding to your life masterpiece, keep on adding the next chapter.
When you have writer’s block you can still journal the date and the fact that you are sitting there with nothing to write.
Journal prompts are an excellent way to handle writer’s block. If you pick a set of journaling questions that you are going to answer each day you will always have something to write about. I would choose the prompts either once a week or once a month.
When you are answering the prompts don’t read your previous answers. It may seem like you are writing the same response. Once a week or once a month review your answers, you may be surprised at the differences in your responses over time.
When you are writing in your journal, just write. Don’t worry about grammar, or about neatness, focus on getting your thoughts down.
Once you start writing your thoughts, more thoughts will naturally flow. During your review, you can paraphrase what you have journaled in a neat and organized way to make the knowledge more available for your future self.
You can also have a set of journal questions that you answer when you feel you have nothing to write about.
The difference between a journal question and a journal prompt is that you answer a journal question once, and a journal prompt you answer many times.
See Journaled_Life Twitter account for journal questions and journal prompt ideas.
When you are reviewing what you have written, you will be inspired to write more. What you have written and combination with your life experience since you wrote will result in having more to write about.
Lastly, don’t worry about being perfect. Your journal is there to write your thoughts, feelings, and reflections when you have them.
If you have dry spells, that is usually an indication that you are at a plateau in life where you are consolidating what you have learned before there is another chapter of growth in life.
Consistent journaling will allow you to be ready for those periods in your life.
Journal about your purpose, vision, and goals in life. Building this understanding will be motivating to add more to your journal.
You are constantly defining, refining, and building your ideal life.
Journal about your habits.
By tracking habits in your journal such as exercise will keep you coming back to see what the tracking tells you about the habit. You can even track your journaling habit in your journal.
When is the Best Time to Journal
There are three main times to journal: morning, evening, and anytime.
Journaling in the morning allows you to set the tone for the day. If you are journaling your purpose, vision, and goals it is an opportunity to review those to embed them in your daily thought.
If meditation or prayer is a part of your morning routine, adding journaling is an ideal compliment.
Meditation and prayer clears your mind, settles your emotions, and puts you in a creative state. This creates an ideal state for journaling. Conversely, journaling helps deal with and minimize emotions associated with anxiety, issues, and concerns. Dealing with these emotions before meditating will enhance your meditation practice.
If you do dream journaling, morning is the best time for recording your dreams.
Create a morning routine that works for you. Some people journal in bed, some before they go downstairs. I journal as I have my morning cup of coffee. Normally no one else is up at that time so it is peaceful.
Evening journaling allows you to review and learn from the day. You can go over what went well, what you learned, epic moments.
Reflecting on times when you were in flow helps to build on those times so that you have more of them through your day
Journaling in the evening helps you prepare for the next day. When you have a solid plan for the next day, your brain can use that while you sleep to prepare you for the day.
Anytime during the day when a thought, idea, or something you want to remember comes up is a good time to journal. These can either be captured in your journal or simply on sticky notes that can be copied to your journal later on. Getting into the habit of writing down what you want in your journal any time of day helps to give you something to put into your journal.
You are in a different state of mind during different times of the day. Therefore journaling at different times during the day is going to result in different things documented in your journal.
Ideas for Journaling
The list of what you can create in your journal is endless, limited only by your creativity.
I will break down the different things you can journal into 6 main categories. The categories are ideas, reflections, experiences, issue resolution, goals and plans, decisions. Within each of these categories, there are many variations.
Keeping in mind the types of journal entries that you will benefit from in the future will help you determine what you should journal.
For some, this is a record of the things you have done, for others, it’s a list of decisions and the reason you made them. It could be ideas for song lyrics, it could be entrepreneurial ideas.
What you think about your experiences in life has value. feel there is value in everyone’s life story from the places they have been to the things they have done to the thoughts and epiphanies they had along the way
Journaling Your Ideas
You get ideas all the time.
When your ideas are written down they are not forgotten. You then have the opportunity to build on those ideas and combine them with other ideas.
Ideas can be big or small, world-changing, or just for you and your life.
You could have ideas for home décor, grocery lists, your bucket list. The list goes on and on,
You could have ideas that might one day change the world.
You could have ideas for song lyrics
Journal Your Reflections
It is the interpretation of events and experiences that gives life meaning.
Journaling your interpretation of events, the meaning you give events, the emotions that you felt during or because of an event or extremely valuable. Understanding your interpretation of events is what allows you to grow. You will see patterns and themes that will allow you to make better decisions, to live life more fully because you understanding the meaning and importance of different activities.
One interpretation or reflection that is the most important is gratitude. Reflecting on experiences and documenting the gratitude you have because of the activity pays huge rewards in your life. You will be happier and feel more aligned with your life’s true purpose.
I recommend contemplating three things you are grateful for every day. There will always be something that you are grateful for, the sun on your face, the smile of a friend. By focusing on and cultivating a mindset of gratitude creates optimism which results in putting in more effort which results in more things to be grateful for.
It is a never-ending upward spiral.
For more on reflections see the Reflective Journaling blog post
Journal Your Experiences
Documenting experiences is what we typically think about when we think about journaling. Having a documented list of experiences and when those experiences happened can be extremely useful in the future. Remembering what life was like 10, 20 years ago is not easy. Remembering people and places is difficult, but there could be times in the future where you would need to know this. Even after you have passed on, your children could find this information extremely valuable.
We can document epic moments in our lives. By journaling these moments they become stories that we can share, allowing others to know us better, to build our relationships.
Journaling our work/professional lives gives us the input to our resume, and stories for interviews.
Journaling our vacations allow us to relive those times. To re-experiences the peace or the excitement of the holiday. Having pictures and videos in conjunction with those words makes it even more powerful.
We tend to minimize our events and experiences. A journaled version of those events will help keep them in perspective. Over time they may become more important, or what you once thought was significant will become less significant.
Our brains are geared towards stories. Journaling causes us to organize our thoughts into stories. These stories we can share with others.
Resolve Personal Issues
When we are resolving issues, or working through problems and issues, the act of journaling itself is very beneficial.
A study of people who wrote about a relationship breakup, who wrote their worries, show that journaling reduced the anxiety in individuals
Writing results in the emotions, fears, and negative thoughts related to an experience to be lessened. Journaling forces you to articulate your problem, and your reasons you feel lead to that problem. Going through the process of journaling results in the problem getting out of your head. While the problem is in your head there is a tendency for your thoughts to go in a circle.
Once written down you can see the problem and the reason for what they really are. You can objectively look at the problem and come up with solutions. You can judge whether or not the reasons are valid, and you can look for other reasons that result in different perspectives on the problem.
One effective way of dealing with problems and issues once they have been journaled is to approach them as if a friend or family member had the problem and what solutions you would give to them.
There is a technique call the 5-why’s that can also help with problems and issues. Once you have journaled the issue and the reasons, you can apply the 5-why’s to the reasons. For each reason, ask why that reason is an issue. Take that answer and ask why that answer is an issue. Repeat this 5 times and you will get down to the root cause reason. It may be as your drill down this way, you discover that the reason is not valid.
This will then result in the issue being less of an issue.
There are times when the problem is vague, or you just have an underlying uneasiness. An approach for this is to use journaling prompts to examine how you are feeling. Ask yourself the following questions and journal whatever your response is. Once you have completed the questions you can read over your answers
- What am I stressed about?
- What am I feeling?
- Why am I feeling this way?
- What can be done to make it better?
- Journal Your Goals and Plans
Your journal is the ideal place to journal your goals, dreams, and life plans.
Having your goals, dreams, and life plans in one place allow you the opportunity to review them on a consistent basis. The more your goals are in your mind the more likely you are to make those goals a reality.
One effective exercise is to rewrite your gaols every day from memory. Then at the end of the week review what you have written and reflected on what goals you consistently wrote, which ones you missed. This will not only allow you to internalize your goals, but it also gives you feedback on which goals are being internalized, and which ones you have a tendency to forget. It could be that those goals are not as important or those goals are not written the best they could be.
The function of the reticular system in your brain is to filter what you see and hear based on what is important. You see the reticular system in action when you buy a new car that you think is unique and then you see that car everywhere.
Reviewing your goals daily programs your reticular system to know the importance of those goals. You will then notice opportunities to reach your goals. You will notice the objectives and actions that you can take towards your goals.
Incorporating your goals into your mind will result in your brain searching for ways to create your goals in reality.
Journal objectives that you need to achieve in order to reach your goal, and journal your actions required to complete your objectives. Once written you can determine if they make sense and verify that once the actions are completed the objective is met. This documentation can then act as your coach to move you towards your goals.
Journal Your Decisions
Decision making is an excellent process for documenting in your journal. Have a list of decisions that you have made and the supporting reasons for those decisions is invaluable. Many times people will get down on themselves for bad decisions they made in the past.
The reality is, based on what they knew in the past, they were the best decisions they could have made at that point.
Have the decision documented allows you to go back to see how you made the decision at that point in your life.
In decisions, context is everything.
Understanding the reasons behind decisions that you have made, and understanding the context of those decisions allow you to improve your decisions making process. As you make better decisions, you will have a better life.
How to Format a Journal
The physical form of a journal includes anything that you can write on and be collected together.
This can be loose-leaf paper in a binder, bound paper journals, planners and daytimes, or sketchbooks. One thing to take into consideration when choosing what to journal in is that you will be journaling for the rest of your life.
You want the form of your journal to be easily stored and easily browsed when you want to learn from your journal.
Digital journals can be created using any number of word processing applications, apps designed specifically for journaling, and apps designed for notetaking like OneNote and Evernote.
The number of different journal entries is limited only by your creativity. Whatever needs to go on the page to get your idea journaled makes up a journal entry. The following are the general journal entry types, but these can be combined or altered in order to better record your thoughts
A journal entry is written in paragraph form.
This type of journal entry is suited towards diary-type journal entries where you are explaining an event or experience you have had.
A bullet list is suited towards lists of related ideas or thoughts. It could be used for bucket lists, people you met, favorite things, etcetera.
When you are creating multiple journal entries about similar things, templates can help give order and structure to those entries.
You can have templates for journaling your holidays, templates for journaling health or exercise, templates for journaling new Year resolutions, etcetera. Templates provide structure so that you are journaling in a consistent way.
Journal Prompts, Questions, Exercises
In this post and in the life design journaling framework there is a distinction between questions, prompts, and exercises. Journal questions are questions that you answer in your journal once. They are designed to make you think about a given topic.
Journal prompts are used on a consistent basis, ideally daily. Journal exercises are a more complex series of questions on a given topic or to reach a certain result.
Questions are like prompts in that you are answering a defined set of questions. Unlike prompts, journal questions are meant to be answered once. They are designed to get you thinking deeply about a subject in one sitting.
Journal prompts are questions that you answer multiple times, ideally daily. It is the accumulation of those answers over time that gives the value.
Prompts about happiness can show patterns in your happiness over time. Prompts about gratitude keep you focused on being grateful for different things in your life. Over time you will learn the journal prompts that work for you, these will be your base set of journal prompts. You can add other prompts based on different focuses in your life at different times.
Journal exercises are a series of questions are activities that you would go through to give you insight into yourself or your life.
You can use journal exercises to work through issues or problems in your life. They are effective in unlocking the deeper “why” in a situation
You can watch Journaled_Life Twitter feed for examples
There is a conundrum when choosing between digital journaling and physical journaling. The physical act of writing has many benefits, both in thinking and in the freedom that you have when writing. On the other hand, accessing what you have journaled in the past is far easier in a digital journal. Imagine, going through stacks of written journals to find a piece of information you journaled 5 years ago. That task could be impossible. In a digital journal, it is trivial, just search and done.
The best of both worlds is when you have a digital journal on a device that has a pen. This could be a Microsoft surface with the associated pen, or an iPad with the Apple pencil, or the Samsung Note with the S-Pen.
This allows you to handwrite directly into your digital journal. Applications such as OneNote will automatically convert the writing to text in order that searching will find handwritten notes as well.
Another alternative is to journal on paper and use an application such as Office Lens to take a picture of what you journaled and store it in your digital journal.
Once you have a digital journaling practice you will understand the value of finding information that you have journaled before. You will begin to journal in a way that the information can be easily found in the future.
Digital journaling allows you to take advantage of voice to text. Speaking what you want to say is sometimes easier than writing it down.
You can just ramble on about a subject and then review it later to refine it to what you actually want to keep.
Another advantage of digital journaling when the journal is stored in the cloud is that you can access your journal from any of your devices. I personally journal in OneNote. I can access my Journals from my Microsoft Surface as well as my Samsung Note 10+. This allows me to add to my journal at any time, and to retrieve information from my journal at any time.
Digital journals can be easily copied. This is great for backups. Copied journals are also great for passing on to your kids at the end of your life.
Imagine your kids being able to take advantage of the lifetime of learning that you have had.
Genealogy is an activity that many people take on to understand where they came from. Imagine rather than having a few news clips, and other minor information on your ancestors of having an entire digital journal of their life. That is a far bigger memory of your ancestors to live on.
Organizing Your Journal
If you are using a digital journal then rather than journaling sequentially like a diary, create sections for the main things that you journal about. Within those sections, you can journal sequentially if it makes sense.
If you are journaling about your life it may make sense to create sections for each of the areas of your life such as Career, Family, Love, Finance, Life Long Learning, Personal Growth, Health, Fun and Recreation, Lifestyle, Social.
Create a section for your ideas. Ideas can be big world-changing ideas, or small ideas like the next color for your living room.
If you are digitally journaling use hashtags as a way of indexing. Searching for hashtags is more efficient than searching for words.
Get attached to the wealth of wisdom you are creating
Personal choice as to what is most effective in creating your ideal life.
In the end, the format of a journal is a personal choice that reflects what you find important in life.
JournaledLife offers a life design journaling course that includes a OneNote template that organizes your life information.
Mindset for Journaling
One of the most important aspects of a good journaling practice is your mindset. Your mindset is what opens you up and allows you to express your inner thoughts.
You need to be open to explore yourself. Journaling is a form of introspection, a self-discovery process to learn who you are and where your journey is taking you. Be honest with yourself and approach journaling with a spirit of curiosity.
Have a hopeful mindset will allow you to get more out of journaling. Optimism will direct your brain into searching for positive outcomes and will generate feelings of well-being.
Journal with a mindset of gratitude. As mention before, gratitude journaling is very effective in creating a happy life.
Work in periods of rest.
Bill Gates has “think weeks.” He spends time in the woods with the mantra think, relax, learn, journal
Journaling helps you to focus on what is important. As Tony Robbins says, what you focus on grows
To design an exception life journal based on reflecting on
- Reflect on your big life goals
- Reflect on progress towards your big life goals
- Reflect on what progress towards your big life goals is teaching you
- Reflect on big life goals that you have achieved
- Reflect on who you are
- Reflect on your experiences
- Reflect on how the parts of your life all fit together
Journal as a planner
A daily planner is simply another type of journal. Many people throw their planners out when they are done with them. They could be throwing out a wealth of information.
When you have your planner as part of your journal you can start to connect what you do on a daily basis to your bigger life goals as well as your ongoing life story.
By reviewing your planner on an ongoing basis you start to learn how to more effectively live your life and to build towards the life you want to design.
- Reviewing on a weekly basis show you progress towards your goals.
- Reviewing on a monthly basis allows you to set direction in your life
- Reviewing on a quarterly basis allows you to align your direction with your goals
- Reviewing on a yearly basis allows you to create goals towards your ideal life
Your vision should be the overall driving focus of your journal, it is the inspiration for your life story. Once you are focused on your life story you can focus on goals to design and create your life vision.
Breaking your goals into objectives gives you the opportunity to journal your progress towards those objectives. Clear objectives will have associated metrics that you can keep track of overtime.
Journal Issues and Problems
Journaling issues and problems in your life is very effective. Oftentimes getting the problem written down along with all your feelings about the problem get the problem out of your head, so you are not ruminating over it.
Having the problem written down allows you to look at the problem objectively.
If a topic you are journaling is too emotional while you are writing it, do your best to get what you can write down and then leave the problem and look at it in a week. If it is still emotional, look at it in a month.
Each time you will be able to journal a little bit, and a solution will be found.
Capture your life
A diary is the type of journaling that most people are aware of. Capturing your life, and your interpretations of life as they are happening can be very beneficial. Often our memories play tricks on us as time goes by and we remember events differently than they actually happened. Being able to go back and read what happened, and what you were thinking and feeling at the time is very revealing and a source of learning and growing.
This form of journaling is helpful when we need to remember something that happened in our past. This could be the name of a restaurant we went to on holidays, or the name of a person, or any little piece of information.
Having a digital journal makes finding this information easy and possible.
Practically in terms of your career, recording experiences at work can be retrieved when creating your resume or LinkedIn profile.
Your life will have themes and patterns. Keeping a diary will help reveal those patterns allowing you and others to learn from them.
As a parent, one benefit for me will be passing my journal on to my children so they will continue to learn from the life that I have had.
A basic skill for journaling is asking questions. The better the question the better the more you will get out of answering the question.
Make it a practice to collect questions ranging from deep provocative questions to more mundane but interesting questions.
The value of deep questions is easily understood. Interesting mundane questions often reveal things that other questions don’t. Even a question such as “What is your favorite color?” would be interesting if you could see what the answer was every January 1st for the last 20 years.
Similar to mundane questions are questions to keep track of who and what you are. Questions like what is your weight, who are your favorite people, what time do you get up, reveal things about who your true self is.
Questions can be grouped together around a single theme to create what I call a journaling exercise.
You can have a group of questions around life purpose or a group of questions around new years to help you go deep in one area of your life.
Journal prompts are similar to journal questions except they are designed to be answered on an ongoing basis. Answering the same question on a consistent basis will both force you to answer the question more deeply and reveal themes and patterns in your life.
Typical Daily Journal Prompts are:
- What went well
- What didn’t work
- What could be better
- What is one thing you will focus on today?
- What is one thing you are going to do for yourself?
Create your own journal prompts based on what you are focusing on in your life. Understand why you have decided on asking certain questions so that you will know if they are working. Once you have decided on the questions use them for at least a week to see how effective the questions are. For some questions, it will seem like you are answering the same every time, but after a week you will start to see differences.
Use the typical journal prompts and then add a few of your own depending on your life journey.
For more journal prompts see the JournaledLife Twitter account
One journal prompt that should be part of any journaling practice one is a gratitude journal prompt of asking three things you are grateful for.
All journal questions can be considered journal prompts where they are asked every quarter or every year.
You can read about types of journaling techniques here.
The following are techniques to help form a journaling habit.
- Use the timer on your phone to remind you to journal during the day.
- Make it a habit to read what you have written in your journal.
- Write down events as they happen and transfer them to your journal at a later time.
- Always have a journal or device that you can journal on available.
Write with the future in mind. Write as if you are writing to your future self.
See the Journaling Techniques blog post for more ideas
Future of Journaling
Self-improvement and life long learning are more important than ever. Those individuals who pursue self-improvement and lifelong learning will be better equipped for the changing future.
Individuals who have embraced the keystone habit of journaling will be in a better position.
In the future, AI and machine learning will be applied to digital journals. There could be a wealth of information available to those who have digital journals
“Keeping a personal journal a daily in-depth analysis and evaluation of your experiences is a high-leverage activity that increases self-awareness and enhances all the endowments and the synergy among them.” — Stephen R. Covey
“The most valuable treasure anyone can leave behind is the knowledge they have acquired in their one lifetime.” Jim Rohn