Journaling, or writing a diary, can seem off-putting to most people. It often brings to mind the scenes from television and movies. The characters “speak” as they write an essay about their day in a notebook. This is far from modern journaling.
As we go through the day we have many thoughts, many wins and the occasional “oh dear” moments. These stay with us for most of the day. They are then lost when we go to sleep.
Journaling enables you to capture these. It allows you to record them quickly and efficiently. Journaling is not about stopping and writing an essay. It’s about jotting down brief thoughts in a form you can review later.
Having recorded these thoughts, then what is the benefit?
Refresh Your Mind
Journaling refocuses your mind at the time of writing. Recording in your journal before bed allows you to clear out any thoughts. It brings the positive back to the front of your mind. This can help bring a better nights sleep!
Clearing out your mind also allows you to capture any tasks or actions that you have not yet recorded. By reviewing your day you will find lots of action items come up. Capture these into your trusted task management system. Get them out of your mind and into the correct place.
When Having A Bad Day
When you are having tough days, and we all have them, your journal can provide a source of inspiration. You can look back to a day from weeks, months even years ago and see what you were doing. You can look at your past successes.
This triggers your brain to bring up the memories of that day. You can re-experience the good feelings. Look at the challenges and issues you experienced that day. Remember how you overcame them and how it made you feel.
This reaction helps to lower your current feelings of stress and anxiety. It allows you to refocus your energy on the current piece of work. It can also trigger you to see your current problem in a new light allowing solutions to flow.
As humans we tend to only remember negative things. This is usually because every day we have many successes. Failures occur less often but are more stressful. This means that a failure becomes more memorable.
When Preparing A Performance Review Or Work Log
Performance reviews, or looking for examples of work from the past are often a challenge. We have so much going on every day that it becomes a struggle to come up with our achievements.
By journaling you have a daily record of what went well, and what did not. You have something you can quickly access and review to pull out the information. No longer do you need to scratch your head for a response. Open your journal and the answers are there.
How To Journal
Journaling does not need to be hard. It is not about writing an award-winning essay.
Where Do I Write My Journal?
Your journal does not need to be a notebook. There are lots of different electronic journals available. These range from smartphone apps through to personal computer programs.
There is nothing stopping you from using notebooks. Some people find it nice to have a high-quality notebook and a good pen to journal with. They turn the act of writing the journal into an experience where they review the day.
The choice of how to record your journal is yours. It needs to fit with your lifestyle. It may change over time, that is fine. They key is to know where to go to review the entries.
What Do I Put In My Journal?
The answer to this is simple, yet complex. You put in it as much, or as little, as you want. I know, that was a really helpful answer!
What you record is down to you. How are you going to use the journal? What do you want from it?
If you think you may be using it for performance reviews then put in more details about results. If you are going to be using it to help on days when you are feeling down then you may wish to record more about feelings.
My Journaling Template
For myself, I use this as a template for journaling. Each section then gets bullet points for their entries.
Journal for date
For Successes, I try to list at least 3 things that went well during the day. Some days this list is long, others it may be one entry. Don’t just write what went well. Write a few words on how it made you feel.
For Issues, I jot down a couple of brief points about what caused the issues. I then make brief notes on how I overcame it. Like the Successes, capture how it made you feel. Most days this is either empty or only has one entry.
Use the Thoughts section to record moments of inspiration that occur during the day. It might be a compliment someone made to you. You could record any “aha” moments you had. Try and have at least 2 entries in this section each day. Once again try and record how these made you feel.
The Other section allows you to note down anything relevant that occurred on the day. Some items may include the number of hours you slept, if on a diet the food you consumed, exercises completed. Most days I do not have anything in here. This section is the one that generally does not have feelings associated with it. It’s more of a record of what happened.
The key to remember is that you should record enough to be useful, but not too much that it becomes a burden. Try and use bullet points not sentences. Keep it about you. Record your successes, issues etc, not those of someone else.
Journaling is an important productivity tool. It is often overlooked.
A journal is useful in many ways. It can help you to reduce stress and anxiety. A journal can also help when writing a performance review.
Writing in your journal allows you to review each day. It clears out your mind, bring the positives of the day back to the front of your mind. This can help bring on a good nights sleep. Without quality sleep our productivity drops.
When writing a journal you choose how you are going to do it. You also choose what you are going to put into it.
The key to journaling is consistency. It will take time. You need to establish journaling as a habit, something you automatically do.
As you journal your mind becomes clearer and your productivity increases. You will feel less stress and more in control of your life and work.
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Also published on Medium.