I kept a progress journal for 76 days — here’s what I learned
Since I finished school I’ve been working as a full time freelancer. I did all kind of things, from YouTube to creating design packages for Graphic River & Creative Market.
However, while I was always working and doing my best to make progress and create as much content as possible, I never really felt like I’m getting something out of my work. At least not what I wanted.
So, more than two months ago I had an idea , and I started writing everything I did, each day, on a personal progress journal. My goal was to write at least 1000 words on each journal entry.
I did that, every single day, even on weekends. I started writing about my work only, and soon I got to write about the things I’m interested in and how I make progress in general, not only when it comes to freelancing.
The results were more than great. I got to understand myself a little bit more, I managed to learn more things about different subjects I was interested in, and, overall, writing in the journal helped me focus more on my work.
In this post I want to talk a little about my experience, and why I think you should start writing a journal too.
The structure of the journal
When I first started I wanted to write everything on paper, either on a notebook or an agenda. I changed my mind after doing that for a few minutes. First, I couldn’t count the words. I wanted to make sure I write at least 1000 words. Second, it was time consuming.
So instead of writing on paper, I decided I could do it on my computer. I used Libre Office, which is pretty much Microsoft Office, but open source and free, and I created one file each day, for each journal entry. Day one was a file called “D1”, day two was a file called “D2” and so on.
Now, how does everything work?
Well, I always start writing about how the day went. I try to explain, in as little words as possible, if my day was good, bad, or decent, and why everything was the way it was.
Then I start with the morning. When I woke up, what did I do after waking up, what was the first thing I started working on, etc. I usually write all the things I have to do each day on a list, and at the end of the day, when I write on the journal, I make sure to write in which order I finished all the tasks, and how it went.
If there’s something that should be mentioned, like getting more sales than usual or receiving a comment on Graphic River, I mention that and I also write how I feel about it or how it helped me make progress.
Then I make sure to write all the other things I did, and exactly how doing those things helped me achieve one of my goals. Did the things I worked on helped me evolve or make progress?
If yes, then the day was good. If not, then there’s something that went wrong and I have to take some time to explain and solve the problem. I don’t have to find any excuses, because no one besides me reads the journal, so there’s no need to lie to myself.
At the end of the journal I write about anything that’s in my head. I usually write about computers, since I want to buy one soon, what parts should I get, what part is better and cheaper than something else, etc.
I usually write my desires or I write about something noticeable that happened that day. If nothing happened, I usually try to think about the future and how will I do things in the following days, weeks or months.
How the journal helped me
I started writing because I wanted to track my progress and see if I really achieve something every day or I just lose my time doing things I think are important.
Writing down everything I did each day, especially related to work, helped me more then expected. I finally realized how I should approach working on different areas, and how much time I lose on useless tasks.
For example, one of the things I was really into when I started writing the journal was learning how to code in Python. I invested around 2 hours a day into learning and reading the online e-book “Learn Python The Hard Way”.
If you ever want to learn Python I recommend that book, and I’m pretty sure other people will too. My problem was that I had no reason to actually learn Python.
I wanted to learn just for the sake of learning, but I wasn’t sure what I was gonna do with it. I just wanted to learn how to code, but I had no idea how I could use that in my day to day life.
I was spending around 2 hours a day trying to learn something I was interested in, but did not help me make progress. After a few entries in the journal, I realized that, so I stopped learning.
It doesn’t mean I will never try to learn Python again. I do like that programming language, but I want to have a purpose. I want to start learning it because I want to build something, not just for the sake of telling others I know how to code. I want something that motivates me.
And there are more things I discovered thanks to my journal. First, that I spend too much time playing video games on the wrong parts of the day. For example I was playing a few games at around 2 PM or 3 PM when my friend came home from school.
It did not feel like I was loosing too much time,because I resumed to work after playing for around one or two hours. The problem was that those games required a lot of energy from me and a lot of attention. After being done with playing games I wasn’t really able to focus as well on my work, and I did not have the same energy I had before.
So I changed that, and instead of taking a break in the middle of the day to play a few games and relax, I work until 7 or 8 PM and only then I play a few games. I do that because at that hour I’m too tired to work anyway, so I have enough time to relax and have fun.
Should you start writing on a personal progress journal?
Definitely. Writing on a journal and tracking my everyday progress was one of the best things I could come up with. I always know what are the things I did well and what are the things I did wrong each day, and because of that I can focus on making less and less mistakes.
I always learn more about how to invest my time better, and because I know what I do each day, I can focus on managing everything in such a way that I can make as much progress as possible.
And because I also write about the things I want to do in the future, I always have a plan, and I always know what to do with my time and money in the next months. I know what kind of computer parts I want to buy, I know what kind of courses I want to invest in, I know what kind of content I want to create.
Writing at the end of each day about what you did since you woke up till that moment, is a great way to understand how your life works, how much progress you make and how you should invest your time better.
I wrote down what I did each day for 76 days, and I don’t think I’m gonna stop soon. I’m enjoying this more and more, and I always get a little bit of valuable information about me and about my progress.
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