I won’t beat around the bush. The “one small thing” is journaling. If you start a practice of consistently journaling, I promise you will reap serious benefits.
I started journaling on November 9th, 2016 and I haven’t missed a day since. I don’t say this to brag but I say this to show how valuable it has been for me.
Two years ago, I studied abroad in Shanghai. My Mandarin is terrible, but that’s another story. While there, the program director, a man named Charlie, told me about his fanatical journaling practice. He had journaled every day for over 20 years. That sounded absurd to me but I was interested because of who Charlie was.
Charlie was a young-looking guy from Bend Oregon who could speak Mandarin with the best of them. It threw people off because he could turn it on so seamlessly. It’s not too often that you see a blond-hair blue-eyed Mandarin-speaking person. But Charlie was someone who listened intently to you as you spoke and said interesting things. The kind of things that made you think. And so I trusted him and I tried out journaling.
Fast forward over a year-and-a-half and I now I journal twice a day and it has become a daily habit. But enough about me. Let’s get into why it will help you.
It Will Increase Your Self-Awareness
Harvard Business Review writes about self-awareness quite often. Some high-powered business people even say it is the most important quality for leaders. And I’m convinced journaling is the best way to improve this quality.
So often our minds run 100 mph. For me, it can even be hard to sleep because I have so many thoughts racing. So the simple practice of writing your thoughts down can soothe that problem. And most of the time, I find that I don’t really even know what I think about something until I start writing. It’s like a whole part of my brain opens up.
Journaling allows you to really dig into your thoughts. By asking yourself hard questions and being authentic in the answers, you will become much more aware of your thoughts throughout the day, which is essential to self-awareness. Journaling allows you to slow down and reflect which is key for personal growth. It will truly stop you from just going through the motions of life.
You Will Be More Creative
Frankly, it is hard to maintain a thought. A real, good thought. Writing helps create a foundation for your thoughts so you can build upon them. If you are an entrepreneur, keep a journal of all of your business ideas. Then you will have them all in one place so that you can maybe even combine some of them to form new ideas.
It also helps to free-write. Here’s an exercise I got from Tim Ferriss called Morning Pages. It was popularized by Julia Cameron, but the exercise is three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing after you wake up. The idea is to become more creative by not filtering yourself and seeing what your subconscious can come up with. Writing three pages first thing in the morning takes some getting used to, but there is no wrong way to do it. Just let it flow.
You Will Be Less Stressed
Go ahead, journal next time you are frantic or feel overwhelmed. Just start writing down all of your thoughts. You will be amazed by how much you figure out and how much more relaxed you will be.
Stress compounds upon itself. If you stop it before it builds up, then you will be freer to face it head-on. Stop the onslaught before it happens by journaling and bringing all of your thoughts into the light.
You Will Become a Better Writer
One of the best ways to improve at writing is to simply write. This is one of the reasons I started this blog. I have no idea if anyone will ever end up reading it but it is mainly a forum to sharpen my thoughts and communication skills. The more you write, the better. It will especially help your flow, meaning the sentences will not be disjointed and awkward.
You Will Be More Disciplined
By journaling every day you will institute a healthy habit. Anytime you can do that, you prove to yourself you have the discipline to start something and continue doing it. Think of it as exercise for your thoughts and emotions. It strengthens them and refreshes you simultaneously.
Journaling doesn’t have to be a scary thing at all. Just grab a notebook and a pen and carve out 5 minutes at the same time every day to start. I say 5 because I believe you need to start small to sustain a habit. Maybe it’ll be 7:30–7:35 am or right before you go to bed?
And there is no wrong way to journal. For example, in the morning I jot down one thing I want to get done that day and then some thoughts about the day and what I’m feeling. At the end of the day, I record two notable moments from the day and then try to reflect on them. It’s that simple.
Go ahead, try it out! If you don’t find it beneficial, then just stop. At least you tried it!
Author’s Note: Thanks so much for reading! Hope you are having a great day!