Why I Journal
While strolling through the LaGuardia Airport in 2012, I walked into one of those airport convenience stores to find something that could numb my anxiety.
I was in New York to work with one of my startups, and the week was an absolute disaster.
One of those weeks that makes you question… well, everything.
I was drawn to a book called Standout (ironic, I know), by Marcus Buckingham, that included an online personality assessment that I hoped would explain why I continually put myself into these situations.
After carefully and truthfully answering all the questions in the online assessment the results flashed on the screen.
“You are usually the first on the block to own the newest toy or gadget, and you love to tell the stories of how you got it, how it works, how it’s going to revolutionize… everything.”
The report went on to describe me as an Influencer and a Pioneer. Apparently, these combined personalities made me an “Innovator.”
Good lord, this assessment knew me better than my own mother!
I’m Proud to be an Innovator
On the other side of the same coin, however, being all these things isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
As an Innovator, I am consumed by curiosity.
I get distracted easily.
I can focus on something for a fantastic amount of time, but only if it’s the shiny thing that excites me at that moment.
I often throw myself into work, neglecting my health, family, and friends, which leaves me feeling disconnected from a purpose.
The bouts of euphoric enthusiasm and extreme creativity and clarity and often followed by depressive lows.
None of these things makes it easy to be happy or for others to feel happy around me.
Taming the Innovator, Systematically
The only thing that has kept me from spiraling off out of control is a system based on ritual focus and reflection.
Inspired by dozens of books and speakers, I created a system that forced me to envision a future version myself and systematically plot a course to that next-version of me.
My system aligns the things I invest my energy in every day with the current week/month/quarter and year. It also encourages me to reflect on both what’s great in my life as well as what I need to improve on.
All these things do not come naturally to me.
At the center of my system is a paper-based journal. Despite living in the age of smart toasters and internet doorbells, I still love the focus that writing in a well-made book with a quality pen triggers in me.
I created my system to blend my personal and my work life together — I’ve always had a hard time separating the two. In fact, if I don’t ensure my personal needs are taken care of, I’ll just consume all the time I should be spending on myself, family or friends on work and then I really do spiral out of control.
My journal is not a task list or a scheduling tool.
It is a focus tool.
It ensures that I choose only a small number of things to focus on so that I don’t get overwhelmed and can be productive.
This journal also gives me the perspective to help me focus on what I need to do next.
How I use a Journal.
15 Min in the morning and evening is all I need.
My day begins with a 15-minute meeting with myself that I have set up as a reoccurring meeting in my calendar.
During this time, I reflect on what is getting me excited, remind myself what the focus of the week is, and then set up personal and work focal targets for myself. I then remind myself what I need to do to accomplish these targets, like block off time on my calendar, take breaks, and schedule when I communicate with others.
My day ends with another pre-scheduled 15-minute meeting with myself.
I begin by reviewing my targets for the day. If I didn’t get to them, I would reflect on why. I also remind myself of my wins, the special moments, what I’m thankful for, and what I learned.
Again, this way of thinking isn’t something I do naturally, so using my journal quickly gets me into a more positive and reflective mode, even on the worst days.
Do I still have bad (really bad) days? Yup, quite often actually. That’s just what you get if you are an entrepreneur of any kind.
When those days happen, I force myself to come back to my journal, to center myself and to regain my focus and rekindle my passion.
The Innovator’s Journey
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I’m not alone on this journey.
In fact, almost every “Innovator” I have met; whether a founder of a startup or an innovator working for an existing organization, have shared similar stories with me. You don’t have to be a founder of a startup to be considered an Innovator, you just need to share the same characteristics as one.
Addressing this is Important
- 30% of all entrepreneurs experience depression, according to a study by Dr. Michael Freeman, a clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco.
- According to Fortune magazine, 13% of startups fail because their founders have lost focus, 9% fail because they’ve lost their passion, and 8% fail due to founder burnout.
This means that 30% of startups fail due to the emotional state of their founders! From personal experience, I think these numbers are actually too low.
Innovators like us are more prone to these issues because we’re more likely to neglect our health: our diets are often inadequate, we never get enough sleep, and many never make time for exercise and meaningful social engagement.
We must force ourselves to find a balance and focus.
I’m Sharing My Daily Focus Journal With You
For all of these reasons, I want to share my daily planner with all you Innovators out there.
> It’s a free download [here].
Let me know what you think. If it helps, great! If it doesn’t, let me know why not — perhaps I can share some additional tips and tricks that can help.
What’s Your Journey?
I’m really interested in hearing about your challenges as an Innovator. Please share a note, comment or a story. If you like this post, please help by sharing it and giving the post a few claps so it can reach more people.
You can also follow me on twitter @joelsemeniuk where I regularly discuss all things innovation, and more importantly, the personal costs we innovators bear.