A Better, Easier Way to Journal

The T.L.C. Method

I’ve placed a higher emphasis recently on journaling — and why shouldn’t I? The list of benefits we can derive from keeping a journal are numerous and have been documented for years.

The list goes on and on. But you get the point, right? You should be keeping a journal. It’s really good for your health — both mental and physical.

But what should you write about?

If you’re like me, you get psyched about journaling, get ready to write, and then end up staring at the blank page — not knowing where to begin. Because I got tired of that happening to me — and because I am notoriously lazy when it comes to building new habits — I threw together a helpful little mechanism to help make journaling easier to do and more rewarding. It’s quite simple, and (as a kicker) easy to remember. Just remember TLC. It represents the 3 things to document about each day. It goes like this:

  • Thank
  • Learn
  • Connect

Your journal should just focus on these 3 components — at least to start. Write a few sentences for each heading. If you feel like writing more, great, but just to keep this habit as something that doesn’t create a lot of psychological resistance, keep it simple and short.

Thank

What are you thankful about today? Be specific. Don’t regurgitate the “I’m thankful for my family, my friends, etc.” That stuff is great, but the point of this part of the journal exercise is to get you focused on your day. So talk about some event that happened to you today that you are grateful about.

Write an account of that event, and why you’re thankful that it went the way that it did. Did some bad stuff happen to you? You’re not off the hook. Either find something that happened (however small) that was a small bright spot to the day, or think of how much worse one of the bad events that happened could have been, and be thankful that it didn’t go worse.

As a final note on this part of the journal. There are always things to be thankful for, and always people to whom you can express thanks. Did you eat or drink today? If so, how did the food and drink get to you? Someone grew the plants, farmed and slaughtered the animals, trucked it to a plant, processed it, packaged it, and delivered it to the place where you bought it.

Are you totally self-sustaining — on a farm where you grow your own food and drink from a creek out back? Well, since you’re reading this, you can be thankful for the folks who keep the internet going, or the friend who printed it out for you, where you’re reading it now on paper.

There’s no escape from the things to be thankful for in your life each day. Make the effort to seek them out, think about them, and express a brief thanks. It will make your daily experience that much richer.

Learn

What did you learn today? Don’t be restrictive in how you think about this. You learn something every day, especially if you interact with other people.

One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received was “you can learn something from everybody you meet each day, and if you don’t think so, you’re not trying.” I’ve found that to be true.

Now, are you always going to learn something life-changing? No. But you will learn something, and every little bit of information provides more connections for solidifying a growing and interconnected body of knowledge.

Connect

Here the term “connect” has 2 meanings:

  • What things did you connect? In other words, what concepts did you make an analogy between or otherwise find an intellectual string tying one to the other?
    Learning is all about connecting things in your mind. Take new information, and tie it in to well-worn knowledge. Find similarities and patterns.
  • With whom did you connect? What conversations did you have, what were they about? What was the takeaway from each? What is that person excited about? What can you talk with them about in the future? What could you work on with them?

What This does for You

Journaling can be tough, which is what keeps so many from doing it consistently. But if you can find a way to both solve the problem of finding what to write about, and also make the journaling immediately transformative, that’s a big win.

This method does both things. It gives you a prompt to use every day. It also forces you to live your day differently. If you have to write about 3 things every day, you look for those 3 things. I think these 3 things (Thanking, Learning, Connecting) are important. The more you do them, the better you’ll become — at whatever it is you’re doing.

So start tomorrow. And in the meantime, look for some TLC throughout your day.

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