“If you’re serious about becoming a wealthy, powerful, sophisticated, healthy, influential, cultured, and unique individual, keep a journal.” — Jim Rohn
Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Steve Jobs, and Oprah Winfrey — what do they all have in common?
The answer is journaling, the simple practice of putting your thoughts on paper every day.
If you haven’t journaled before, it’s hard to believe how much it can impact your life. You might assume that the point is to schedule your days and stay organized, but keeping a journal has so much more to offer.
My main reason for journaling is to bring a sense of clarity to the madness of my daily life.
I’m an anxious person by nature and my thoughts are loud, intense, and they rarely give me a moment’s rest. The best way I’ve found to stop the wheels from spinning 24/7 is to put everything on paper.
Journaling has become the most important part of my morning routine, and I spend anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes a day putting my thoughts to paper.
What Does Journaling Look Like in Practice?
There are many different ways to keep a journal. You can’t know in advance what will work for you, and the only way to find out is to try a few different things.
Some prefer to use journal prompts, while others get the best effects out of free-writing. Personally, I found it best to combine the two.
I use 2 journals simultaneously.
The first one is the 5-minute journal where I answer the following questions:
- I am grateful for…
- What would make today great?
- Daily affirmations. I am…
This helps me start the day with a positive mindset: gratitude, affirmations, plans to make the day better.
The second one is a hardcover Leuchtturm1917 notebook where I proceed with my morning brain dump and write about every (professional or personal) worry I might have. I jot down anything that’s on my mind.
This helps me clarify and reorganize my thoughts. It alleviates my anxiety, so I can start the day with a sharper focus.
I also journal in the evening, before going to bed, once again using the 5-minute journal. This time, I stick to the following prompts:
- 3 amazing things that happened today
- How could I have made today even better?
This end-of-the-day reflection helps me look back at what I accomplished, what I learned, and then I can go to bed with a positive mindset. If I have further thoughts racing in my head, I’ll get up and add those to my notebook as well.
Evening journaling improves my general mood, but it’s also a part of the wind-down routine I use to ensure I fall asleep quickly and then sleep through the night.
Tips for Maintaining the Habit
To reap the benefits of journaling, you have to do it regularly. Here are some tips that could help:
1. Start small and don’t make a huge commitment.
2. Place your notebook somewhere you’ll see it when you get up in the morning, preferably an uncluttered surface like a bedside table. Put your pen next to it, too. When it’s time to start writing, you don’t want to waste momentum looking for your equipment.
3. Journal at the same time every day.
4. Find a quiet, private location where you can write without interruptions.
5. Keep it simple. Remember you’re not writing a memoir or a progress report. The entries can be about whatever is the most important to you on any given day. It’s fine to turn off your inner editor and just let the words flow.
My recipe for success:
During the first week, write for at least 5 minutes a day even if the results seem disappointing.
When the week is through, go back and review what you’ve written. Make some observations (and write them down), analyze yourself, think about what seems to be missing from your journal.
At this point, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to achieve by journaling, and then you can experiment with the specifics (e.g. prompts, different journal entry lengths, etc.).
For extra inspiration, check out this short guide for people who are new to journaling. It explains some writing techniques you can play with after that first week is through.
Get Started Today
If you never seriously considered journaling before, this is the perfect time to start.
Journaling is a way to gain control over your thoughts when life gets chaotic. You can become more balanced if you stick to this practice, and it helps you keep growing and changing.
Back in March, in a fascinating article, social psychologist Arie Kruglanski wrote:
“The coronavirus pandemic represents a completely unprecedented circumstance, as novel as it is life-changing. No event in recent history has affected us as profoundly and pervasively.
[…] Little by little, the stressful external forces this pandemic unleashed are exerting a deep internal effect. Little by little, they are changing who we are and how we relate to people and the world.”
His prediction has come true already — the world isn’t what it once was.
With the dizzying changes around us, we all feel restless and disoriented. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But to keep up with it and become your best self, you need to keep working on your self-awareness. Journaling is a great way to do exactly that.