My whole life I didn’t journal more than 3 single pages. I tried it back in the university days, but attending to parties was apparently more fun. Now I’m a mature, responsible adult with big dreams and massive debt.
This year, the time has come — It is time to follow my dreams!
I challenged myself and kept on journaling for 90 days straight. Learn from my mistakes, and get to know 3 fabulous tools to kickstart your journaling.
What was my motivation?
I was caught in a limbo of trying things out. Baking bread, cooking non-stop Indian curry, rock climbing, and some other hipster stuff — the usual recreation and mediation activities.
Some hobbies stuck, and the failed experiments landed in my basement. Blunders like the self-brew set, the home gym applications, and my gardening equipment (I am truly sorry my plant friends).
In the end, I was searching for a way to give my life more structure. Maybe to find my passion. Definitely to dedicate my precious leisure time to some kind of purposeful activity; Instead of binging Netflix for 2 hours a day.
Seeking knowledge, I traveled to the internet and found a method: journaling.
Many articles and books talk about the positive effects of journaling. I decided to give it a try and got myself a journaling planner.
What did I learn?
The standard tools at first — a “standardized approach to success” as the planner calls it. “A step-by-step scheme to fulfill any goal.” Sign me up!
Let’s have a quick look at the standard methods:
- Set long-term goals — Define 3 goals by S.M.A.R.T. criteria to accomplish in 90 days. You will sign a contract with yourself, and with friends and family, too. If you fail any goal, you will be punished!
- Sprint and milestones — In 4 x 21-day sprints the rough-cut planning happens. Define 4 milestones for each goal. Then describe the steps needed to reach 1 milestone in each sprint.
- Weekly schedule — Further planning is done on a week by week basis. Here you plan your tasks by the Eisenhower matrix and assign the tasks to each weekday.
- The daily outlook — The daily planning includes a complete scheduling of your day (6 a.m to 9 p.m), and 3 mini-goals to achieve.
- Evening routine — At the end of the day, you review the accomplishments, reflect potential improvements, and write down your gratitude for the little or big moments.
- Side features — They include routine, habit, and happiness level tracking. The fundaments are your morning and evening routine.
- Reflection — After each week and every 21-day sprint you review the progress towards your goals and adjust the route.
The key aspects provide a convenient framework. Though, I adjusted the frame to my own rules. During my 90 days of journaling, I had figured out my mistakes and implemented solutions to fix them.
Mistake #1: Not achieving my daily goals.
After 64 days of ups and downs in my pursuits of self-improvement, I realized one fact: Goals are meant to fail. Most of them and no matter the plan.
“Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” — Forest Gump
And sometimes you snack a pack of Harry Potter’s jelly beans, which taste like a booger.
Unplanned events, shifting urgencies and our mood force us to fail our daily goals. The obvious truth is, we will always find an excuse to cover up the lack of discipline. That’s why you have to trick yourself to achieve goals.
You can have a wonderful read on how to gain back the ownership of your goals. Though, the bottom line of any self-improvement is: Be consistent.
In theory, everything makes sense. But a plan is and always will be a temporary perception of the future. Only valid, if continuously adjusted.
The solution: Adopt the finish line mentality.
Set one goal for the day. If you achieve the goal, you have won the day — you got the 100%! Every activity from now on is 1% plus. Apply the following thinking: I have done my sprint for the day and every step in addition is an over-performance!
Mistake #2: Having too many side quests.
To my surprise, I realized the following issue. I have some tasks, which I reschedule every single time. Pesky activities like decluttering the basement (and to bury my experiments), fix random stuff or doing my tax return.
Of course, prioritization is key to shining. But focusing on my goals creates a vacuum of side quests. Eventually, I sacrifice my whole weekend to complete some points from my to-do list. Depleting my motivation to do any major goals set.
Or, the laid-off activities are creating unnecessary worries. Causing myself to overthink, cluttering my thoughts and my to-do list. They are some kind of zombie tasks; Nagging me with their presence and following me everywhere.
The solution: Have a Might-Do List
This approach works wonders. Just create a second to-do list and call it: The Might-Do list. Ease your mind by dumping all nice-to-do ideas into one basket. Execute those tasks in your idle time. Or, after you have achived your daily goal.
Mistake #3: Prioritizing my goals instead of people.
I’m a sucker for game theory. Social experiments, like the Prisoner’s dilemma or the Ultimatum game, show that people are completely irrational beings. Even better, we aren’t driven by rational behaviors, we are steered by empathy and emotions!
That said, my milestones were too self-centered at first. For instance:
- Establish a sports routine
- Write for 30 mins a day
- Invest 5 hours in your side project each week
The problem was, I neglected my family, my friends and my child. After some fights with my partner, I understood: I planned to fail. Those milestones were wrong. After the first sprint, I recognized my mistake and made some changes to my milestones:
- Create a sports routine with my wife
- Write for 30 mins, after the child goes to sleep
- Plan your leisure time with family and friends first, then squeeze in your side hustling
The solution: Focus on people instead of your problems.
Speak with people, share your goals, and make them understand. What is the use of your monologue? Get a second or third opinion, ask somebody about your progress. You will be surprised by the outcomes.
Should you start journaling, too?
Definitely! Reflecting on your actions on a regular basis is a much needed mental health exercise. Having a plan creates confidence and hope creates motivation. Though, remember one crucial fact:
“The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.”