I hate writing and that made starting journaling one of the hardest habits for me to take up. I was just thinking, I don’t remember when I started being dedicated (this time) to my journaling practice when I remembered, I can look back in my journal. I’ve been fairly consistent since July 2015. Hmm, wow, 18 months. I didn’t realize it was so long.
Getting Started with Journaling
When I was coaching downhill (alpine) ski racing I had spurts of journaling, maybe for a season, maybe a month. I never found the motivation. One of my best methods at that time was to take a paper calendar, you know the kind with all the squares, and just write in the box something about the day.
I instructed the athletes in the practice. To begin, I just had them write what we did in training that day inside the little box. Then I kept increasing the ante with simple questions like
- What could you have done better today?
- Tell your journal about something that went good today?
- Make plans for tomorrow and write them in the box.
For some, they made it very effective and graduated to a paper or computer journal. For others, it was just another assignment and it never took root.
Just like any other habit, success with journaling depends on your why. What are you trying to achieve and why? How are you changing your life, family, and community and why? The why that got me to commit to journaling was my wife and my children. I just wanted to leave a little story, a bit of an insight, a legacy to show them the parts of me that might have been missed. My fears, my challenges, my victories, and my discoveries. I just couldn’t spend enough time with each of them. My youngest was 7 months old and oldest 16 with three in between and my journal will be available to them when I’m gone.
There are bunches of resources out there about the benefits of journaling but I can only speak about what I know. My journaling process is always evolving and changing. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Probably the biggest change was when I started the using the miracle morning. I had a good routine going but that really systematized it. Journaling became the final close to the morning routine; I could even call it a ritual.
My Journaling Routine
To set the stage, my journaling time concludes the miracle morning S.A.V.E.R.S. The last ‘S’ stands for ‘scribing’ or writing. So at this point I’ve meditated, prayed, read my scriptures, done my exercise, saw the future and much more. Then its time to journal. Today my journaling practice has four parts:
- Working goal progress.
- Thankfulness list.
- Daily goal list.
I know when I look back in my journal I like to hear about the neat things my family has done either individually or as a group. I write my journal in OneNote which makes it available on my phone, tablet, and at my computer. I store it in OneDrive so it is available pretty much anywhere where I can connect. That makes it easy to add additional notes or experiences to it while traveling or throughout the day when I have a moment of downtime. I open each entry with the date and day: 12/11/2016 – Sunday – and then the four parts:
1. Working Goal Progress
First thing I list is what exercise comprised my miracle morning. Just a short one line description. Then I write down my goal progress for other goals that are top of mind. I write things like “25 days no sugar/bread”, “178lbs”, “81 people on mailing list”. This sums up the primary habit goals I’m trying to form or metrics I’m using in my company growth. For a habit goal like the “25 days no sugar/bread” I will keep tracking it for 30 to 90 days however long it takes it to become a habit. Right now I’m trying to get down to 150lbs and I measure once a week and journal that once per week–on the same day so that when I look back, I can easily find out what happened.
There is always something on my mind and that’s what gets written first. Just whatever passes through from business to church to family. Then I start reflecting over the last 24 hours to find places where I could’ve been more Christ-like and tell those stories. I tell stories of good times, funny things that happened, difficult situations, anything that stands out from the last day. Often this blends into the next part.
3. Thankfulness List
This is the fun and charging part. Sometimes it is just a numbered list of parts of the free-writing but I find at least 3 things that I’m thankful for in the last 24 hours. This really has a great benefit by influencing my mindset towards good things. This is probably the best part of the whole journaling event for me. I try to induce this with the kids at breakfast some days with the question, “What are you thankful for today?” Sometimes it works, often it doesn’t. . . I’ll keep trying.
4. Daily Goals
I usually time block out 3-7 days in advance so I know what to be doing each hour of the day particularly during the working hours. I used to know what to do and felt I didn’t need to block it out. That worked for me. I seemed to get things done. I was challenged by my Iron Sharpens Iron Mastermind Group to try time-blocking (put everything on the calendar with a time slot to work on it). I was skeptical, but amazed at the results:
- Tasks took less time.
- More tasks got done.
- I spent much less time wondering about what to do next.
- I had more time for family and me
I guess that was a bit of a sidebar. . . So with Daily Goals, First, I look at the goals I entered yesterday and mark them done or not done. That give me some drive and excitement for the goals I completed and even more so for the goals I missed. Now, I’m ready for today.
I put down three or more specific outcomes that the day can give me. Things that I can look back on and easily measure when I look back at them tomorrow. I look at the calendar and see the time blocks that are already set up and find goals to fit those boxes–sometimes the top items require a bit of time-block shifting but I try not to do that often. I often choose goals that I think won’t fit in the boxes then I surprise myself and actually accomplish them in the time given (that is a whole other post to come).
That’s All There is to Journaling
You can’t do it wrong, that is just my method. It works for me and I do it first thing in the morning and it sets the momentum (movement in a specified direction) for my day. It makes me feel charged up and ready to go. It gives me the sense of accomplishment and progress. All of these benefits lead to greater productivity, effectiveness, and life.
If you’re new to journaling, let me send you a little free handout to get you started slow and easy: Request “I Can Journal: Part 1”