Journaling for life

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I have been journaling for about fifteen years. Let’s take some time to let that sink in. Fifteen years of writing about the small things that for most passes by without thought. Naturally this can sound as a great waste of time for some but for me it has become a crucial part of my own personal development and a great way of getting to know myself.

What can journaling give you

The reason to take up journaling will be different for every person. It can be a tool to manage anxiety, depression and recovery but it can just as will be a tool to increase leadership and management skills. The purpose can be different but still the process can be positive in many ways.

It all comes down to taking a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Self reflection

The primary use of a journal is to provide self reflection on an everyday schedule. Reflection can then be done both on the short and long perspective to see how you are progressing towards a set goal or how you are on the way to steer away from another. If you combine journaling with goal setting on a personal level it becomes a powerful combination.

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Self reflection can also be used as a powerful tool to develop management and leadership skills. If you arrive at a point where you wonder if you took the right decision or even when you know for sure that you didn’t it can provide valuable input towards what created the situation or journey that took you to that decision. The ability to go back in time and see not only what happened but also why can be of great use.

Self reflection can of course also be used as a decision support to reflect back upon with a high level perspective to let that help in making a decision. Feedback and input are always usable and this is the quickest way to give yourself feedback!

Deepen learning

To repeat new knowledge is a way of strengthen the new synapses that has been created in our brains (More information on the process of learning in this article on knowledge repeating and synapses). To explain that new knowledge for someone, even yourself, forces us to create even more bonds between various knowledge in our minds. This can be seen as repeating homework from school and then explain what you’ve learned to a friend. The explanation forces a deeper understanding to also come up with examples and explanations.

To utilise this, write your journal entries on new knowledge as if you were to explain what you’ve learnt to someone close to you. Explain what, why and how. Connect your new knowledge and see how it can be set into practice or when it can be used.

Manage your feelings and thoughts

Emotional understanding of why we act and react in a certain way can be the power tool we need to excel in your professional role. To learn how emotions affect you is to reflect on things that has happened and how that made you feel. This knowledge can be an edge when entering meetings and places that will cause a specific emotional state.

If I am to speak in front of a large audience or in a setting that I know nothing of it naturally causes stress since I want to perform as good as possible. The way I coop with this is to prepare mentally for what I am to do. The preparation I do is often to reflect around what I am to speak about and possible ways it can be received. It’s much easier to prepare for an audience that is not interested or disagreeing then to plan for a perfect session where all you get is praise.

Emotional understanding can naturally also be about everyday situations and how to minimise negativity and maximise positivity. Relationships are constant trials of emotions, good and bad, and to work with these is to understand the what and why.

“We must be others if we are to be ourselves”

G H Mead

What tool to use

Journaling can be done both electronically or using a pen and paper. For me it was all about getting a process in place to start. Where I could keep my thoughts and feelings in a searchable format that can also be kept private due to its content. I went for a simplistic digital alternative.

Instead of looking for specific tool to use I created a Google Document on my Google account and started to type away. One document with dates as the divider between entires. Nothing fancy, no bells and whistles. But this was the format I needed to not get caught up in the details and just start to write.

Simplicity for me was the key to get going.

Since then I have tried lots of different services and tools for journaling. To mention a few that I really like I want to start with Evernote which is a perfect fit for writing regardless of where you are or what device you have with you. If you are looking for a specialised tool my pick is Day One which is available for Apple products only but have a great interface and tools to reflect back on old entries. Last if you are looking for a pure service with web access Penzu has lot to offer.

Day One App

But just to start I would still recommend an online service as Evernote (using my referral link you get to try premium for free) or a Google document.

How to start

Pick a place to start, it can be physical or not. Enter todays date at the top and simply write up what comes into your mind from your day. This can be all from a bullet list of things you saw, people you spoke to or places you went to. You can even start even simpler than that with a mood journal where the only thing you enter each day is you mood in form of a smily face.

Happy, sad or in between. And your entry for the day is done.

If you still struggle here are a few writing prompts to get you going. Add to the list as you see fit to find what prompt you need to get going and start journaling!

Journal prompts

  • What did you learn today?
  • Did you meet any new acquaintances?
  • What goals did you setup for the future or complete today
  • Is there anything you are proud of today?
  • Is there anything you should not have done today?

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