If you cringe at the word journaling, you’re not alone.
It can conjure up images of a navel-gazing teen whiling away a rainy day to avoid chores. Or someone with more free time than you, who waffles on about stuff that’s just not your thing.
So, it may surprise you to know that journaling is hot amongst movers and shakers in the business world. Right up there with creating a morning routine and checking in with a coach.
The reason that these already overstretched people have taken up journaling?
Because it gives results. In business and in life.
It turns out that the journal has gotten an unfair rap.
So, let’s start by debunking a few common myths.
1. Journaling is a waste of time
When your day’s already packed, why would you want to take time to squeeze in journaling?
Because journaling reconnects you to yourself.
It’s a claim on some quiet, personal time. To have a conversation, not with your family or work team or anyone else in your life, but with you.
When you’re faced with a blank page and your own thoughts, you tune into a private voice. One that can get drowned out in the demands of a full life.
That voice may whisper a reminder to be in touch with a distant friend. Or prompt you to step into a hard conversation at work you’ve been avoiding. Or budge you to act on booking the holiday you desperately need.
By writing down these thoughts, you capture and see them. And that helps to clarify what’s important to you alone.
So rather than wasting time, journaling can save it by setting your day in a direction to serve you.
If you value your time (and who doesn’t?), journaling is a way to ensure you use it well.
2. Journaling requires an expensive leather-bound book
If ever something was bespoke, custom-made, it’s a journal.
There’s no one best way to journal. Or one type of book to call your journal.
A journal can be a kid’s exercise book. Or it can be a visual diary and look like a work of art.
Some journals are obsessively structured. Some are, as they say, a hot mess.
To find what works for you, experiment a little.
For example, product designer, Ryder Carroll came up with bullet journaling (BuJo). It’s a popular method that you can get creative with. (Check out the hashtags #bujo and #bulletjournal on Instagram to get lost in a sea of ideas.)
In bullet journaling, you start with a blank or dot grid book. Then you create bullet lists. And an index for sections with different purposes.
Carroll’s system is like the Swiss army knife of journals. It can morph into everything from an organizer to a habit tracker.
Or your journal may not be a book at all. It may be a simple digital notetaking app, housed on your phone.
There are no hard and fast rules here. And it doesn’t have to be pretty.
3. Journaling is too touchy-feely for me
Journaling can be a place to vent about how the cashier miscalculated your change. Or your midnight insight into how you’ll create world peace.
It serves different purposes for different people.
- Get rid of mental clutter.
- Catch insights.
- Find the right questions.
- Banish worry.
- Reveal dreams.
- Create order.
- Show patterns.
For a writer like Virginia Woolf, journaling was preparation for her craft:
The habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments.
For Tim Ferriss, podcaster and author, journaling captures his private thoughts:
I don’t journal to “be productive.” I don’t do it to find great ideas, or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me…
A journal can also laser focus your mind on choices you need to make.
To help with this focus, some journals have pre-set templates, including trigger questions.
- Who in my family most needs my attention right now?
- What one thing will I do for my health today?
Other journaling questions are reflective at the end of the day. They help close today’s chapter.
- What went well today and why?
- What do I most look forward to about tomorrow?
Journaling allows you to set daily goals plus pay attention to your dreams and fears.
Journaling is as purposeful as you make it.
4. Journaling eats up your day
A journaling habit doesn’t have to take much time. Even spending 5 or 15 minutes a day can be revealing.
Or writing a short paragraph a few times a week.
You can start small.
Some people scale right back to make a one-line-a-day journal entry.
And to save time, a prepared format makes it simple and quick to complete.
As with any habit, journaling becomes easier and automatic with practice. And less time-consuming.
As you get into the rhythm, your brain gets primed for daily reflection. So thoughts flow more freely.
5. Journaling isn’t for busy people
Well, let’s see.
Marcus Aurelius, who lived in the second century, wrote a journal. (Many read the book it birthed, Meditations, even today.)
And he was running the Roman Empire.
As someone who journaled without quitting his day job, he’s in the company of:
- Benjamin Franklin
- Mark Twain
- Isaac Newton
- Winston Churchill
- Charles Darwin
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Henry David Thoreau
- Queen Victoria
- Thomas Edison
- Ludwig van Beethoven
- Virginia Woolf
- Anne Frank
- John Steinbeck
- Anais Nin
- Franz Kafka
- George Lucas
- Andy Warhol
- Ronald Reagan
- James Altucher
Not too slack a bunch.
Are You Ready to Give Journaling a Go?
Sure, you’re busy, and productive no doubt. Most of us are.
But now that we’ve busted a few myths about journaling, and you see a few of your heroes, past and present, are into this, can you see what it might do for you?
Maybe start with a few words, recorded in a simple schoolbook, that you jot down when you find the time.
Even if it’s just to center yourself. Or to check in with how prepared you are to confront the day.
It could pay off and help your day go more to plan. So why not give it a go?
At the very least, you’ll be in great company.