The busy person’s guide to successfully journal

As a busy parent and working professional, journaling is the last thing on my mind when I get to the last few hours of the day.  After dealing with demands at work, preparing dinner for the family, (sometimes) doing some form of exercise, answering just a few more emails or putting the last touches on a proposal for a client, I am tired.  All I want to do is slow down, shut down and go to sleep.

Recently, many people have suggested that in order to feel more calm, less rushed and just a little more in touch every day, that I really should consider journaling and meditation (not medication, as I first thought!).  Let’s focus on journaling for today.

Right, yes.  Sure!  Sounds easy!

I have tried journaling before in the past.  I went to book store and bought a beautifull leather book, and started that evening.  I started with a complete download of my day.  A few pages later, I closed the book and went to sleep.  The following evening I didn’t know what to write, so I tried to do the same as the night before, but I didn’t feel like writing down everything that happened during the day.   By the third night, I just looked a the book, nodded to it as if it is a long forgotten acquitance, and went to sleep.  It’s been a few years later and I haven’t written down a single word since then.

With the new year, I realised I want to do things differently.  Since a few people have suggested journaling as a way to get some perspective and that it is just good for your soul, I want to see if there is a more structured or guided way to do journaling.  I want a way that is quick and will help me make it part of my evening ritual.

What journaling can do for you

Since I haven’t been successful at journaling, there is not much that I can share from experience.  Many other very successful poeple have shared their beliefs about why journaling is good for you:

Journaling motivates you to make the most of each day.  When you know you have to write something down tonight, it can be the spark to action.  You know you want to write down something good, and therefore you will do something good.

Journaling reduces stress and helps you to sleep better.  Several research studies have found that a daily journal can help to reduce stress.  When you vent on a page, it’s help to release the negative emotions that can add to stress.  You’ll be able to become more objective and understand your emotions.  When you release yourself from emotions, it reduces anxiety and stress and induces better sleep.

Journaling increases your gratitude.  When you write down the things that you are grateful for, it will help to change your view of life from an orientation of scarcity to an appreciation of abundance.  It helps you to think about the things you have in your life that others may not have, and that small change of thinking can help you feel less prone to continue chase things that are not true to who you are.

Journaling helps to manifest your goals.  When you set aside time to write, regardless if it is in the morning or evening, it strengthens your self-discipline.  That act of discipline will filter through to other areas of your life, in particular the goals you want to achieve.  In addition, when you write down your goals, it focuses your brain to work on moving forward towards that goal.  It can motivate you to action, as just writing down your goals every time without any progress for weeks or months, may just frustrate you enough to take action.

Journaling provides a record of your life.  Everyone wants to matter.  When you write down your thoughts, events and experiences, it can provide insights into your own life as well as provide lessons to your family after you have passed on.

How to make journaling easy

Despite the numerous, clear benefits for journaling, there is one problem.  How do I actually stick to the act of journaling?  How can make this part of my daily ritual?

The first thing is to realise that there is no right way to journal.  There is only your way.  You can do whatever you want, however you want to do it, and in whichever medium that you like.  The key to successfully keeping at it, is to make it fun.  And in my case, make it simple and quick.

Here’s the process I designed for myself.

Decide on the journaling prompts that resonates with you for that day, that week or that month.  Here are a few suggested journaling prompts, and off course, you can write down your own journaling prompts:

  • What is the best thing that happened today? (Highlight of the day)
  • What struggle did I face today and overcame? (Challenge)
  • What did I achieve today? (Productivity)
  • What am I grateful for today? (Gratitude)
  • What really stood out for me today? (Learning/emotion/experience)
  • How do I feel today? (Mood)

Write down one sentence in answer to your journaling prompt.

Decide what medium works for you – paper, notebook or electronically (in a tool like Evernote or even a journaling app).

What matters is that you make it easy and small enough so that you can do it every day.  Most of all, remember that your journal is not intended for anyone but you.  Just do it.


Footnotes and references:

  1. 10 Surprising benefits you’ll get from keeping a journal:
  2. Why keeping a daily journal could change your life:
  3. The surprising benefits of journaling one sentence every day:
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