Why I Love Journaling (And You Should Too!)

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I’ve observed something leaders have in common: they are perpetually busy! While I’ve banned that word from my own vocabulary, it’s a word that leaders (not to mention everyone else) uses more frequently than they realize! Most often, the word busy is used in connection with something they know they ought to be doing, but just don’t have the time. There are a few tasks that seem to fall into that category, tasks that would make a remarkable difference and give them some time back! One of those tasks: journaling!

Some people find putting pen to paper thrilling. For others, it’s pure torture!  I’ve been journaling for as long as I can remember, so you can imagine which camp I’m in. Growing up, I would record the highlights of my day in my diary and then lock it up again for safe keeping. In college, journaling was a handy way to sort out more complex problems and feelings.

For the last 20 years, I’ve kept a “prayer journal” where I’ve poured out my heart to God – the ways I need His help, sharing the needs of others, and praising Him.

As a part of my daily prayer journaling ritual I like to list at least five things I am grateful for and at least one example of how God helped me the previous day. While it is therapeutic for me to write these things down, another perk is being able look back and witness not only how far I’ve come, but how faithful and creative God’s been.

Journaling has also played a significant part in my recovery from Lyme disease. You would be amazed at the role your emotions play when it comes to your health! Journaling provides a handy way to explore your feelings and how they are affecting your body.

Believe it or not, I’ve found another journal that’s quite valuable to me: my “work journal.” Yep! I keep a journal for work as well! This journal is nothing fancy – just a regular college rule spiral notebook. I don’t write it in daily like I do my prayer journal, but it is a place for me to keep work related information in one central place. What do I fill my work journal with? It contains items like…

  • Goals
  • A list of the books I’ve read so far this year
  • Yearly and monthly reflections on how work is going – what’s working, what’s not working, and what needs to change?
  • Blog-storming…ideas for future blogs, notes, quotes, and more for blogs I am working on
  • Brainstorming ideas for webinars, updates to my website, etc.
  • Webinar/podcast notes – a central place to keep notes for the various webinars I attend
  • Evaluating how a workshop, webinar, or marketing effort worked.

Writing by hand is something I find gratifying. I love the way words look on paper. My work journal however, is far from a thing of beauty! It’s a tool; a resource! I don’t worry about my penmanship or anything else. It is truly a place to think, reflect, and get it all out! Sometimes, that’s not pretty!

To make it easier to navigate and more useful, I do take great care to write a “title” at the top of the page to reflect the contents of the page and the date.

You may be unconvinced that journaling is for you, but, you can’t really knock it until you try it! Does it surprise you to learn that journaling has played a powerful role in the lives of some remarkable leaders?

Stephen R. Covey said, “Keeping a personal journal a daily in-depth analysis and evaluation of your experiences is a high-leverage activity that increases self-awareness and enhances all the endowments and the synergy among them.” 

Marie Curie, a two time Nobel Prize winner and mother of modern physics, kept detailed notes that have been preserved in a lead-lined box and stored in France’s national library in Paris. Because they were exposed to such high levels of radiation, you must sign a release and don a protective suit just to get a peek at them.

Other noteworthy individuals who embraced the habit of journaling: Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, Ben Franklin, and many others!

Knowing that other successful people have kept a journal might not persuade you to journal either. That’s fair! If that’s not enough to motivate you to put pen to paper, perhaps these journaling benefits will. Did you know that journaling…

1. Increases Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a necessary trait if you want to be a successful leader, yet all too often it’s lacking. Having knowledge around your own character, feelings, motives, and desires will serve you well! Without this knowledge, your inner world can impact your decisions and responses negatively and hinder your confidence and creativity!

2. Accelerates Accomplishing Your Goals

There is something about the act of writing your goals down that increases the odds that you will successfully achieve them. Plus, when you put it down in black in white it’s a reminder. Journaling is a great way to think through the steps necessary to reaching a goal and exploring the adjustments that need to be made along the way.

3. Creates Space to Reflect and Process

The demands of leadership never end. That’s why it’s important to be in the habit of regularly taking time – even 15 minutes a day – to reflect and access where you are and what needs to happen in order to get where you want to be. You’d be surprised how journaling even 15 minutes a day ultimately saves you time!

4. Clears Emotions

The life of a leader is riddled with ups and downs. It can be a very emotional ride! Journaling provides you with a safe outlet for those emotions, both positive and negative, and allows you a place to reframe and see the situations and issues from different perspectives.

5. Reinforces Learning

Jotting down observations, discoveries – even summing up what you learned in a meeting, webinar, or at the last conference reinforces learning!

6. Improves Your Writing Skills

Journaling also allows you to tap into your unique voice. You don’t have to have to try to be perfect with punctuation or grammar to improve as a writer. Simply taking the time express yourself, choose words that convey what you mean, and practice has a positive effect on your writing skills. How you communicate in writing to others – that makes a difference!

7. Increases Your Creativity

Creativity isn’t limited to a select few. Everyone has that potential, it just takes time and the right environment. Journaling is a safe space for you to allow your creative juices flow – after all, writing by hand allows you to be considerably more creative than anything written using a keyboard.

8. Reduces Stress

Stress is a clash of your expectations and reality. Journaling allows you to take stock of your expectations, evaluate, and make adjustments that are more doable. Sometimes the act of simply getting it out of your head and down on paper lessens stress!

9. Develops Focus

People, deadlines, goals are simultaneously vying for your attention, making it tough to focus. Journaling is a handy way to block everything else out and zero in on something specific. And if you get in the habit of journaling at the same time every day, the people around you will learn to give you space to do that if you ask them to!

10. Helps You Organize

The process of journaling naturally helps you organize your thoughts, ideas, information, and more. And a journal keeps it all in one organized in one place!

11. Frees Up Head Space

Keeping everything stored in your head takes up valuable head space and limits your capacity for what’s important.

12. Generates Ideas

Journaling is an excellent place to brainstorm, mind map, make lists, doodle, etc. – all activities that inspire and generate ideas!

13. Allows You to Prioritize

I see it all the time – leaders keep on doing whatever is urgent in the moment rather than taking the time to prioritize and ensure that the most important people or items are getting their attention so they can get ahead. Journaling regularly provides a way to systematically ensure that you are investing your energy into what’s most important.

14. Gives You a Refreshing Screen Break

Depending on what you do, the bulk of your time can be spent gazing into the eyes of your computer! Writing in a physical journal is a refreshing screen break!

15. Boosts Your Performance

While you might be skeptical and feel you don’t have time to journal, I am confident that journaling regularly will ultimately increase your productivity as well as your performance! Give it a try and see for yourself!

As an integrated person, any kind of journal you choose to keep will allow you to experience positive benefits both personally and professionally!

I’d love to hear from you…how has journaling made a difference for you personally and/or professionally?

© Can Stock Photo / mast3r

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