6 Tips to Organize Your Daily Journal

“Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes." Julia Cameron

In my first post I covered the elements of my morning routine. Based on the feedback of a few colleagues, I wanted to focus the second article exclusively on journaling as it can an elusive habit to adopt. Journaling can help organize one's day or bring clarity to a problem (see Jocko Willink's philosophy on detachment). The latter may be one of the more positive benefits of journaling. Put another way, “Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes."* Whit the benefits of journaling in hand, let's move onto the meat and potatoes. Below is a snapshot of how I organize my personal journal.

Timing: write-out the workouts and goals for the week on Sunday nights; meditation, daily goals and gratitude sections each morning; feedback in the evening.

  1. Workout. Whatever your workout routine and frequency is, planning that workout the night before - including the when and where -increases the probability of accomplishing the workout.^ Once completed, it's helpful to write the length of the workout, how you felt, weight lifted and reps, mile time, etc.
  2. Meditation. For journaling purposes, add feedback from your session and the length of the session. This is helping for tracking progress overtime as I often go back a few months to compare post-meditation sentiment to that of the more recent meditation sessions to fine tune and improve my game.
  3. Re-write weekly goals. Once you have your weekly goals, which should directly impact monthly and annual goals, re-writing them each morning helps engrain those goals in the subconscious and reinforces the belief that it's only a matter of time until the goals are accomplished. The effects of written goals vis-a-vis mental goals are substantial. Take for example a recent study of Harvard MBA candidates. Only three percent of the class had written goals, and when surveyed ten years later, those with written goals earned 10x that of their peers. The volume of content on goal setting is endless, but one theme that holds true is the importance of putting pen to paper if you're serious about accomplishing personal / physical / mental / professional / family / financial / relationship goals. 
  4. Daily goals. Again, tons of literature on goal setting but writing down daily goals helps make the ever elusive long-term goals more tangible as each daily goal should impact monthly, quarterly or annual goals. 
  5. Gratitude. Like goal setting, there is a ton of content on how to improve one's gratitude via journaling. The Five Minute Journal  is a great place to start to get a few ideas, and can be a journal in itself. A few tips that are consistent across avid gratitude-journalers are: be specific about the what and why, focus on people for whom you are grateful for rather than items, and push yourself to add as many new items as possible. This section is especially helpful when you're having a tough day. 
  6. Feedback. I divide this section into two parts - what I learned that day, and unstructured thoughts on the day. The "what I learned" piece is key for self-improvement, or on the converse, to bring awareness to the fact that you haven't learned shit that day and to make tomorrow a more productive day. The second part is focused on clearing the head and detaching from problems that you're working on.  

The 6 bullets above are a bare-bones list, and after watching a short Tim Ferris video on journaling, it's clear that you could go deep in the rabbit-hole on this topic. What habits or routines have aided in your journaling? 

Ryan Warner is an account executive on Salesforce’s Financial Services team. Ryan also co-hosts the TR Talk Podcast, where co-host Tom Alaimo and Ryan interview leaders in their fields to learn how millennials can make an impact in today’s workforce.
Website: Ryanwarner.net
Email: ryannicholaswarner@gmail.com
Twitter: @Ryan_N_Warner
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