Keeping a Journal: Introduction to Journals

Why Journal?

Taking ten minutes at the start of your day can be special time you spend with yourself. This practice will open you up to parts of yourself that you otherwise would not have the chance to explore. The relief of tension happens quickly as you write out what you have been holding onto inside. This practice will increase self-awareness and build your ability to stay in the moment.

Keeping a journal is one of the most powerful methods to grow personally and professionally.

Writing out your thoughts gives you a visual map and helps you stay the course or make needed changes. Enhance your learning with reflection, which engages all your senses and more of your brain. Journaling slows your thoughts and helps you develop a broad perspective.

You will get to know yourself at a deeper level and get to the real motives that drive your choices and behavior.

Writing out your thoughts is what journaling is; it starts with an intention to be mindful. This practice has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, yet, many people have not embraced it, out of fear or pressure to make it perfect!

First keeping a journal is for your eyes only. There are many different types of journals, so let go of any pressure to turn this into a best seller. It is like doing squats; they may not be graceful, but strengthening your lower body is good for your entire body.

It is the process of writing out your thoughts and reviewing it later, and through reflection, you gain the benefit from this strategy to reboot your mindset.

I urge you to give this a try. Scroll down to see the different types of journals. Choose one that appeals to you and make a commitment you will keep this for 30 days. At the end of 30 days, decide to keep it for another 30. Consistency in writing is more important than how much you write.

Read through the types of journals. After that, check out the tips to help you get going.


Types of Journals

 1. Idea Journal

Carry a notebook with you and jot down any ideas that come up. Too often these ideas are dismissed as nonsense. The more you acknowledge these ideas, the more ideas will show up, increasing your creativity. Go back and review your ideas. Is there a theme?

What will you explore later?

2. Work Journal

Keep a notebook in the break room of your job and have staff write down things they are grateful for, acts of kindness, and observations they have. This can be related to Six Sigma projects, special initiatives, or a general practice. Review at a staff meeting or during a special meeting to discuss “Matters of the Heart” or the “Breakroom Conversation.”

3. Memory Book

Start a journal for your child, niece, or even a friend’s baby and periodically write down what is happening, adding pictures and memorabilia. Have entries on the child’s birthday, your birthday, and other special dates. Give it to the child on his or her sixth, tenth, or sixteenth birthday.

4. Couple or Family Journal

Keep a journal in the kitchen and use this to communicate in happy times and especially during conflict. This can be used to focus on gratitude and family values and to reflect on the growth years.

5. Reflection Journal

Use a journal to reflect on major events, difficult experiences, both work and personal. Reflection increases self-confidence, builds skills, strengthens resilient thinking, and develops your interpersonal skills. This is a great journal to use when starting your mindfulness practice, presented next.

Reflection increases your effectiveness as a leader, in clinical practice, as a parent or in any relationship. Reflection will help you regulate your attention, improve concentration and make better decisions.

6. Thought Journal

With the right thoughts, there is nothing you cannot handle. This is the foundation of resilient thinking—having thoughts that are optimistic, realistic, and based in confidence. Keep a running log of your thoughts. Use your Day Timer and keep an inventory of your thoughts.

At the end of the day, review and re-frame negative thoughts into positive ones. Notice any pattern? What triggers negative (or positive) thoughts?

Sound crazy? The most successful leaders do this to increase their awareness and control the most important tool they have—their mindset.


Tips for Journaling

Give yourself the space to be distraction-free. Turn off your phone, social media, and anything else that will interrupt you during your journaling.

Set a time limit, use your timer. Consistency is more effective than binge journaling. Staying true to your time limit will keep you focused and more likely to consistently journal.

Have a specific goal in mind for the journal session. This could be to reflect on a conversation you have had, how your day went, or to better understand your reaction to something. Define your intention for the journaling session.

Start this session with a few deep breaths on a count of four. Inhale essential oils; citrus blends are uplifting, peppermint is stimulating, and lavender is relaxing. Make this part of the ritual.

You can use the computer and type or hand write in a notebook. Many prefer writing it out and find this allows for a greater flow of ideas, thoughts and emotions.

Be sure to date your entries.

Begin to write (or type), and do not censor or edit. Just write for five minutes. Then, read what you have written. Ask yourself, “What does this mean for me?” and further explore what you have written.

Keep your journal private.

Journaling can be especially powerful after difficult as well as happy times. You can also set up a weekly ritual to write.

This is not the time to be critical of your writing. No need to proof for grammar. Journaling is a release, a log of ideas or thoughts, or memories. This is not an essay, novel, or blog post. It is for your eyes only.

Go back and review your journal every quarter. Have you made progress? Why or why not? This gives you the opportunity to change course and take different steps to achieve your goal.

Additional Resources

Check out the course that use journals to transform your stress, overwhelm and all those emotions.

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