Six Journaling Ideas

This article has been borrowed from https://www.deanbokhari.com/smarter-faster-better-goals/

 

If I had to choose between throwing my iPhone into a burning fire vs. throwing my journal into the fire, the journal would win every single time. I would toss the iPhone.

The journal—it’s one of those things that can be as useless as a piece of trash, or one of the most valuable things you’ve ever owned… It all depends on what you fill that journal’s pages with.

Today, I’m going to share some of my personal favourite journaling ideas. You can use them all, combine the ones you like, or pick the single journaling idea that most resonates with where you’re at in life right now. Either way, journaling—when done regularly—almost always leads to fresh, new insights and ideas that can absolutely transform your life.

I’ve used all of these journaling ideas below at some point in my life. Either to get through tough times, to achieve my goals, maintain my sanity, or to foster my creative efforts (like fleshing out topic ideas for on-line articles, blogs, or teachings.)

Whichever one of these journaling ideas you decide to use, just promise me this: you’ll actually use them. Because they’ll only work if you work them.

1. WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS EACH DAY.

This is by far my favourite of all the journaling ideas on this list. It’s also a crucial part of my morning routine, and something I’ve been doing daily for many years. Every morning, I wake up, grab my journal, and re-write my daily and weekly goals. This is a daily practice for me—I’ll never miss a day for the rest of my life. (I have an annual list of goals which I reefer to when doing this).

There are two reasons I decided to make this journaling idea a life-long habit:

  1. Journaling my goals reminds me what matters most to me right now (when you do this, you’ll find that some of the goals you re-write will get more specific, while others will change or get forgotten about all together).
  2. Something wonderful happens when you regularly write down what you really, truly, genuinely want to accomplish in life—you actually start to change and grow towards your goals. Great ideas hit you out of nowhere, and your mind urges you to take action on them until your goals become a reality. It’s a beautiful thing.

Here’s how this journaling idea works:

  • Every morning, before you begin your day, open up a fresh page in your journal and write down your top 5-10 goals for the day – connected to your weekly goals and annual list of goals.
  • The next day, wake up and do the same thing without looking at the previous day.
  • Do this for 30 days — wake up, re-write your goals, don’t look at the previous day — and what you’ll notice is that your goals will begin to clarify, transform, or change altogether. This is a good thing, because it helps you hone-in on what you really want in life.

2. DAILY LOG

The daily log is when you journal about your day-to-day: what you did, thoughts you had, ideas you want to pursue, who you saw and spoke with. Whatever you want. It’s a working way to log your life. The best part about this journaling habit is that you literally have a hand-written record of what you’ve done on any given day… And believe me when I tell you that it comes in handy.

Here’s how this journaling idea works:

  • Get a journal that’s comfortable enough to carry with you wherever you go.
  • As various things happen throughout your day, simply log them.
  • You can jot stuff down, draw pictures, or record them as detailed notes—it’s totally up to you. Since this is something you’ll need to do daily, the important thing, is to keep the parameters loose enough that you’ll actually do it.

3. JOURNAL THREE THINGS YOU’RE GRATEFUL FOR

Here are three things I’m grateful for today:

  1. My family.
  2. Doing work that helps people improve their lives and achieve their goals.
  3. The Coke Zero I am drinking as I write this.

Easy peasy. You can be as detailed as you want, or as specific as you want. You can even keep the list going if you want. But be sure to include at least three things.

A few more things to keep in mind…

Gratitude journaling can be done anytime during the day, but I’d recommend doing it in the morning before beginning your workday. Why? Because genuine gratitude reverberates into the rest of your entire day, setting off a domino effect of optimism with which you can approach your work, your friends, your family, and everyone else you cross paths with.

On top of that, it’s psychologically impossible to feel stressed and grateful at the same time. In other words, gratitude is a win whichever way you look at it.

Here’s how this journaling idea works:

  • Crack open your journal or planner.
  • Write down three things you’re grateful for.
  • Optional (but highly recommended): make your list in the morning.
  • Also, if you already keep a journal, planner, or todo list of some kind, you can also just set aside some open space on one of those pages to write out the 3 things you’re grateful for. This way, you can look at it throughout the day as you’re checking stuff off your list.

4. JOURNALING FOR PROBLEM SOLVING

Should you move to a bigger house? Should you quit your job? What’s your life’s purpose? Should you end a friendship? These are examples of life challenges people face and journaled about – and found solutions to.

The reason it’s great to journal about your problems is because our brains tend to enlarge problems, making them seem bigger than they really are. But when we write our problems down, we minimize them.

I’m not saying you’re problems go away the moment you put pen to paper, but you do realize that your problems aren’t as daunting as they seem in your head once you’ve gotten them down on paper – and that’s a great first step, no?

Here’s how this journaling idea works:

  • Whenever you’re faced with a challenge of some kind, open up to fresh page in your journal, and write out your problem as a question at the top of the page.
    • For example: “I’ve been offered a promotion at work. I’ll be making more money, but my daily commute increases by an hour. Should I take the promotion? ”
  • Now, start a list of potential solutions. Or, start a Pros and Cons list to help you decide what to do about the problem.
    • For example: “I should take the promotion because…” or “I shouldn’t take the promotion because…”
  • Unless you decide otherwise, this is for your eyes only; so don’t worry about being organized here. The idea is to get clear about what you want and find a solution to your problem(s).

5. JOURNALING FOR STRESS

When we’re stressed out about something, it’s usually because our thinking is scattered. Or because we’re really pissed off. Or because we’re being bombarded with more stuff to do or to think about than we can handle right now.

In my experience, journaling for stress seems to have a therapeutic affect. If I’m angry about something, or confused about how to approach a personal issue I’m wrestling with in my mind, I just take out my journal and start writing about it. In the beginning of these journalling sessions, I feel like a little kid, just scribbling out a bunch of incoherent run-on sentences.

But then, once I’ve gotten the bullshit out of my system, something awesome happens: I start writing about my feelings. I start asking myself why I’m feeling the way I do… I write it all down. I get it all out. And it helps. It genuinely helps.

The stress may not go away entirely, but it’s a much better option than popping Prozac and drugging yourself up to cover it all up. In fact, journaling about the stuff that stresses you out helps you do something that drugs can never do: it allows you to uncover the root causes of your stress. And just like any of life’s other major challenges, we’ve got to start with the roots if we want to taste the fruits.

Here’s how this journaling idea works:

  • When you feel stressed, grab your journal and open to a fresh page
  • Start writing down everything that you feel stressed or tense or anxious about. It helps to ask and answer the following questions during your journaling session:
    • What am I stressed about?
    • Why do I feel this way?
    • What are some things I can do to alleviate the stress?
  • There aren’t any time restraints or page targets here—write for as long as you want, and fill as many pages as you want. The idea here, is to make you feel like you’re “getting it all out” as if you were calling up an old friend to rant about something you feel angry about. Think of it like ranting to a friend, except inside your journal. Write it all down. Get it all out.

6. “WHAT’S THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED TODAY?”

At the end of the night, right before bed, grab your journal and write down the single best thing that happened to you today. And yes, you’ve got to choose just ONE thing. The reason this specific question – “What’s the best thing that happened today?” – is so powerful is because it forces you to shift your focus onto something positive prior to dozing off to sleep… And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that it’s better to go to sleep thinking about something positive rather than it is to go to sleep thinking about something negative.

Here are some examples of how I’ve put this journaling idea to work in my own life:

“What’s the best thing that happened today?”

  • Example 1: “Recorded three audiobook summaries! Boom!”
  • Example 2: “Walked through the door, Nora ran up to me, gave me a huge hug and said, ‘I love you Dada’”
  • Example 3: “I read and responded to a really touching email sent by a a listener of the podcast

Here’s how this journaling idea works:

  • Open up to a fresh page in your journal, or, if possible, have a small journal dedicated specifically for this purpose to keep next to your bed.
  • Every night, before bed, take out your journal and answer this question: “What’s the best thing that happened today?” Then simple begin to write out the single best thing that you experienced today. That’s it.
  • Your answer can be a single sentence or several sentences. But the key to doing this consistently is to keep it simple. Write it down and then roll over and go to sleep.

RECAP: 6 JOURNALING IDEAS

  1. Write down your goals every day.
  2. Keep a daily log.
  3. Journal three things you’re grateful for every day.
  4. Journal your problems.
  5. Journal your stresses.
  6. Journal your answer to “What’s the best thing that happened today?” every night before bed.

You might be wondering whether I do all of these journaling exercises on a daily basis. The answer is No.

But there are a few that I do on a daily basis as of this writing: (#1) I write down my goals every day, (#2) I keep a daily log, and (#6) Every night before bed, I quickly jot down the single best thing that happened to me that day. These three, for me, are non-negotiable. The others, I do less frequently, or as necessary.

What you decide to do, is entirely up to you. But if you’ve never journaled before, my suggestion would be to pick just one thing from the list, try it out, and then move on to the next. Once you’ve tried them all, you can then decide which ones to keep in the mix, and which ones you could do without.

Whichever way you decide to go, just remember this:

If your life’s worth living, then it’s worth recording.

And one of the best ways to record it is with a journal.