Learning how to journal is a must-have practice to acquire if you want to enjoy a successfully-managed career. It’s also an excellent way to explore ideas, solve problems, and plan strategies. In times of uncertainty, when it’s hard to know whom to trust or what prescriptions to follow, keeping a journal also develops your inner voice and connects you to your inner knowledge.
When we learn how to journal, we are able to access the state of “flow” — the feeling that we are fully immersed, focused, and connected to our most inspired and productive abilities. It’s a sense of quiet exhilaration.
Studies show that people who experience flow often report feeling more in control, having a clear sense of direction, and being more motivated and less stressed. The more regularly you journal, the more often you can achieve this flow state. It’s a great way to maintain your connection to your highest-level priorities and to your overall career goals and plans.
Knowing how to journal can also serve as a healthy outlet for self-expression, allowing you to explore your creativity and express yourself in a safe and private space. If you are in growth mode or in transition in your career and looking to get a promotion or add to your responsibilities, your journal can be your workshop to figure things out.
Common Challenges to Journaling Regularly
Journaling regularly is challenging, and you may have previously tried and failed to figure out how to journal regularly. Our mind often puts up roadblocks and gives us plenty of reasons not to engage in this practice. Here are some of our most common fears:
#1. “I don’t know what to write about”
This is a common complaint from people who are new to journaling or haven’t journaled for a while. Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong thing to write about. The objective in this kind of journaling practice is to focus on what’s coming up for you in the present moment and write anything that comes to mind.
You can start by writing about things you did during the day, how you felt, your day-to-day experiences, goals, feelings, or your plans for the future, and write them down. You can also try to assign yourself daily journaling prompts or freeform writing exercises to get your ideas flowing.
#2. I’m not a “words” person
You don’t need to be a writer with an English degree to express yourself. If you’re not a pen-and-paper person, try using different mediums. Consider using the dictation feature on your phone to simply speak your thoughts and capture them into a digital note.
#3. I don’t have the time
Figuring out how to journal doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Even a few minutes of journal writing each day can gradually improve your ability to fit it into your schedule so that you can build a habit out of it.
Set aside a specific time of day to journal, such as first thing in the morning or before bed. You can also try to integrate journaling into your daily routine, carving out a few minutes at the beginning or the end of another standing ritual (e.g. a staff meeting) that you already have on your calendar..
#4. I’m just going to write stupid, superficial stuff
If you are feeling self-conscious about your writing and worry that what you have to say is not important or boring, remember that keeping a journal is something private, just for you. You don’t even need to read what you write! The important part of the process is to experience those thoughts and ideas as they come up. I always reassure clients that it’s fine to make it “meta” and write about how they hate writing in their journal and curse at me for encouraging them to keep the journal in the first place.
Give Yourself Permission
There is no failure in journaling. Everyone’s experience is unique, and it’s okay if journaling doesn’t come naturally to you. Give yourself permission to be imperfect, to be irregular, or to show up in whatever way you show up. Your intention and your willingness to keep at it is what’s most important.
If you are concerned about being judged, remember what I said above: no one has to read your journal. Because the idea is to encourage the flow of thoughts and ideas, it’s not even important for you to read or re-read what you’ve written. Whatever your is experience with each journal entry, it’s important to simply file that experience away and move on.
This is the way to develop a journaling practice that is meaningful, supportive, and fulfilling.
There’s Nothing Magical About Three Pages
While Cameron’s process encourages you to write three hand-written pages, that can be intimidating. It may not seem like a lot to a professional writer, but for the rest of us, I recommend dialing back on our ambition – while still getting the intended result.
For most people, I recommend starting with a single hand-written page in a medium-sized lined notebook (like the Moleskine Classic 5”x8.25” Notebook). The format is compact and friendlier than a regular letter-sized notebook, especially when you are first learning how to journal.
And if the idea of having a paper notebook feels like too much additional friction in your life, try the dictation approach I mention above. But make sure to capture each entry into a dedicated note-taking app like Apple Notes, Evernote, or OneNote.
Overcoming the “I Hate Journaling” Response
Rather than viewing journaling as a chore, try to look at it from a different perspective: reframe it as a self-care practice. Think of it as an opportunity for personal growth, or at the very least, your own sacred venting session.
Consider making a deal with yourself. Start small by making micro-commitments, such as journaling for a finite period — say, ten minutes at a time, once a day. Or maybe you agree to three times per week for two weeks. If you create finite time-based commitments, once you’re complete with that commitment, you’ll be able to evaluate how well you did and renegotiate a new deal to keep going. Maybe you dial it back so that you can fulfill the deal. Maybe you’re ready to increase the commitment to something more challenging.
Turn the process into a game and see if you can keep taking yourself to the next level.
Choose an approach that is challenging enough to push you out of your comfort zone, but not so challenging that you’ll get discouraged and drop out. When you succeed, you will feel proud of yourself and encouraged to continue.
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