I was asked recently if I’d be willing to share my method for journaling. Journaling is something I’ve been doing routinely for the past 2.5 years. And while I’ll confess it’s something I neither enjoy nor love, it’s proven to be effective in helping with clarity of thought and Anchoring each day. I consider it my ONE thing that makes everything else easier.
In detailing my methodology, I’ve broken down each section of my journal with a brief overview and explanation. I’ve included a few resources at the very bottom for someone who’d like a template and/or a real journal entry from my notebook (taken on the day this post was written).
What I use:
Before I dive into it, it’s important to cover what I use to journal. I record everything in Evernote. Some individuals prefer having a physical hand-written journal while others may use a different alternative. In terms of ease-of-use, accessibility, and search-functionality, Evernote is my go-to.
Within Evernote, I have a notebook specifically devoted to “Daily Learnings.” Each journal entry is titled: Daily Learning <mm/did/yy>.
I like formatting it this way because I can type in “Daily Learning <mm/dd>” in the search bar within Evernote and find all journal posts written on that day from previous years. It’s one of the first things I do in the morning. Because I’ve built up a database of about 2.5 years of journals, this serves as one of the greatest encouragements in the morning. If you ever find yourself stuck in a rut, look back at where you were in the past and compare it with where you are today.
“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?” – C.S. Lewis
Within my journal, it’s broken down into several sections:
I write myself an encouraging few sentences every morning. This is by far my hardest and least favorite section.
Why do I do this? I was chatting with a friend recently and let slip how hard I am on myself, far worse than anyone else. The words from my inner critic are reprimandable at best and downright disgusting at worst.
This section is an introduction to being kinder to myself. It’s how I would encourage someone else, but that person is me. The hope is that as I continue to build this into habit, there will come a day when I’m much more accepting and appreciative of who I am.
Every person is a work in progress, I’m no different.
This is a bullet point list of things I’m grateful for. They can include “beautiful weather, lunch with XXX, closing a deal.” These should be victories worth celebrating. They can be as small or grandiose as you’d like.
The purpose is to remind myself there are always things worth celebrating, even in the worst of days.
Some days, not a lot of things go well and this section may simply read: I made my bed.
It’s the little things.
This section includes a bullet-point list of people, situations, and things to pray for.
As part of my morning ritual, I often read one prayer from one of my favorite books, The Valley of Vision. If there’s a certain section that sticks out, I’ll copy the stanza in my journal. Reading this entry in the future is just as encouraging as reading it in the present.
I’ll typically spend about 30 minutes reading the Bible and pulling takeaways and /or application.
This section is for my to-do list. I segment this between both personal and work. The tasks on this list typically get blocked into my calendar for the day so most, if not all, hours of the day are accounted for. Tasks that don’t get completed get rolled over into the following day.
Personal goals. This could be laundry, remember to call mom, grocery shop, meal prep, etc.
This is what I need to get done during the workday. Send email to xxx, draft agreement, etc.
This section is for the annual goals I set for myself. Almost all of them have some sort of quantifiable metric to track throughout the year. Research studies show that an individual is 42% more likely to accomplish his/her goals if they write them down. Because I see this list every day, I’m more inclined to stick to it.
My goals are broken out across several categories which you may have seen in my New Year’s Resolution. If you are married and or have kids, I would also include a “Family” section.
- Nutrition and/or fitness goals
- Personal faith walk
- Caring for others
- Ways to recharge
- Work goals
- Sales goals
- Things that help with personal growth or learning
The last section are my daily thoughts and happenings. I journal in this section throughout the day. These could include any insightful quotes, interesting articles, or things I want to remember about today.
It helps spending a couple minutes at the end of the day to record this while the day’s events are still fresh.
I’ll be completely honest, journaling takes up a good amount of time during my day. It roughly breaks down to 1-1.5hrs in the morning + an additional 30 minutes throughout the day. If I didn’t feel like it has provided me with much more in mental fortitude and direction, I probably wouldn’t be doing it. But for me, it’s worth it. Granted, it’s also taken a solid 6 months for this to develop into habit.
Do what works best for you. Certain strategies work for me that may not work for you, but at the very least, I wanted to provide a comprehensive breakdown of how I do it if you want to extract it for your practices.
I’ve included resources below of a blank template as well as my journal entry from when I originally drafted this post. It’s unaltered with the exception of name changes to respect privacy.
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Journal Template (if you’d like to copy & paste)
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If you already have Evernote downloaded, you can access my template by clicking here.