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Need Journal Inspiration? 15 Journal Ideas to Kickstart

Need Journal Inspiration? 15 Journal Ideas to Kickstart
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Journaling is a powerful tool that can help sharpen your brain and mind so that you can become more successful, think more clearly, and reach your goals.

Journaling is one of the top strategies that contribute to many entrepreneurs and high achievers’ success inside and outside the workplace.

Maybe you’re unsure of how to get started with the habit of journaling, or maybe you’re looking for journal ideas to sharpen your brain to maximize your productivity and happiness.

If you need journal inspiration, this article is for you. In this article, we’ll look at the top 15 journal ideas you can use to sharpen your brain:

1. Set a Structure for Your Journal

If the idea of opening a blank journal and trying to figure out what to write for the day seems daunting to you, then have no fear. One of the simplest ideas to avoid having to think about what to write about in your journal is to create a structure that works well for you.

First, think about what your goal is with journaling. Is it to increase your productivity? Be more creative? De-stress?

Knowing the reason why you are journaling will help you create a structure for your own journal. You can create a list of questions that you want to answer every day or action steps.

For example, you may structure your journal like this:

  • What am I grateful for today? (Give 5 meaningful examples)
  • What are the top 3 tasks I need to accomplish today?
  • What goals am I currently working towards?
  • How do I want to better myself today?

Get inspiration from other people who journal and start implementing the structure that works best for you. Having a set structure that you use every day can make journaling more effective and easier to stick with.

2. Use To-Do Lists to Hack Your Dopamine

Many people use journaling as a way to manage their tasks and to-do lists. One brain hacking strategy is to cross out your accomplished tasks with red ink.

It may seem silly, but when your brain recognizes the bright red ink crossing out a task that has been performed, it helps stimulate a release of dopamine, your reward and motivation neurotransmitter.

Dopamine is what allows you to feel the reward of accomplishing a task, but it also will help increase your motivation, which can help you become more productive, focused, and motivated to continue journaling.

3. Write Just One Sentence (Seriously)

For some, the idea of having to sit down for more than 5 minutes and write a long entry every single time can make journaling feel more like homework than a helpful habit.

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There are no rules or requirements for journaling. You don’t need at least 500 words with an introduction, body, and conclusion. If you want, you could even do as little as just one sentence.

Maybe it’s a busy day and you simply don’t have the time you usually do to sit down and journal. Writing just a sentence or two can help your brain continue the habit of journaling so that it can stick. It can also take some pressure off of you from feeling like you have to write more, just because that’s what you are “supposed” to do.

Also allowing yourself to write less forces your brain to hone into what’s important. If you only have a few sentences to write, most likely you won’t write about what you want to have for lunch, you’ll focus on what’s truly important at that moment.

4. End Your Entry with Your Top Goals (Day, Month, Lifetime)

A great idea for seamlessly transitioning from journaling to starting your day is to end your journal entry with your top goals or tasks. Typically, you’ll write out your current goals for the day ahead, whether they be for work, diet, or fitness. This helps to prime your brain to look forward to the day ahead.

You can also include your bigger goals for the month, year, or even for your life. By writing your goals down on regular basis, it helps orient your brain and your decisions toward the direction of your goals.

It’s the steady reminder of what you are working towards so that you can achieve it as quickly as possible.

Need a little help in how to set goals? This article can help: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

5. End Your Day with Journaling

Many first-timers to journaling are under the impression that you need to journal first thing in the morning. Although journaling first thing in the morning is great, it is not necessary.

Many people choose to journal in the evening as a way to decompress from the day and set the tone for the next day.

Journaling at night also can help you de-stress and write down anything that may be bothering from earlier that day, so that you can get it off your mind, onto paper, and be able to get good sleep.

6. Practice Gratitude

Studies show that practicing gratitude actually helps your brain become better. Practicing gratitude helps activate your hypothalamus, which is part of your limbic system, to help you better regulate your emotions, behaviors, and even improve motivation.[1]

Practicing gratitude first thing in the morning helps your brain gain a positive perspective to start the day. It helps your brain look for the good in the day, rather than only preparing for the worst.

This idea is incredibly simple to implement. Just write down 3-5 things that you are grateful for. You can express gratitude for people, experiences, circumstances, events, or blessings that you may be thankful for.

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The more gratitude you can feel the better, which means you want to try and come up with responses that truly resonate with you (the recent job promotion that allows you and your spouse to travel more) instead of finding generic reasons (food, water, shelter). Although you may be grateful for those things, they may not resonate as deeply.

Learn more about starting a gratitude journal: How a Gratitude Journal and Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life

7. Write One Positive Thing That Happened in Your Day

What you focus on becomes powerful in your brain. Have you ever had a good day but you couldn’t seem to get past the one bad event that happened that day?

Our brain is trained to look towards the negative as a natural protective response, but you can retrain your brain to focus on the positive.

When you write down one or more positive things that happened that day, it helps your brain reframe the day in a positive light and actually helps to train your brain to focus on the positive aspects of your day rather than the negative.

8. Affirmations

Your thoughts can change your brain. Affirmations are a useful tool for retraining your brain. Affirmations are positive reinforcements to push your brain in the direction you desire.[2]

Do you want to be more confident? You can write down a list of affirmations as a way to retrain your brain to believe what you want to believe. Here’re some affirmations examples:

  • I am fully confident and secure in myself.
  • I am beaming with confidence and self-assurance.
  • I don’t let my insecurities prevent me from reaching my goals.

Write down a few pieces of gratitude every morning to direct your brain in the direction of your goals to start the day.

You can find more affirmations ideas here: 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life

Or try one of these affirmations apps: 10 Uplifting Positive Affirmation Apps That Help You Re-Center on the Go

9. Restate Your Purpose and Mission

Why did you wake up today?

What’s the purpose and mission of your day? Are you currently working towards a specific goal?

Being able to state your mission and purpose helps to set the intention for your day ahead so that every action and choice you make during the day is directed towards your purpose and mission.

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This allows you to be able to say no to activities that may be taking you away from your goal. Then you can stay focused on the activities that will keep you in alignment with your purpose and mission.

Want to learn more about the importance of having a purpose? This article has some good advice: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

10. Unload Your Stress

We all have those difficult and challenging events that life inevitably throws our way. Often times, we have a tendency to hold onto that stress and ruminate over it. Holding onto that stress can begin effect not only our work life but our personal life as well.

Chronic stress is one of the biggest killers of brain health and performance. Research shows that chronic or extreme stress can actually cause your brain to shrink.[3]

Have you ever felt less stressed after talking to someone about the challenges you are facing? Unloading your stress into a journal entry is a similar strategy.

By unloading your stress into your journal, it can help your brain de-stress and even help you get a different perspective on the problem.

11. Reflect on Old Journal Entries

If you were trying to lose weight for several months and felt like you didn’t get the results you were hoping for but then you decided to weigh yourself, you might realize you actually lost more weight than you thought.

Change happens slowly and often times we don’t realize how much we have actually grown in the months or years that have passed.

A helpful aspect of journaling is that after you have been practicing the habit for some time, you can reflect back on old entries.

Reflecting on old journal entries gives your brain an overview of that change that has occurred from the old entry until now, which can help motivate your brain to keep going.

12. Brainstorm

Are you currently feeling stuck on a problem and not sure what’s going to be the next best step? Journaling can help your brain get more clarity on the best solution.

Being able to lay out all aspects of the problem on paper can help your brain better work the problem so you can get to the best solution quicker and easier than trying to process just in your head.

Looking at the same problem through a different lens gives you a whole new picture that can help you solve it.

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13. Tell a Story

Creativity is like a muscle – if you don’t use it, you lose it. Your brain loves routine but if you do the same journal routine over and over, your brain doesn’t change.

Instead of your normal routine of journaling, mix it up by telling a story. This trains your brain to become more creative, adaptable, and changeable.

Writing a story helps your brain break free from routine and start thinking outside the box. This can help improve your creativity in other aspects of your life as well.

14. Check-In with Your Goals

As we discussed earlier, many use their journal as a place to write down their goals. As you progress, you can use journal entries to check-in with yourself to see how you are tracking towards your goals.

Maybe you realize that you are not as close to your goal as you hoped. Below your discovery, write down a few action steps to get you back on course toward hitting your goals.

15. Create Compelling Vision

If you want to become more motivated, then you need something compelling to look forward to.

Unclear goals or destinations rarely get reached. The clearer the vision, the easier it will be for your brain to visualize and attain that outcome.

In a perfect world, what would your ideal future look like? Where would you live? How much money are you making? What kind of car do you drive? Where do you get to travel?

Creating this compelling future is a fun idea to help your brain become more motivated to achieve that goal.

Bottom Line

Just like anything else, journaling gets better with time and practice. So, give journaling some time.

At first, it may feel a bit awkward; but over time you’ll find your rhythm and routine that best suits your goals, your lifestyle, and your personality.

If you’re ready to take your journaling to the next level, start incorporating these 15 journaling ideas to take your brain power to the next level.

More About Journaling

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Oxford Academic: The Neural Basis of Human Social Values: Evidence from Functional MRI
[2] The Annual Review of Psychology: The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention
[3] CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2006 Oct; 5(5): 503–512.: Stress and Brain Atrophy

More by this author

Dr Brady Salcido

Dr Brady is a Doctor, Podcast Host, and Brain Optimization Expert sharing how you can use your lifestyle to upgrade your life.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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