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How to Create a Habit of Writing in a Journal

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How to Create a Habit of Writing in a Journal

There are very few habits that have aged well with time as journaling.[1] That’s because it works incredibly well as the inner monologue everyone needs to have for a more productive and healthy living.

Journaling makes you self-aware of your own needs, strengths, and weaknesses. By writing down your thoughts, you get more clarity and confidence to make important decisions. It helps steer yourself in the path you want to go to.

If you are still not convinced, hard data from a Harvard Business school study should help you see the benefits of journaling. The findings of the study showed that employees who were encouraged to write up their experiences at the end of the day performed better.[2] The 15 minutes spent on journaling triumphed over the 15 minutes spent on extra work time.

Many researchers and famous thinkers have known to have kept extensive diaries to help them organize their thoughts and keep a record of their findings. Besides being a memory capsule, these diaries offer a lot of insight into how a person can improve themselves and get better at what they do.

Why Should You Write a Journal?

The major reasons why you would want to keep a diary are for focus, patience, planning and personal growth.[3]

  • Writing a journal lets you visualize your goals and gain clarity on your priorities. What you envision is the first step to what you want to achieve. With a personal diary, you get to visualize your goals and see the big picture of your own aspirations.
  • Your diary will become a tangible home to your ideas. They offer shape to the creative process you take to get the best out of your situation.
  • All your confusing and overwhelming thoughts can be streamlined and you can see where you are headed by articulating your daily experiences.
  • When you write a diary, you will find that you get a clearer understanding of your purpose and drive. You can self-criticize, find your own faults and be grateful and proud of your daily achievements and progress.
  • Your journal is for your own use. So it is a place for honesty and raw authenticity. By writing aloud all your thoughts, you will feel a lot better and have a focused growth.
  • It helps you organize your inner thoughts and take meaningful actions to bring your dreams closer to reality.

You will be surprised how much of a productivity boost the simple act of spending 10 minutes to write a diary can give you. Well, you wouldn’t know until you try.

Making a Habit of Writing a Journal

Anyone can write a journal and there is no one right way to journal.

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The thing about journaling is that you are not writing it for anyone else. You are writing it for yourself and you don’t have to care if it’s boring, or it has the right grammar or it looks pretty. It just has to be right for you.

Don’t wait for the perfect day or perfect experience to write about. Just start today. Spending just 10 minutes a day for a small write up can itself provide a visible improvement in whatever you do.

Wondering how you can keep up with the habit though? Let me help you with that. Here are some tips and suggestions to help you started with journaling:

1. Choose Your Medium

This is an obvious starting place and the choices are digital or paper. While traditionally, paper has been the most used medium, digital works fine too. The choice comes down to your comfort level and availability.

So my advice is – don’t spend too much time trying to choose the medium. Make the choice right away and stick to it.

Changing mediums often could be confusing and disrupt the thought process.

If you choose to go with paper and pen mode, try to find a notebook that works for you. Focus on the process of journaling and not the physical journal. It does not matter if the journal is too fancy, too big or too simple.

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Try using a dedicated app such as DayOne, Momento and Penzu; or writing tool that can be used offline if you choose to go digital.

Consistency is key to making it a habit. While you can make use of online storage to back up your journal, try to avoid being connected to the internet when you write.

Avoid distractions while you write. Your writing time is your ‘me time’. Don’t let that Facebook notification distract you.

2. Kickstart Writing

So you have got a pen and paper. Or maybe your phone or laptop. Either way, a blank page is now staring at you. Don’t think hard on finding the perfect words to start your journal. As I say repeatedly, your journal is for your own self.

Don’t second guess what you want to write. Just go with the flow. You need not restrict yourself to just prose.

You can write outlines of ideas, notes, make to-do lists, doodles, sketches, scrapbooking and anything you want. Anything you feel should be put in there, can go in there. Just let your creativity take its course.

3. Use Prompts

If required, you can make use of prompts to help you get started with.

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Start by having a conversation with yourself.

  • How was your day?
  • How do you feel?
  • What was new today?
  • What did you learn today?
  • What made you sad?
  • What did you find difficulty with?
  • What are you going to do tomorrow?

You can start the day by writing an outline of your plan for the day in the morning and then write again at the end of the day on how it went. This will help you see your progress and be aware of your growth.

4. Be Honest

Journaling only works if you are being honest. It is one place where you can know with certainty that you can open up and not be judged. Let out even the darkest of your thoughts and by the end of it, you will gain a little clarity.

When you look back, you can see how far you have come and literally witness your own growth and progress.

5. Don’t Skip Writing! Just Write Something, Anything

There may be days where you feel you have nothing significant to write. Sometimes you may feel too busy to write. But never miss out on writing, in any case. Because only with practice and consistency – a habit forms.

If you have nothing to write, try making use of prompts. Just begin by asking ‘ how was your day’.

If you had a great day, write what made you happy and write about the feelings of achievement.

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If your day was a struggle that seems endless, write about your obstacles and what you would do once you get rid of them.

You can even make plans for the future and write down your dreams when it feels pointless. Keep pushing yourself and visualize where you want to be. Journaling will help you trace back and find a way to victory.

Remember it is okay to go slow. You don’t have to rush it to simply be done with it. Take the time spent journaling as an investment in your productivity.

Once you start writing, you will see you have lots to write about.

Write about your ideas, goals, memories, things you are grateful for, feelings, dreams, achievements big and small, all the confusing thoughts you need to get out of, things you can’t say unless to yourself, your own story of life and all the ways you can improve.

You can even maintain particular journals such as study journals, dream journals and so on.

Get Started Now!

Productivity starts with being aware of your progress. And that, my friend, happens automatically when you start journaling. Start today and keep writing every day.

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More Tips on Productivity

Featured photo credit: fotografierende via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 9, 2021

10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

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10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

Productivity planners and journals are tools of a trade. There’s an art to productivity. Just like art is very personal to the artist, productivity is very personal to the person. What works for you may not work for me. This is an important distinction if you really want get more done in less time.

Too many of us dabble in productivity hacks only to move on to the next tool or trend when it didn’t workout for us, missing the lesson of what worked and didn’t work about that tool or trend.

We put the tool on a pedestal and miss the art. It’s worshipping the paint brush rather than the process and act of painting. We miss the art of our own productivity when the tool overshadows the treasure.

As an artist, you have many brushes to choose from. You’re looking for a brush that feels best in your hand. You want a brush that doesn’t distract you from your art but partners with you to create the many things you see in your mind to create. Finding a brush like this may take some experimenting, but when you understand that the role of the brush is to bring life to your vision, it’s easier to find the right brush.

Planners are the same way. You want a productivity journal that supports you in the creation of your vision, not one that bogs you down or steals your energy.

Let’s dive into the 10 best productivity planners and journals to help you get more done in less time.

1. The One Thing Planner

The NY Times best selling book, The One Thing, just released their new planner. If you loved this book, you’ll love this planner.

As the founder of the world’s largest real estate company Keller Williams Realty, Gary Keller, has mastered the art of focus. The One Thing planner has its roots in industry changing productivity. If you’re out to put a dent in the universe, this may be the planner for you.

Get the planner here!

2. The Full Life Planner

The Full Life Planner is Lifehacks’ ultimate planning system to get results across all your core life aspects including work, health and relationships. This smart planner is 15 years of Lifehack’s best practices and proven success formulas by top performers.

With the Full Life Planner, you can align your actions to long term milestones every day, week, and month consistently. This will help you to get more done and achieve your goals.

Get the planner here!

3. The Freedom Journal

Creator of one of the most prolific podcasts ever, Entrepreneur on Fire, John Lee Dumas released his productivity journal in 2016. This hard-cover journal focuses on accomplishing SMART goals in 100 days.

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From their site:

“The Freedom Journal is an accountability partner that won’t let you fail. John Lee Dumas has interviewed over 2000 successful Entrepreneurs and has created a unique step-by-step process that will guide you in SETTING and ACCOMPLISHING your #1 goal in 100 days.”

Get the planner here!

4. Full Focus Planner

Michael Hyatt, author of Platform and host of the podcast “This is Your Life”, also has his own planner called the Full Focus Planner.

From the site:

“Built for a 90-day achievement cycle, the Full Focus Planner® gives you a quarter of a year’s content so you aren’t overwhelmed by planning (and tracking) 12 months at a time.”

This productivity planner includes a place for annual goals, a monthly calendar, quarterly planning, the ideal week, daily pages, a place for rituals, weekly preview and quarterly previews. It also comes with a Quickstart lessons to help you master the use of the planner.

Get the planner here!

5. Passion Planner

They call themselves the #pashfam and think of their planner as a “paper life coach”. Their formats include dated, academic and undated in hardbound journals with assorted colors. With over 600,000 users they have a track record for effective planners.

From the site:

“An appointment calendar, goal setting guide, journal, sketchbook, gratitude log & personal and work to-do lists all in one notebook.”

They have a get-one give-one program. For every Passion Planner that is bought they will donate one to a student or someone in need.

They also provide free PDF downloads of their planners. This is a great way to test drive if their planner is right for you.

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Get the planner here!

6. Desire Map Planners

If you’re looking for a more spiritually oriented planner, Danielle LaPorte, author of The Desire Map, created the Desire Map Planners. With Daily planners, Weekly planners and Undated planners you can find the right fit for you.

Behind this planner is the Desire Map Planner Program including 3 workbooks that not only support you in using the planners but guide you in your thought process about your life and intentions you’re using the planner to help you fulfill.

Get the planner here!

7. Franklin Covey Planners

The grandfather of all planners, Franklin Covey, has the most options when it comes to layouts, binders, and accessories. With over 30 years in the productivity planner business, they not only provide a ton of planner layouts, they also have been teaching productivity and planning from the beginning.

From the site:

“Achieve what matters most with innovative, high quality planners and binders tailored to your personal style. Our paper planning system guides you to identify values, create successful habits, and track and achieve your goals.”

Get the planner here!

8. Productivity Planner

From the makers of the best selling journal backed by Tim Ferriss, “The Five Minute Journal”, comes the Productivity Planner.

Combining the Ivy Lee method which made Charles Schwab millions with the Pomodoro Technique to stay focused in the moment, the Productivity Planner is both intelligent and effective.

It allows for six months of planning, 5-day daily pages, weekly planning and weekly review, a prioritized task list, Pomodoro time tracking, and extra space for notes.

From the site:

“Do you often find yourself busy, while more important tasks get procrastinated on? The Productivity Planner helps you prioritize and accomplish the vital few tasks that make your day satisfying. Quality over quantity. Combined with the Pomodoro Technique to help you avoid distractions, the Productivity Planner assists you to get better work done in less time.”

Get the planner here!

9. Self Journal

Endorsed by Daymond John of Shark Tank, the Self Journal takes a 13 week approach and combines Monthly, Weekly and Daily planning to help you stay focused on the things that really matter.

Self Journal includes additional tools to help you produce with their Weekly Action Pad, Project Action Pad, the Sidekick pocket journal to capture your ideas on the go and their SmartMarks bookmarks that act as a notepad while you’re reading.

Get the planner here!

10. Google Calendar

You may already use Google Calendar for appointments, but with a couple tweaks you can use it as a productivity planner.

Productivity assumes we have time to do the work we intend to do. So blocking time on your Google Calendar and designating it as “busy” will prevent others from filling up those spaces on your calendar. Actually using those blocks of time as you intended is up to you.

If you use a booking tool like Schedule Once or Calendly, you can integrate it with your Google Calendar. For maximum productivity and rhythm, I recommend creating a consistent “available” block of time each day for these kinds of appointments.

Google Calendar is free, web based and to the point. If you’re a bottom line person and easily hold your priorities in your head, this may be a good solution for you.

Get the planner here!

Bonus Advice: Integrate the 4 Building Blocks of Productivity

Just as important to productivity planners as the tool are the principles that we create inside of. There are 4 building blocks of productivity, that when embraced, accelerate your energy and results.

The four building blocks of productivity are desire, strategy, focus and rhythm. When you get these right, having a productivity planner or journal provides the structure to keep you on track.

Block #1: Desire

Somehow in the pursuit of all our goals, we accumulate ideas and To-Do’s we’re not actually passionate about and don’t really want to pursue. They sneak their way in and steal our focus from the things that really matter.

Underneath powerful productivity is desire. Not many little desires, but the overarching mother of desires. The desire you feel in your gut, the desire that comes from your soul, not your logic, is what you need to tap into if you want to level up your productivity.

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A productivity planner is just a distraction if you’re not clear on what it’s all for. With desire, however, your productivity planner provides the guide rails to accomplish your intentions.

Block #2: Strategy

Once you’re clear on your overarching desire, you need to organize your steps to get there. Let’s call this “strategy”. Strategy is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. You must first turn over all the pieces to see patterns, colors, connections and find borders.

In business and life, we often start trying to put our “puzzle” together without turning over all the pieces. We put many items on our To-Do lists and clog our planners with things that aren’t important to the bigger picture of our puzzle.

Strategy is about taking the time to brain dump all the things in your head related to your goal and then looking for patterns and priorities. As you turn over these puzzle pieces, you’ll begin to see the more important tasks that take care of the less important tasks or make the less important tasks irrelevant.

In the best selling book, The One Thing, the focusing question they teach is:

“What’s the One thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else is easier or unnecessary?”

This is the heart of strategy and organizing what hits your planner and what doesn’t.

Block #3: Focus

With your priorities identified, now you can focus on the One Thing that makes everything else easier or unnecessary. This is where your productivity planners and journals help you hold the line.

Because you’ve already turned over the puzzle pieces, you aren’t distracted by new shiny objects. If new ideas come along, and they will, you will better see how and where they fit in the big picture of your desire and strategy, allowing you to go back and focus on your One Thing.

Block #4: Rhythm

The final building block of productivity is rhythm. There is a rhythm in life and work that works best for you. When you find this rhythm, time stands still, productivity is easy and your experience of work is joyful.

Some call this flow. As you hone your self-awareness about your ideal rhythm you will find yourself riding flow more often and owning your productivity.

Without these four building blocks of productivity, you’re like a painter with a paintbrush and no idea how to use it to create what’s in your heart to create. But harness these four building blocks and find yourself getting more done in less time.

The Bottom Line

Your life is your art. Everyday you have a chance to create something amazing. By understanding and using the four building blocks of productivity, you will set yourself up for success no matter which planner, or “paintbrush”, you choose to use.

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As you experiment with different planners you will narrow which one is best for you and accelerate your path to putting a dent in the universe.

More Tools to Boost Your Productivity

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

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