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Published on December 23, 2019

How to Create a Habit of Writing in a Journal

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.

More Tips on Productivity

Featured photo credit: fotografierende via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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