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Become a Better Person by Keeping a Journal

Become a Better Person by Keeping a Journal

Life comes and goes quickly. One day you are young, vibrant, and “taking charge” and then all of the sudden your are waking up, going through the motions and putting your time in. As your life passes you by, your experiences are some of the most important things you have to show for it.

Rather than let your life pass as a stream of experiences that you won’t remember later or never stop to process their meaning, keep a journal to become a better person.

Journal now to remember later

Because your life moves so fast, it’s important to keep a record of it as it passes. There are so many little things that happen to us every day that shape us as a person. Accounting for these experiences as they happen can show us how we came to important decisions later in life.

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Not only that, but journaling now can help us produce something that we can share with loved ones later in life or can use to reflect on when we need to make large life changing decisions.

Ever since I have been keeping a journal, there have been times when I have had to make a decision or have been presented with a problem and realized that I have written about the situation before. It’s great to go back and read things that I have written in the past to help my present self.

Journal to process feelings

Another great practice of journaling is to process your emotions and to help you move on with your life. For instance, if you have someone close that hurt you or even someone that passed away and you never got the chance to tell them the things that you wanted to tell them, writing “a letter” to them to express yourself can be a very healthy thing to do.

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For instance, there were things that I didn’t get to say to my father before he died. Instead of keeping the range of feelings and emotions inside, it was suggested to me to write a letter to him and read it “to him”. This has been one of the most important things that I have done to process those emotions.

You don’t have to keep your writings either. Some people write for the sake of getting their feelings out of their head and on paper only to burn them or destroy them.

Journal your successes

Another great thing to add to a journal is all of your successes. When you hit any lows in your life, it’s nice to go back and see that you aren’t a total failure and that you do have something to offer humanity. We can be really hard on ourselves, especially if we fail at something, aren’t received by people as we think that we should be, or don’t meet our own expectations.

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Having a detailed account of our successes helps us get out of negative ruts and helps us to move forward in our lives.

Journal to understand your failures

Journaling your failures is just as important as journaling your successes.

First, we can learn from our failures. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Writing down your failures and learning from them keeps us from going crazy and making the same mistakes over and over.

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Second, understanding that you are faliable is an important thing. We all can’t be amazing and awesome every second of every day. Understanding that you can and will fail keeps you level-headed and realistic. It also gives your permission to makes mistakes every once in a while without being extremely hard on yourself.

How to keep a journal

Now that you know the benefits of keeping a journal, how do you go about it? Here are several ways to keep a journal:

  • At the bare minimum write once a week. I prefer to write at least once a day, sometimes several smaller entries during the day, but if you are writing once a week, every week, you are way ahead of the game. You can use software like Day One, a plain text file, or even a pen and piece of paper (you ol’ hipster, you).
  • If you don’t want to write, you can record audio or video as your journal. The cost of storage is getting cheaper and cheaper, so keeping your life’s story in audio or visual form is now more doable than ever. Also, there is something special about saying your thoughts out loud. I know that it may seem crazy to “talk to yourself”, but before you throw it out, at least give it a try, especially if you don’t like sitting down and grinding out text.
  • Keep your journal private. Some people don’t mind to have their thoughts read aloud, but the truth of the matter is that the more private your journal is, the more that you will trust it to write the important things that you need to write. It’s OK to have feelings and observations that know one else knows.

(Photo credit: Black Moleskine notebook via Shutterstock)

More by this author

CM Smith

A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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