WHY & HOW of writing journal for success
Are you the kind of person that has dreams and goals and things to do and accomplish?
You know what you want but feel overwhelmed when thinking about all the amount of work you need to do?
Then you are in a right place.
“Writing journal is your secret key to success.”
You have a nice goal that makes you happy and excited.
But when it comes to taking your thoughts into action you just don’t know where to start. You tried all versions of to-do lists and productivity apps promising to change your life but nothing worked on you.
That was me some time ago. Juggling all my tasks somewhere in the air hoping everything will not fall down. And of course it did, it couldn’t be any other way. When I decided I have to go about it a different way.
I started looking into productivity and organization hacks, and found enormous amount of advices promising to simplify my life. But nothing worked for me.
And then I found journaling. Soon I realised that writing journal is an effective tool for gaining a deeper understanding of yourself and your work so that you can develop better habits and achieve goals.
After months of trial and error I finally cracked the code and found the best template for success journal.
Which I will now share with you here so you can start planing your success right now.
Anyone who at some point in life kept a journal will tell you the same thing: ˝Journaling is linked with my biggest improvements and accomplishments.˝
After reading several autobiographies of successful, influential people I came to one conclusion: they all practice self-reflection by writing journal.
WHY of writing journal
“Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.”
— Salvador Dali
You have enthusiasm, you have the passion, you have all the tools you need to succeed, but you lack discipline, confidence and faith.
Of course you lack confidence if you’re holding a big idea/goal in your head, it looks terrifying and intimidating. But when you break a big goal into small tasks it looks quite simple.
To accomplish any given task or goal it’s really simple. All you need is focus and steady progress.
Do you want to exercise? Start with one squat. Just one. Commit to at least one squat every day. One is better than none.
Want to write a book? Write one sentence. Just one. Commit to at least one sentence every day. One is better than none.
This is how focus and steady progress looks like.
Choose your goal, find the smallest step you can make and do it every day. Somewhere along the way you will naturally start doing more and more. Don’t believe me? I challenge you to go and do every day, for the next 30 days, the smallest step you can do towards your goal.
And here will come that journal to motivate you, help you maintain focus and keep track of your progress.
Once you start journaling you will observe that you are more sensible with your time and consequently more productive, and you will wonder why you didn’t do this before.
Now let’s dig into the how.
HOW of writing journal
WRITING vs TYPING
First choose your media. Will you write your journal, pen on paper action, or will you type it on laptop is individual decision.
I wrote my journals both ways and observed this. While writing I am more in touch with my emotions and tend to observe and reflect more. On the other hand while typing I tend to be more rational and type all thoughts that come to me immediately without much thinking about them. Since I like both methods, I resolved to type while doing thought dump (releasing my brain from trivial thoughts, I found this to be very calming and beneficial for concentration). But to write while doing reflection and progress journal.
I suggest you try both ways and see how they affect you.
Now grab some notebook or open a program of your choice and start planning and tracking your success.
PLAN FOR SUCCESS
No matter what your desire is, whether is simple as drinking more water or more challenging as starting your own business, principles are the same.
You need a good plan.
Start by writing your goals and vision of your future, where do you see yourself in next 6 months. While writing this be courageous, shoot higher than you think you can reach.
If you woke up tomorrow with no fear, what would you do first?
As long as you hold your wishes in your head, that is all they will ever be, just a wish. But once you take your thoughts out on a paper, they become tangible, they become real.
Now that you have your wish out of the head and into the spotlight it’s overwhelming. When I write my wishes I go from super-excited-ready-to-move-montains to brain-paralisis-don’t-know-how-to-do-anything-anymore. And that’s ok, it means that you finally moved from dreaming stage into planing stage.
By writing a plan for achieving a goal you took a first step towards your goal. It may seem small and insignificant, but it is the most important step you can take. Plan is your blueprint for success.
Writing a plan is really straightforward, it consists of 4 steps. More detailed you make your plan, easier will be to follow it through.
1. Write your goal or vision statement
Your goal or vision statement will go on the very first page so you see it every time you open the journal. It can be just one sentence written in big bold letters, or mind map. Be as creative as you want, or don’t, what matters is that you have clear goal written or pictured that will resonate with you when you see it. If pictures motivate you more than words than draw a picture that will tell the story of your goal.
2. Write most important steps or milestones
Write as much milestones as you can think of. Write them in form of list or a mind map.
For example if your goal is to publish a book, list of milestones would look something like this.
3. Write all the skills you will need
Your skills are tools with wich you will shape your success. Every task requires certain set of skills, find which skills you need and write them down.
For each skill write how good you are at it right now and what you need to do to improve.
There is abundance of free resources on internet. Whatever you want to learn there is YouTube video or a blog with detailed instructions on how to do it. You don’t need to go anywhere or pay for expensive classes. Nothing is stopping you from achieving all you want.
Get out of your own way and start honing your skills.
4. For each milestone and for each skill write detailed steps you will take
You already broken down your goal into milestones and skills.
Now take first milestone and write deadline for accomplishing it. Then write what will you do every day from now until deadline. Write as detailed as possible, what, when, how long.
Then take a skill you want to improve (or learn), write what will you do every day (and for how long) to practice your new skill.
When you accomplish your first milestone do the same for second, third and so on.
This is your plan. I suggest you to read it before compiling your daily task log to keep you focused and motivated.
Now we move on to every day entries.
This is you basic to-do list. Just write all tasks you have to do that day. Brain is for thinking not storing. So release your brain from holding trivial information such as wash clothes or pay bills. You can write time for each task so you are more in control of how you spend your time.
Make sure to give yourself a measurable, minimal goal for each task.
For example: you are learning a new language (skill) and your task is to expand vocabulary. Then write you will learn a minimum of 15 new words.
“What gets tracked gets improved.”
While examining your performance, focus only on two categories: success and need to give more efforts.
Word failure doesn’t exist in your journal, and best it would be to extract it from life in general. Failure is just an excuse for not trying hard enough.
Your journal is not a place for judgement, but a place for reflection and growth.
If you completed task as you planed or better, you succeeded. Make a memory of it, feel proud of yourself and write about it. Name difficulties you had to overcome and how you solved them. Did you have any doubts in your abilities to complete the task, document it, highlight it, and next time you start doubting yourself go through these successes to regain faith in your competences.
If you didn’t complete a task as you wish you did, you didn’t fail you just have to try harder. Write about what you can do to improve.
For each task, you were working on that day, make record of strategies you used, progress you made and problems you encountered. It doesn’t have to be long description, just few key points. The best would be if you could write this immediately after completing a task, while it’s still fresh in your mind.
In this study was measured that students who kept self-reflective journal performed much better than student who didn’t keep a journal.
By self-reflection you give yourself feedback on where you need to improve and encouragement in your own competence to achieve desired goal.
DAY to DAY REFLECTIONS
Ask yourself right questions, and be honest with yourself while answering them.
Why didn’t I ____________ today?
For every task, that you didn’t complete, answer this question. If you regularly have trouble accomplishing all your tasks, even though you are working hard. Then accept your human limitations and remove few tasks from the list. And be honest, don’t lie to yourself. If you are not giving all you can, admit it to yourself. I find this question awakening, it makes me own up to my own laziness and in turn motivates me to act.
What can I do today to better myself tomorrow?
Or ˝What can I do today, to be more productive tomorrow?˝ or ˝What can I do today to make my work easier tomorrow?˝ By asking myself this question every day I actually do more. Instead of watching tv in the evening I decide it would be better to read a book. Or instead of scrolling through news feed I go for a walk or light jog. We all have a problem with wasting time on social media. To fight this I like to ask myself: ˝If there was no s.m. what would I do now?˝ and then I go and do that.
What’s one opportunity you have now that you have not taken?
Opportunities come and go more frequently than we may think, but we get too busy to notice them. Ask yourself this question now and then, and maybe you will discover something that was hiding in a plain sight.
When was the last time you tried something new?
Novelty is what helps us grow. Our brains develop more after 5 minutes of doing something new then after 1000 hours of repeating the same task. Spend every day 5 minutes doing something new (or something you didn’t do for a long time), and write about it in your journal. What did you do, how did you feel? It may seem simple and silly but this little exercise will boost your brain and draw a big smile on your face.
Is it out of reach? Or have you just not stretched yourself far enough?
If you ever think about giving up on your goals, because you think you can’t reach them. Ask yourself this question.
“Reading helps us learn from the mistakes of others since we can’t live long enough to make them all ourselves.”
Real education starts after you finish school and start to explore and learn for yourself.
Reading books is the best investment you can make for yourself. But not just any book. Choose books that will expand and deepen your knowledge on topics in your field of business.
And don’t just read them mindlessly. Study those books, take notes, double-check facts and write your observations in the journal.
Have ever-growing list of books you want to read.
There are hundreds of book on any topic you can think of. Figure out where you lack the knowledge to succeed and then go and find books that will give you that knowledge.
Write down list of at least 10 books you need to read. And every time you finish one of them add a new one to the list. This way you will always be behind with your reading, which should motivate you to keep reading.
FEW LAST TIPS
Leave margins free for highlighting references important events, milestones or writing in additional thoughts or inspiring quotes
I found evaluation of my work to be extremely motivational. That is why at the end of every week I summarize with few bullet points what I accomplished that week. And at the end of month I gather all those weekly entries and observe where I succeeded and where I need to improve. Then you can compare your plans with achievements and see where you stand. I look forward to these evaluations because they always have an effect, either I get reality check or motivation boost.
It all starts and ends with small steps. Wake up, make a plan, do the first thing, then the second…
Always move forward, no matter how small progress is, it is for sure better than no progress.
Now that you know all my secret tricks that help me accomplish all goals, I would like to here from you.
Do you track your progress with journal, and if you do, what prompts do you use that help you stay motivated and focused?