Let’s talk about journals. I don’t share this lightly because it makes me feel a little old, but I’ve been journaling in some form or another since 1981. The point is, making time to capture important events or insights, reflecting on problems, celebrating achievements big and small all have value.
I come across a fair number of people who refuse to journal, either because they feel like they’re no good at writing or they don’t want to face what they put on the page. That’s fair. I look back at some of the things I wrote in my twenties, and I’m not entirely sure I want some of those entries ever to see the light of day. There are other times, though, when I captured a few words, and they formed a helpful article, kicked off a book, or aided me tremendously through difficult conversations.
Let’s shift the focus from journals as leather-bound tomes to preserve the truths of our time. Not all of us are channeling Marcus Aurelius. For this discussion, let’s not look at journals as a permanent record or worry about precious gilded pages that can not be torn from a book without incurring wrath. I’m talking about an affordable, useful notebook or legal pad caliber method to capture your thoughts, learning moments, commitments, or inspirations.
While there is something to be said for a single journal, or notebook, to capture everything, that relies on a chronological approach. Focus and concentration toward improvement sometimes require a categorical approach. Meaning, pick a category or two, and probably no more than three, that you would like to make observations, track or make improvements. The idea is to have an accessible working journal, so you have the flexibility to make quick notes or log detailed observations, and if you need to, tear a few pages out without any guilt. You could invest in a three subject notebook, but you want something small enough to carry with you or keep on your nightstand for morning alignment or evening reflection.
There are limitless categories to choose from, but I’ll share twelve that I find particularly helpful for busy professionals in our current environment.
An Assumptions Journal. We think we know a lot, but we seldom do. Use an Assumptions Journal to log your assumptions, the things you think you know but aren’t yet proven, and then go back over time, maybe 90 days, and see how well you did. A humbling and revealing exercise.
A Communications Journal. How many times have you left a conversation and then have your head consumed by all the things you should have said? Probably a lot if you don’t plan your discussions ahead of time. These conversations are also likely to ramble and weave around the point. That’s fine for a casual stroll but costly in business. Plan out what you want to say before you say it with a Communications Journal.
A Decisions Journal. You can hem and haw for days and weeks. Procrastination takes root very quickly. With a Decisions Journal, you list the decisions you have to make, and then you make them. If you keep it as a log, you can see how your decision-making’s caliber improves over time.
A Don’t Do Journal. You keep wasting your time, and it’s because you’re a good person who keeps ignoring your boundaries. You want to be helpful and useful, and that’s great, but at what cost? Keep track of the things you need to stop doing so you can quickly reference them and feel better about saying no to the things that are not worth your time.
A Figure it out Journal. We mull a lot of problems around in our mind. That’s okay, though what’s better is working them out on paper. Use a Figure It Out Journal to try and solve your own problems. Math equations, rhyming scheme, or pro/con lists, it’s your problem. Practice resourcefulness and figure it out.
A Joy Journal. Remind yourself of the things you like by recording them in a Joy Journal. When you make and read a list of all the things, big and small, in your world that bring you joy, you’ll lift your spirits and find it easier to show gratitude.
A Knowledge Journal. Some people come across as a know-it-all. Smart leaders know they don’t. Make a note of the pressing things you don’t know that you need to find out. These can be ways to improve your job, relationships, or attitude. Start with something you would like to learn more about, and then fill the Knowledge Journal pages.
A Leadership Journal. Great leaders know they can always improve. Use a Leadership Journal to capture your insights into and ways you could manage better and lead well.
A Quotes Journal. People are funny and inspiring. How often do you hear something in passing, maybe on television or from an eavesdropped conversation that you want to remember … but you don’t. Log them down in a Quotes Journal. This is also a great companion to your book reading.
A Recognition Journal. I highly recommend anyone who leads a team to keep a Recognition Journal. How do you recognize the good work of others? You can start by asking them if they like public or private recognition. Are there material things they could use that would also improve their job? People desperately want to feel seen and be acknowledged for the efforts they make. A Recognition Journal can help remind you to make your appreciation and thanks more meaningful.
Thoughts Journal. Have you thought about it, not only in passing but with deliberate calorie burning thinking? You might not unravel one of the mysteries of the universe, but you could. Jot down a few things you need to ponder and use a Thoughts Journal to note, mind map, or sketch ideas and see what develops.
A Wishes Journal. Make your wishes more concrete by putting them on paper. This will help focus your thoughts (and maybe your spending!) It’s also an excellent resource for when people ask you what you want for your birthday.
Which of these twelve ideas resonate with you? Or what would you add?
While you could use your phone or computer for all of this, honestly, for me, nothing beats writing things down and crossing them off. Maybe it’s generational, but there’s a satisfaction that comes from scratching something out with a pen that the delete button can not replicate.
As mentioned, you could use any notebook or legal pad of paper you have around the house. If you want to be slightly more organized and have the inclination, you can find the aforementioned categorized notebooks at LeadershirtsPlus.com.
No matter what you choose to do, be sure to keep advancing confidently in the direction of your dreams and help others along the way.