Journalling is becoming increasingly popular. And for good reason. It is the simplest and most effective way to get organised (yes, research is showing it’s more effective than those digital tools you use) and, used the right way, it can help with everything from stress management and self-awareness, to personal effectiveness, mindfulness and everything in between. Do these sounds like benefits you would like to have? Then read on – here are five reasons you should start using a journal now.
Organise Your Tasks
Ok, so let’s start with the practical stuff. Writing down your tasks every morning does some really amazing things for your productivity. Firstly, it makes you commit to what is going to get done that day and, in a way, then makes you commit to what isn’t going to get done. Making the effort to write down your tasks every day also makes you question whether that particular job is worth your time and attention. In other words, it helps you question and prioritise what is truly important.
We tend to remember things we physically write more easily than things we don’t, keeping this tasks front of mind throughout the day.
Track Your Goals
Journals give voice to your biggest goals and ambitions, but are also safe spaces where you will not be judged. This allows you to really let go of any fears and write about the things that you truly want to achieve and the things you care about the most. Writing your goals in this way brings them closer to reality, allows you to assess where you are in achieving them, and makes you think about what you need to do (sometimes right now!) in order to get closer to those aspirations.
It also just makes you feel good. Writing about your goals (even just writing them out every now and then or re-reading about them) gives your brain a great little squirt of dopamine, which is our true performance and motivation chemical.
If you get creative, you can even use visual graphs, diagrams or cues to track your goal achievement. This sense of progress can act as a huge motivator for getting closer to your goals.
Improve Mental Health
Journalling can give you a release for stress, worry and anxiety. Research shows that writing succinctly about your feelings helps reduce emotional turmoil and can improve subsequent performance on mental tasks. It can help your self esteem by giving you a non-threatening platform to give yourself praise and write about your strengths.
Writing about your feelings can also help you rationalise them. When you start to ask yourself why you are feeling a certain way, and then start to challenge the thoughts that you have about yourself and situations, you can start to reject unhelpful thought patterns and eventually change hour inner dialogue. Writing is a far more effective tool for this than merely thinking it through and it gives us dedicated actions to do it effectively.
In fact, in one study, as little as 15-20 minutes of writing in a journal for 3-5 occasions was enough to help the study participants deal with traumatic or stressful events, which is why it is prescribed almost universally by psychologists and counsellors.
Boost Creativity and Problem Solving
We all have ideas and thoughts that we would really like to flesh out, but we never find the time. Once you start writing in a journal, you will find that you have an incubator for those ideas. After all, writing has been shows to help you process complex problems and ideas . And there’s a bunch of research that shows we are far more creative when we have a pen and paper in hand. Creativity is a skill that we all need, but which rarely gets dedicated time for practice. Writing in a journal is a way to find time to devote to honing this skill.
[see this article on hacking creativity https://www.performancelab.com.au/Blogs/5-Ways-to-Be-More-Creative-By-Hacking-Creativity ]
Give You an Avenue for Reflection
Our brain’s 3 millions year old operating system still like to remember negative events. In fact, negative events have a far greater impact on our emotions and long term memory than positive events do. This was a great survival mechanism when we had to remember the location where our cave-buddy got attacked, but it’s not so great when it’s making us dwell on that negative feedback we got from a client eight hours ago.
The cure for this is a five minute exercise called daily reflection, where we recall some of the great things that happened throughout the course of our day.
[see this article on why reflection is the best 5 minute investment you can make https://www.performancelab.com.au/Blogs/Daily-Reflection-The-Best-5-Minute-Investment
Research from Harvard suggests that just doing this positive reflections once a week can boost happiness and optimism scores dramatically. When you use a journal, you can start the habit of doing this reflection every day and get a greater effect than just thinking about it (which, let’s be honest, you probably aren’t going to do). In this way, writing has the ability to instantly change your emotions, attitude and motivation regarding your day.
So, there you have it. Five reasons you should start journalling right now. Some are pragmatic and utilitarian, others are a bit more holistic. But I can guarantee, if you do it with intention, you will get benefits you didn’t imagine.
If you want to get your hands on a copy of our Focus Planner – which has most of these benefits and prompts built in – just go here: https://shop.performancelab.com.au/focus-planner-journal-2-0/
** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert focussed on helping leaders build the environment for high performance. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and combines the two for a different perspective. He is also the author of Jack and the Team that Couldn't See and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe.