Journaling is one of the most powerful tools to investigate our minds. It helps us work through difficult times, make decisions, understand our emotions, plan for the future, and more. It helps us tap into our minds and peel back the layers to understand what's happening in our subconscious minds.
Capturing our thoughts on the page forces us to transform wispy thoughts into concrete ideas and statements. This clarifies our thinking and shows us things we may have been missing previously.
Journaling is something we should do every day to check in with ourselves, see how we’re feeling, and monitor changes in ourselves from day to day and over time.
There are two ways to approach daily journaling. The first is using a template to run through the same journaling exercise every day. The second is to respond to journal prompts about a new idea every day.
When creating a journaling template, it’s important to include a few elements and make sure that the way the template is set up lowers the barrier to entry. The hardest part about journaling is getting the first word onto the page. Making that as easy as possible ensures we have the best chances of staying consistent and cracking open our thoughts daily.
Journaling templates can include whatever you want. Questions, lists, prompts, drawings, charts, etc. For example, you might chart how you’re feeling or how you slept to start each journal and then run through a series of questions about what you’re excited about and what you’re dreading. This makes getting ideas out simple and easy and it helps us identify what’s going on in our minds. Here’s the daily journaling template I use every morning:
How am I feeling?
I keep it simple and easy because I think journaling consistently is more important than writing a lot when I journal. This makes it easy for me to spend 5-10 minutes checking in with myself each morning, and because I do have an open-ended question in there when I do have something going on, I find myself diving deeper automatically and writing for longer if I need to.
The second strategy is responding to journal prompts every day. It might be hard to find a new prompt every day, but responding to a new journal prompt every day can help us reflect on many different parts of our lives and our relationships over time.
Since the prompts differ daily, there is less of a comparison or trend to monitor over time and more of a consistent exploration of new ideas and looking at life from a 30,000-foot view.
Daily prompts like this can help us gain new perspectives every day and continually investigate and clarify the thoughts in our minds.
There’s an endless library of prompts online and countless books and resources related to personal development. I struggled to find prompts and resources that helped me journal effectively and consistently so I created Prompted, a newsletter that delivers insights and prompts designed to help readers become a bit better each day. If you’re looking for a steady flow of new ideas and journal prompts, I hope you’ll check it out!
At the end of the day, journaling is a very important tool, but one that is broadly defined. I think of journaling as capturing ideas in a form that can be revisited. That can be writing things down in a notebook, typing things into a document, speaking into a tape recorder, or dictating an essay to ourselves. No matter the format or the style, only two things matter for journaling: transforming thoughts into ideas or statements and capturing them in a way that we can review again later.
Journaling is not only immensely helpful in the short term, but it provides a window into our brain from a certain period of time. Being able to look back 5 years and read our raw thoughts captured on the page provides a powerful perspective and helps us capture our lives in a unique way.
In closing, journaling is a powerful tool for introspection and personal improvement. Ideally, we should do it every day, and to make that easier, we should use templates, prompts, or other resources to make sure we can capture our thoughts and use them to become a bit better today than yesterday.
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