Many of the truly successful declare that “journaling” is a key super power. A lot of people seem to find it tricky to nail. I was one of them. Up until now.
For me, it ran a danger of being one of those things I started with gusto only to trail off in the midst of busyness and “quite enough to do already in my morning routine, thank you very much”.
Yet I already knew that creating a life where I was clear on what was important AND crucially, made those things a priority felt, well, important. There were enough days where the to do list had driven the focus.
Ticking off tasks on a list falls way short of living a life of purpose and fulfilment.
I also know that when I slow down, magic happens. Like a shaken snow globe, there’s so much haze you can’t see anything. If you just wait though, the flakes start to settle and you get to see what’s there, what’s really going on. When you see that, or tap into what you truly know, very quickly your whole life starts to light up.
You’re playing a bigger Game.
A life where you are making choices that serve you and getting into action on the stuff that matters.
Heads up; it’s not your inbox. Ever.
So, whilst studying consistency and habits (more on that coming), I decided to play. I wanted to see what happens if you start with rocket fuel and clear intentions on my choices for the day. Or ending it with honest self-reflection.
As Maya Angelou said, “when you know better you do better”.
Only if you’re pausing long enough to draw breath and get real though, right?
Otherwise you’re doing the daft dance; hoping by chance that you’re improving and getting it right. That not my version of my best self.
Taking the wisdom of many (researchers, teachers, habit masters) to establish what truly worked, I had 2 key aims:
- To make it SO EASY, I simply couldn’t NOT do it.
- To go full out for 30 days.
Here’s what I discovered.
It is a superpower.
With just a few minutes investment, you can create a practice that has you tuned into joy, impact and the difference you want to make in this world. Spotting the areas that are taking you off course and easily hitting reset. Sure, there are common components and it’s a breeze to tailor make one that has you WANT to do it.
Here’s 5 different ways to get started:
Buy a book. A nice one. That matters.
Decide when you are going to journal; am, pm, you choose. Keep it the same so that you can build a habit.
I recommend these in particular – which combines 5 journal techniques in 5 simple sentences.
• What happened today? (Daily journal)
• What am I grateful for today? (Gratitude journal)
• What is my most important task today? (Productivity journal)
• How did I sleep last night? (Sleep journal)
• How do I feel today? (Mood journal)
A line for each day of the month. Yep that’s it. Just one sentence for each prompt. Once the month is complete, you’ll see a patterns and connections and key areas where small tweaks could make a big impact.
(Want a variation on the prompts? Go for it. A nice one might be; What I love about x is (and choose a different person each day). I want to praise myself for….You choose! Remember though just one sentence.)
2. START WITH TOPICS; TGIF; trust, gratitude, inspiration and fun! (7 minutes)
I’ve borrowed this from Brene Brown (because hey…Brene!) and use this when I know I’d like to write a bit more than a sentence and to tune into the big picture.
This one’s helpful because it’s so easy to remember. When you start putting your focus on these 4 core pillars, your mind seems to actively align itself to looking for more and more evidence. Like you’re pre-loading what you want to discover in the world. Again, it can be daily and actually it can be a simple end of the week practice too.
• T I’m Trusting right now
• G Grateful for this week
• F having Fun doing
• I Inspiring me
Me? From this I noticed that fun was still an area that felt indulgent. Far easier to focus on getting things done than play. And yet we know PLAY is a key component for building a creative whole life. This practice alone helps me actively focus on keeping it as a priority.
Really. That’s it. Put your pen on the paper and simply write. The secret? Just write.
Edit nothing. And if you don’t know what to write, write that!
Literally I don’t know what to write and I guess I could start with how I’m feeling. Hmmm how am I feeling? Well. Right now…
It’s a strange thing at first as your mind can have you think there’s nothing to say. And there’s always something. You just learn to warm up before you get out to your own way. I’ve found that the real gems come after a couple of pages and you see for yourself the insights that are hidden within you all along. Its fascinating reading them back too.
4. START TRACKING.
Research is clear; whenever we measure something, it changes the focus AND the results. Another way to use your journal is to actively track something you really want to create a shift in, especially those things you’d normally procrastinate over. It’s a simple idea that will help you really nail consistency. Don’t believe me? Try it!
Basically, pick a habit you want to start; let’s say reading. Imagine today is day 1. Pick a book and read a page. That’s it. (you can do more and you can’t do less) Then at the top of your page put “Reading; 1” in big letters. Tomorrow do the same and mark; “Reading 2”, day after 3 and so on. After a few days you’ll see you have a chain; a consistent run on numbers. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. Imagine it as a series of red crosses on a calendar. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not the break the chain. You miss a day – and you have to go back to the start. Yes really. That alone has you want to keep going!
I decided to trial this at Christmas using a daily habit of juicing. I was gifted a juicer and was determined that it wasn’t going to be one of those cool pieces of kit that you have as a fad and then hide away at the back of the cupboard. I’m now on day XXX (I admit I was juicing at 10.30pm on night as I didn’t want to go back to zero and you cares, it had me do it!). It’s a powerful practice and starts shifting your identity from someone who never sticks at anything to someone who absolutely can.
Once you’ve been going for a while, start to play with what works for you. I’m currently at 163 days (according to my daily tracking!) and modifying as I go. So I now have a Tracking Section, a Reminder and a Series of Questions that I’ve shaped up over time.
- Tracking makes me feel great and has me build core consistency
- The reminder (I am creative before I’m reactive) reminds me that nothing happens in my world before I choose ME. I take a moment to consider what that means every day.
- I ask myself every day, What’s awesome about today? (Gratitude); Who am I? I am… (declarations); Challenges make me stronger, today they are… (reframing obstacles into a growth experience); I will show up with excellence today by (intention setting); My one bold action today (action); I will create intimacy with others by (relationships).
All this takes just ONE page of a journal.
So is it worth it?
For the first time in my life I have consistent habits in key areas of my life. I feel clearer, focussed and stronger. I start each day with purpose and decisiveness and clear intention. I have greater self-compassion – I am whole, not perfect.
It’s an amazing feeling.
For a few minutes a day, it pays back 10-fold.
Come on, let’s be remarkable together.
Ps Oh and this; keep it simple. No need to go large and virtuous and then decide it’s too hard a few days in. (I see you!) The secret here is create a practice that you WANT to do. Even a few lines makes a difference. Try it. You’ll see. It could be THE habit that you nailed with almost no effort at all. Imagine THAT!