An update on my personal journaling method

In my last post I outlined a simple journaling practice that I had developed.

I have continued with that journaling method and even made a few upgrades.

What has become clear to me is that my journaling practice is a good place to play around with wellbeing and positive mental health concepts that I encounter in my learning and as part of my work.

For example, the idea of noting my ‘setbacks’ came from listening to William Irvine talk about stoic practices. Capturing ‘wins’ was inspired by gratitude practices.

My current journaling practice is organised under 9 headings:

  • setbacks
  • holding me back
  • wins
  • emotional status
  • reflections
  • learnings
  • small optimisations
  • WHY
  • Future

For any given journal entry, I may only write 1-2 sentences for each. Thus a whole journal entry may take me only 10 minutes in total. I believe the benefit comes from consistency rather than intensity.

New headings since I last wrote about it are: small optimisations, WHY, Future and holding me back.

‘Small optimisations’ refers to new habits that I am trying to develop, typically small ones. For example, I am currently trying to establish ‘standing desk during meetings from home’ and ‘breathing exercise after lunch’ habits. Highlighting those in my morning journal helps keep those fresh in mind. This component honours the great value I see in the work of BJ Fogg and Tiny Habits.

‘WHY’ refers to my thoughts on what the big picture is all about, both in terms of my life but the meaning of life itself. It is a chance to ponder the biggest question of all. As these kinds of existential questions tend to freak me out a bit, allocating some time to them is a bit like worry time.

‘Future’ provides an opportunity for me to think about my future self and the kind of person he is, how he spends his time, what is important to him. I built this in on the basis of the Ideal self/life-crafting idea. Considerations of the future are (at least for me) foundational to setting goals and tasks for the day. Am I living each day as though I was working towards my ideal future? It should be noted that my journaling precedes the process of writing my to-do list for the day, so it is well timed.

Finally, ‘holding me back’ encourages me to consider the physical and psychological barriers that may be at play in my life and what I might be able to put in place in order to address them. This was included because of the observation that many of the barriers that hold us back in life aren’t as tangible as we think they are. Sometimes it is just the story we tell ourselves about our lives that stops us, as opposed to any significant tangible barrier.

I do this journaling about 5 times per week, typically workdays. I occasionally journal on weekends, but I find it a more beneficial exercise when it precedes the workday. It seems better suited to a day of focused work, versus a day of free play.

I’ve been doing this journalling since January 2022, and I would say it is only about now that I can really start to see the benefits in terms of focusing my mind. I think that might be the case with many of these kinds of slow-burn wellbeing strategies. It takes time and consistency for them to wield their benefit.

I continue to use WorkFlowy as my journaling tool of choice.

2 thoughts on “An update on my personal journaling method

  1. That’s an interesting journalling method. I myself just go wall-of-text and write whatever comes to mind for the day, but I do it daily because it calms me. Anyway, thanks for sharing, Gareth!

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    1. Hi Stuart – I like the ‘wall of text’ idea – getting one’s inner dialogue out on the page to then examine it could be really helpful. I might give that a go one morning and see how it works out 🙂 – thanks for visiting.

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