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Journaling for Impact

April 11, 2024
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In January of 2020 I was beginning a sabbatical after experiencing burnout at my previous job, I was excited to  finally have some free time. Nonetheless, after a few weeks anxiety was starting to kick in. I was used to 10-14 workdays along with structure, a sense of urgency, driven colleagues, and a paycheck. The challenge was being deliberate and disciplined around my self discovery process while testing different business ideas when I was locked in by myself during the pandemic and theoretically had up to a year of savings to do “whatever I wanted”.

It was then that I made a commitment to myself to begin journaling every day. This practice became one of self discovery and discipline and allowed me to prioritize what was actually important both on a personal and professional level.

In this article I will walk you through my journaling practice. Use this as a guide to structure your daily journal entries. It will take less than 5 minutes to write an entry and it will help you will feel more focused and grounded.

Priorities

Your priorities are the things you want to accomplish that day. Rather than a 10 bullet point list of tasks, try to focus on 3-5 high priority items. This does not mean they will be the only things you will work on. It does mean that as the day goes by, you will refer back to that list to make sure that by the time you stop working, you have completed those items.

Professional

Your priorities should include tasks or projects you know will have a big impact on your work. They will often be the things that you are procrastinating because they are long, difficult, and have a high degree of uncertainty and probability of failure (or backlash). Writing these down at the beginning of the day will keep you accountable. Especially when you get bombarded by emails and “urgent” requests from colleagues.

Some priorities are large projects with multiple dependencies which you cannot complete in one day. In these cases, you will want to break them down into smaller tasks you can complete or ensure that even if you do not complete them, you have made significant progress on them.

Personal

Your personal priorities are important for endurance. You might get away with putting your love life, family, friends, mental health, or physical health on pause for a bit but with time, you will start to feel empty. Your performance will suffer and you will experience burnout. Most personal changes happen with time and require discipline. This is why it is important for you to prioritize them. For example, when I started to journal I wanted to strengthen both my body and mind. Hence, every day I added a bullet point called “Workout and Meditate”. I developed a habit of starting my day by doing these things so by the time I finished my journal entry, I could check these items off and I knew I had accomplished something that in the long run was important to me.

Exceptions

There will be days when you have unexpected challenges or tasks at work  you will get sick, or you simply decide to prioritize something that was not on your priority list. It is OK to postpone a priority. Just make sure it is a conscious decision (ie. I prioritized taking a customer call over going to the gym because it was critical to my business or I prioritized spending time with my partner today because I had not seen them in 3 weeks and my other items were not time-sensitive) and notice if you find yourself postponing certain tasks too many days in a row.

Goals

Your goals should be 3 things that are unlikely to change in the next 6 months. These are major development items you want to keep top of mind. Some of your goals are concrete items you can “complete”. For example,launching Cocora was in my journaling practice for the 3 months prior to our official launch. This worked as a constant reminder that whatever my priorities for that day were, they should be helping me  move closer to a successful launch. Once I launched Cocora, that goal was complete and I could replace it for something else.

Some of your goals will be aspirational. For example, building a strong community is important to me. Having that as a goal helps me hold myself accountable when I spend too many days in which I am not reaching out to or spending time with the people I care about.

Affirmations

Your affirmations are phrases or words you tell yourself to remind you that you are whole, enough, and worthwhile. Many of us have been told we need “thick skin” and we should not need love or affirmation from others. We are wired to seek love, affirmation and belonging. By spending a few minutes every day giving yourself these things, you will become more confident and secure which will make you less susceptible to criticism, failure, gaslighting, and impostor syndrome. This in turn will make you a stronger and more effective leader. Below are the different types of affirmations.

  • Self love: Affirmations that remind you that you as an individual are worthy regardless of your job, physicality, or what others may think about you. This includes phrases such as: I am whole, I am enough, I love myself, I am worthwhile, etc.
  • Reinforcement: Affirmations that help you build confidence in areas you need to excel at but have failed in the past (or have been told you are not good enough). This includes phrases such as: I am a strong leader, I am disciplined, I am organized, I am strategic, I am assertive, I am persuasive, etc.
  • Personal: Affirmations in this context are a way of you having a conversation with yourself. Feel free to write your own reminders of your worth.

Getting Started

We only get one life. It is a shame to cruise through it on autopilot. I hope this guide helps you break that autopilot cycle by focusing on what really matters in the long run. Below I include a few options for journals as well as additional reading you might enjoy.

Journal: Basic journal you can use to get started.

Five Minute Journal: Journal focused on positive psychology, gratitude and reflection. It will include prompts and templates you can follow.

Meditation Playlist: Great playlist on spotify that I generally use to meditate.

10,000+ Positive Affirmations: Large catalog of affirmations you can check out for inspiration.

Daily Meditations Guide: Guide to getting started with daily meditations.