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How I Journal and What it’s Done for Me

As a follow up post to an earlier post on journaling, I wanted to share a bit more of journaling benefit to me, personally.

I know there are products and apps out there specifically for journaling, and I’ve tried several. But I didn’t feel like any of them solved what I was looking for and so, I decided to create my own system. When I journal, I use two systems mainly:

  • A daily brain dump
  • A weekly reflection journal

Daily brain dump

Each morning, the first part of my morning routine is doing a brain dump via journal. The subject matter varies significantly based on what is happening in my life, but essentially each morning I let my thoughts spill onto paper.

This is akin to The Artist’s Way concept of Morning Pages, an exercise in stream-of-consciousness writing to clear my mind, generate better ideas, and reduce anxiety.

Thoughts GIFs | Tenor

This is a brain warm up exercise, to free my mind of unnecessary thoughts or process anything that might steal my focus away from my main work.

Stretching Funny GIF - Stretching Stretch Funny - Discover & Share GIFs
Like any sport, it’s always important to stretch first.

It could be a busy day and help me figure out all the things I need to do and how to prioritize them, or it could be a particular problem that’s been weighing heavily on me that I need to spend some time to introspect and analyze.

On another note. It feels EXTREMELY nerve-racking to expose my personal, unfiltered thoughts on here

Looking for a sample screenshot was relatively entertaining.

Just peering at the headlines made it so apparent what was top of mind of me that day, and also, when looking back at instances when I needed to vent — how emotionally removed the present me is from the previous situation or how much the emotions subsided after some time had passed.

Thinking GIFs | Tenor

Separately, on days when I need some help and don’t know what to write, I’ve collected a library of journal questions I can ask myself. These questions serve as prompts and provide an exercise to help me understand myself better — stay tuned for a follow up post of question examples.

Sample journal prompt questions to ask myself and their sources

Over the years, I’ve built out a journal library featuring different prompts and questions based on the following categories, with the source link if I’m looking for additional examples or references.

  • Facing fears
  • Productivity
  • Conflict resolution
  • Know thyself
  • On gratitude

Even if there aren’t things that are bothering me or I need help working through an emotional situation, journaling helps me with better pattern recognition and analysis.

Analyze GIFs | Tenor

For example, as a lady, I’m subject to hormonal cycles and mood swings. Journaling became my a-ha moment when I realized that as my estrogen levels rise at the onset of my monthly period, my thoughts become increasingly negative and my mood worsens significantly.

I noticed when it became extremely apparent that the days leading up to my period, every journal post headline started with a negative emotion. And it allowed me to question for myself: is this situation truly as dire as I’m making it seem? Or is it because of my body clock?

Hungry Discovery GIF by Shark Week - Find & Share on GIPHY
My ladies know — shark week is no picnic.

In the long term, I hope to feed my journal responses into a text analyzer to help me better figure out patterns and recognition!

Weekly Reflection

My husband and I do a weekly meeting every Sunday where we review our previous week and plan for the next. One of the agenda items on this weekly meeting (we coin it our Sunday Start), is a weekly reflection to help us iterate on what worked well, and what could be better.

In this weekly reflection screenshotted above, you can see the weekly cadence I set and the answers I give almost every week in the same structured format.
In this reflect, I perform the following exercise:

  1. Weekly summary. A lot of things happen to us, but because we forget to jot them down somewhere, we often can’t remember and are left with this feeling that we did not accomplish as much as we should have. This summary of weekly highlights helps me remember what stands out and makes it easier on my brain to recall previous memories. I like to look back on at the end of the year and remember all the milestones that took place.
  2. This week I learned. These are the lessons I learned from this week. They range from useful daily advice (never sneeze while holding hot coffee) to things I learned about myself (planning a few steps ahead always helps with fixing careless mistakes and wasting time)
  3. What went well / what could go better. This is the consistent question I always ask myself as part of any reflection I do to help me understand what I did right and should continue to do. In addition, I always want to reflect on how I can iterate and improve my weeks over time.
  4. Start / Stop / Keep. This exercise can seem a bit repetitive based on the prompt from earlier, but I like it personally but because it helps me reflect one layer deeper. I’m able to list more definitely the actionable things I should start, stop, and keep doing. In essence, the questions from section three serve as a warm-up to get my brain flowing for the more granular tasks from item four.

Journal along the path to You 2.0

As demonstrated, journaling has been a powerful tool I use in my path towards personal growth, and one I attribute a lot to internal peace of mind and better self-understanding.

For a template of how I conduct my weekly reflection, click this link for free access. It will ask for your email and send the template directly to your inbox.

Hope it’s useful on your path of productivity!

TL;DR

  • Journaling has been shown to improve self-awareness, personal boundaries, and a sense of control
  • It’s helped me personally to: figure out what’s top of mind, recognize patterns, how to prioritize and organize things, warm up my brain
  • I journal through two formats:
    • A daily brain dump
    • Weekly reflection
  • Brain dump format:
    • Thought to paper
    • Journal prompts
  • Weekly reflection:
    • Weekly summary.
    • This week I learned.
    • What went well / what could go better.
    • Start / Stop / Keep.

1 Comment so far

  1. I somehow found this post scrolling through WordPress, even though it’s a little dated, but I enjoyed it. As a person who journals every day, I like reading how others do it too. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

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