Planning & Goals

Journaling

journaling books planning #atozchallenge
Background photo courtesy of Marc Falardeau

I’ve mentioned journaling as a means of goal tracking, but never in full about what it is or why I believe it’s important.

Journaling can…

  • allow you to reflect on your day or life, de-stress, and decompress
  • help you work through complex thoughts, ideas, and personal struggles
  • provide mental resolutions for worries and issues
  • teach you about yourself
  • help you remember what your goals are
  • allow you to look back on your past days and see how far you’ve come
  • serve as repositories for thoughts, dreams (literal and figurative), lists, stories, reminders, and doodles
  • help you to practice mindfulness
  • track your progress on your goals and help you figure out how to better achieve them
  • …and more!

I will confess that despite all of the attempts I’ve made at journaling, I have never been very good at keeping a paper journal. I am never able to write as fast as my thoughts move, and my hand gets cramped and frustrates me, my handwriting deteriorating quickly. It also doesn’t help that I’ve always tried to journal at night, when I am at my tiredest and most likely to skip out. (General life tip: if you want to build a habit of doing a certain action every day, don’t try to do that action every night before bed.)

In lieu of writing in a paper journal, I keep a couple of other things.

Paper journal alternatives

  • I use Evernote to jot down random story and blog post ideas, record my dreams as soon as I wake up, write random/spontaneous poems, profound quotes from conversations, to-do lists, Bible verses, shopping lists, and more.
  • I use my weekly update blog posts to track my progress on my writing goals and highlights of the week.
  • I have a Scrivener journal project, where I sometimes type, stream-of-consciousness-style, for a few thousand words at a time.
  • My Passion Planner, aside from containing my schedule, serves as a chronicle of my days, a reminder of what happened when, and a repository of flat artifacts like ticket stubs and cards and notes. There’s also a page every month that asks questions about my goals, whether I achieved them or not, what I think I can improve on, and what I think about the month.

This last piece (as well as my update posts) is my version of goal journaling. I assess my (recorded) performance over a period of time. I try to understand what hurt or helped my progress. I analyze things I did well and things I failed at. I set new goals or modify existing goals for the next time period. I celebrate if I achieved a milestone. I see how much closer I am to achieving what I have set out to do. Even if you don’t journal for other reasons, journal about your goals. Reflecting on your goals is one of the most integral parts of achieving them.

When journaling about your goals, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How do you feel about the past week/month?
  2. How much work did you put toward your goal? Is this on track, falling behind, or ahead of schedule?
  3. What factors impacted the amount of work that you put toward your goal? How can you repeat or change them?
  4. What can you improve for next week/month?

If you can keep a paper journal, any kind of book with unfilled pages will do. If you, like me, prefer typing for longer reflections, you can use any sort of word processing software, or an online diary service such as Penzu.com.

I’m also becoming fond of journaling prompts. I have a new Pinterest board of those and planning resources, and all you have to do to find more is search “journal prompt” on Pinterest to find more, but you can find lists of them all over the place. Many people create monthly prompts and challenges similar to the #AtoZChallenge that can be fun.

If you’ve never journaled, give it a try. You might be surprised at what you find.

This is my final off-schedule A to Z post. I may not have rocked this challenge, but I tried something new, and honestly, that’s all you can ask for. I’ll hopefully return soon with more typical posts.

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2 thoughts on “Journaling

  1. I use Evernote and Scrivener also, for research bookmarks, note taking, and composition. But I recently returned to the old paper and pen when a friend introduced me to bullet journaling. I love it! I may have already mentioned it to you – if so, pardon. I have been telling everyone who even hints at discussing journaling or productivity 🙂 I used it mainly for staying on writing task, but it is slowly coming in handy for more traditional journaling as well – personal goals, story ideas, etc. It’s evolving. I tried to do something similar with Google Tasks and other electronic means, but I’m loving this more than any of those that I tried. Maybe it’s a generational thing.

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  2. I’ve also dabbled with bullet journaling as Lissa said above. I find that it’s helpful motivation to get things done. Otherwise I like to keep things simple in a word document so that I don’t lose the entries most important to me.

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