A simple journaling method I’ve been using

Overview: I like the idea of journaling, but I’ve never maintained a coherent practice. Until this year, when I developed a super simple method that I use in the half-hour before I kick off my work for the day. This post describes that method. Reading time ~ 3.5 minutes.

Early this year as part of my preparations for what I knew would be a busy year, I developed a simple journaling ritual.

I do this in the morning, before kicking off my work for the day. It is part of a bigger ritual in which I clarify the tasks I need to do for the upcoming day/week.

I do it online in an app called Workflowy which I also use to manage my to-do lists. I’ve long since abandoned the art of writing by hand.

My journaling method is very basic. It takes me only a couple of minutes. It consists of little more than about 7 sentences.

Those seven sentences address seven reflection points that I’ve surmised from the research have potential value.

  1. What setbacks I am currently facing – I took this from Stoic practices described by William Irvine that focus one’s attention on solving problems, rather than lamenting them
  2. What wins I’ve had and things I am grateful for – I took this from gratitude practices that encourage us to take note of the good things in life
  3. How I am feeling at the time of writing – I took this from the mood monitoring literature that suggests insights can be gained from assessing one’s mood regularly
  4. Things I’ve been reflecting on in terms of lessons about my self – I took this (tangentially) from the education literature which suggests self-reflection is a powerful avenue for learning
  5. What I’ve learned recently that was interesting – I do this to try and ensure that I am staying open to learning new things
  6. The bigger ‘Why’ that I think I am working towards – I took this from work suggesting meaning/purpose are powerful wellbeing buffers
  7. Some aspect of my future I’d like to see happen – I took this from exercises like ‘life crafting‘ that involve articulation of an ideal future

So a journal entry might look something like:


Don’t worry if that doesn’t really make sense to you. It makes sense to me and that is what is important. I can revisit an entry and connect with the version of me that wrote it and make a decision about whether anything I’ve journaled requires activation in my life in some way.

If you were to develop a basic journaling practice, what would it look like? I’ve written about self-reflection/writing exercises that promote health before. You might get some clues from that.

But let’s face it, there are thousands of articles online about journaling that provide you with clues on ‘how-to’ do it.

The bigger question you need to ask yourself is ‘why’ you would do it. For me, journaling is a way of grounding myself in the present moment before kicking off the day. I can take stock of my life, how I feel and what is consuming my thought bandwidth before setting my tasks for the day. It is equal parts wellbeing strategy and productivity tool.

Steal it if you like it. Ignore it if you don’t.

If you already have a journaling practice I’ve love to hear what you have found works for you?

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Psychological Tools Random Gareth Pontifications

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