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The Act of Journaling

I was asking a friend for advice about situations at work and he asked me if I journal-ed (as if it were a verb!)  I told him I’d tried a few times to put things down on paper but that I’d never really been able to maintain the habit.  He asked me what time of day I had set aside for this activity.  “Evening, right before I went home from work,” was my response.  He said, “so, the only thing standing between you and scotch was an optional task that you hadn’t established was important.  How did that work for you?”  Obviously it didn’t.  He recommended that I try to journal every morning as the first thing I do when I get to the office.  My friend said that if I would take the time to write out my thoughts, it would be a creative way to work through ideas and that the understanding of my business and personal life would be much clearer.  Sounded like hokum to me but I gave it a try and what a difference it has made in my ability to handle both tactical and strategic issues.  He suggested that I use my blog subjects as a place to start to provide goals.

I have advocated in many blog posts and personal coaching that if you don’t write it down it doesn’t exist.  I figured that I’d better walk the walk.  First thing in the morning when I get to work I spend 10 to 15 minutes just typing.  I virtually “vomit” on paper.  I write whatever comes to mind.  Its been 4 months and I’ve only missed a couple of days.  The real value that I find in this activity is that my professional conversations are crisper.  The act of writing down (and through) my thoughts, I organize what I’m thinking into a story that fits together and can be understood more clearly.

Shortly after I began to write a daily journal, Ed Batista posted on the concept of journaling (there it is, a verb again.  For shame).  He says that “journaling 1) compels us to access our memories of an experience, 2) creates another, more recent memory of that experience, and 3) creates a physical record of those memories to which we can return in the future.”  I think these are valid, but for me its just the act of taking the time to systemically think through issues and put them into words.  I find that after I write out situations I have a better grasp of what I need to know and what I already understand.  Give it a try.  make sure that you have some “alone time” to just write (or type) whatever is in your head for a few minutes each day.  Make sure that you’re fresh and that this is the first, not the last thing that you do.  You’ll be amazed at how much you come to rely on this as a tool.

1 comment to The Act of Journaling

  • Blapp

    I just took a high end leadership course in Europe a few weeks ago. As part of this course they forced the 30 or so “high potential” managers to sit down and write a reflection for ten minutes. Oh how they screamed and complained about this! 30 or so high potential managers all complained they were absolutely to busy at work to do this, they dont have 10 minutes to spare! “Have you ever even worked at XYZ High Tech company before?!” “We have to meet our quarter/project/delivery date” “I dont have time for this!” We spent 40 minutes discussing how we dont have 10 minutes to reflect each day.

    Personally – I have found reflection to be key. Perhaps not journling because I cant write as fast as i think. I absolutely cherish my drives to work at home each day. I have the music on, and I think about a problem or topic. Perhaps it is my mind that moves too fast or scattered but these thoughts make me think of other thoughts and other ideas. It is like real life brainstorming. On the flipside, I am all to often an act first think second person. Reflection gives me a chance to think about the bone head things I did when reacting to something. Perhaps someday I will think first and act second, but at least reflection has exposed this weakness of mine so I am aware of it!

    To all those so-called leaders who don’t have 10 minutes to spare in reflection each day, i think you need to reassess yourselves. Perhaps explore something called the “Busy Manager Syndrome”

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