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Start Journaling – Habit

Keep a notebook.  Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory. – Jack London
Journal and Pen
Are you primed for success? Are you maximizing your effectiveness and learning each day?
Do you need to trap racing thoughts?  Do you want to see what’s holding you back?  
Journaling has many benefits from calming an anxious mind to increasing your happiness, focus, and learning.  These benefits may not appear the first day.  Practice for a few weeks before you evaluate how it helps you.  Use free form journaling to capture your thoughts whenever needed.  Use structured journaling to create a daily practice to start your day happy and focused.  Read part 1 for the story on how I started journaling and how it helped me calm my mind and supercharge my effectiveness.
You can copy these questions and instructions to a file to use as a starting point each day.  If you prefer paper and pen and want an easy way to get started with structured journaling, pick-up The 5-Minute Journal.
Free Form
Write any time about your day, your current thoughts, your fears, your hopes. Use free form, unstructured journaling if you’re not journaling regularly and your mind is racing with thoughts.  That anxiety may disappear when you see your thoughts written on paper.  Making your thoughts concrete and permanent often traps them into submission releasing your mind to focus on more productive pursuits.
Here are some sample questions to get started.
  • What are you thinking right now?
  • What’s been on your mind today?
  • What are you worried about?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What do you want to happen in your life?
  • What would make today or tomorrow great?

If you’re serious about becoming a wealthy, powerful, sophisticated, healthy, influential, cultured, and unique individual, keep a journal. – Jim Rohm

Use structured journaling to establish a daily practice when you start and finish your day.  This routine will increase happiness, focus, and growth. 
  • Morning
    • Gratefulness – What are 1, 2, or 3 things you’re grateful for?
    • Goal Setting – What are 1, 2, or 3 things you want to accomplish today?
    • Optional
      • Visualization
        • Write down a vision statement describing your future self in the present tense, “I am…”
        • Spend 30 seconds visualizing life as your future self or the steps to get there.
  • Evening
    • Goal Reflection – What are 1, 2, 3 or things that were great about today?
    • Continuous Improvement – What 1 thing you could improve from today?
    • Optional
      • Goal Setting – What’s 1 thing you want to accomplish tomorrow?
      • Learning – What’s 1 thing you learned today?
Begin your day with gratitude and planning.  Gratefulness is the key to happiness.  When you appreciate what you have, you’ll have you’ll start the day with a smile on your face.  Goal setting focuses your efforts for the day.  These goals shouldn’t be massive.  Set goals that you know you can accomplish today and are so easy you can’t fail as explained in the J-Curve post
The visualization exercises are optional.  I wouldn’t include them when you get started.  If you’ve used the ‘Best Self’ visualization habit, daily visualization is a good way to cement the image in your mind.  A one-time visualization practice will not create your ‘Best Self’.  Spending a minute daily on visualizing your future can create your ‘Best Self’.  As the image becomes clearer in your mind, your subconscious will work on ways to transition from your current state to your vision of your ‘Best Self’.  Again, it’s optional.  
End your day by reflecting on what you’ve accomplished.  You may not have completed all your goals.  That’s okay.  You likely completed more than if you hadn’t set any goals at all.  Today you’re ahead in the game of life.  When reflecting on the day, consider not just your goals for the day but any random event or interaction that you feel good about no matter how small it may seem.  Then write down one thing that could have been better about the day.  Focus more on what you can control and how you can improve no matter how small.
Use the optional end of day questions if you want to prepare a day ahead by establishing a goal the night before or get more focused on learning.  By establishing a goal for the next day before you go to bed, your mind may start working on ways to achieve that goal when you sleep.  At a minimum you’ll have one clear objective already set when you wake up the next day.  Asking what you learned today is a way to cement what you experienced by writing it down again.  Often we learn things during the day that disappear within hours.  Recalling what you learned before you sleep is a good way to practice and retain information.  Remember, these questions are optional.
What happens to us is not as important as the meaning we assign to it. Journaling helps sort this out. – Michael Hyatt
Woman Journaling
If you want more details on good journaling practices, check out this video from journaling expert UJ Ramdas explaining The 5-Minute Journal.