Why You Should (Probably) Start A Daily Journal

Improve Your Thinking

Some ideas are difficult to grasp when you’re only thinking about them in your head. They’re difficult because you’ve restricted yourself to only thinking about it with a first-person perspective. A journal improves your thinking by externalizing your ideas so you can put them through careful examination.

Externalization

Solve Difficult Problems

Some problems are too difficult to solve in your head. Only when you record the problem and then re-examine it from multiple angles does the solution start to become apparent. There are also specific techniques you can use for exploring those trickier problems: Inversion and First Principles Thinking.

Inversion

Most of our difficult problems stem not from having too few choices but from having too many. We struggle with decisions such as how to pick the right career, how we should spend our free time, and how to decide who we should spend the rest of our life with.

  • Are you willing to relocate for your career?
  • Do you want to work for a large employer that can offer more stability or work for a small company where your effort is going to get noticed but expose you to more volatility?
  • Do you want to devote most of your time toward your career or be slightly underemployed so you can spend more of your time with your family, hobbies, or other income-producing ventures?

First Principles Thinking

First principles thinking is one of the best ways to reverse-engineer complicated problems and unleash your creativity. It’s a tool for finding the most efficient way to solve a problem by separating the underlying facts from any assumptions you have about the problem.

  1. Challenge assumptions. (How do I know it’s true?)
  2. Look for evidence. (How can I back my ideas up?)
  3. Consider alternative perspectives. (How do I know I’m correct?)
  4. Examine the consequences and implications. (What are the consequences if I’m wrong?)
  5. Question the original questions. (Was I correct?)
  1. Why? — The alternator is not functioning.
  2. Why? — The alternator belt is broken.
  3. Why? — The alternator belt was past its service date and needed to be replaced.
  4. Why? — The car was not taken in for its routine maintenance schedule. (Root Cause)

Track Your Progress

An underrated benefit of keeping a journal is re-reading past entries to observe the progress you’ve made. I find this particularly useful during times of frustration when my progress feels stagnant. Reading old entries broadens your perspective past the day-to-day minutiae to see just how much real progress has been made through the years.

How to Build A Journaling Habit

Finding the time and energy to keep a journal can feel challenging. And for some of you, journaling may not even be the best method for recording and reflecting on your ideas. But if you’re serious about accelerating your personal growth, then there are some strategies you can implement right now to turn it into a habit.

  • Be realistic about expectations. In other words, start simple. If you have never journaled a day in your life, then begin by committing to writing just one or two sentences per day. Once you become comfortable with doing that, then you can bump up your output.
  • Choose your style. Decide what you want your journaling process to look like. Will you be writing in a physical journal, note-taking app, or on your laptop? Determine what works best for you and stick with it.
  • Use writing prompts. This strategy isn’t necessary, but if you feel uncertain about how to start, then consider using writing prompts to get those creative juices flowing. As a free bonus, I’ve included a list of 30 daily journaling prompts that you can access at the end of this article.

Journaling Tools

There are also some great tools to help make your journaling habit stick. And while the tools won’t build the habit for you, they can be beneficial for keeping you on track. I recommend you experiment with a few tools to figure out what works best for you.

  • Moleskine Notebook. For those of you who want full creative freedom with your journal, I recommend a good notebook. I prefer Moleskine notebooks since their dedication to quality makes the journaling ritual more enjoyable.
  • 750words.com. For you digital-first people, this is a great free tool for helping you build a writing habit. It currently has almost 500,000 users.

Engineer & Writer | Writing about the best books, tools for thought, and systems for maximizing creativity at lawsonblake.com

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