Focus Your Thoughts – Use a Journal

Every now and then we have choices we need to make that require us to take in a lot of information. There are other times that our brain just won’t shut off and it’s hard to fall asleep. Then stress builds up because no one ever wants to make the wrong choice or miss a minor detail in both our personal and professional lives. Here at LA65 I would like to share with our readers a soft skill I recently acquired that helps me focus my thoughts, the art of journaling.

Throughout time many famous people have written down their ideas or thoughts on paper. The philosophical teachings of Plato, Confucius, Mark Twain, Krishnamurti, and numerous others have been taught and discussed for centuries. So the question needs to be asked if famous people chose to write down their thoughts then why can’t we? What did these famous people know that most of the world does not? I would like to share with you my own thoughts on the subject and what I feel the benefits are. Keep in mind that what works for me may not work for you but make no mistake, a journal can be customized to fit anyone’s needs.

Where To Begin

The first thing one needs to start journaling is pretty obvious, something to write on. I prefer a hardcover book with no lines on the pages. I feel they are restrictive in nature and if I want to draw or place emphasis on something the lines will get in the way. You can find journals for sale at any office supply store or online. I also recommend purchasing a nice pen and some other writing utensils of varying color. To me, color signifies placing emphasis on certain parts or entries in my journal. What I have found is as you write and get things down on paper a fog starts to lift and you see things a little clearer. Eventually, you will come to see something take shape and those key things are always worth splashing a little color over. I also want to mention that people who just start journaling should get a decent sized journal. Something around 200 pages makes sense. After all, you never know how much you might write down. It’s always better to have extra space than too little. If you are someone like me who writes rather large you know how fast a page can fill up.

The second thing that one needs after acquiring their journal and writing supplies is what do they want to write about. This is actually harder than it sounds. It took me a full week to figure out what I wanted to write about. I ended up breaking my journal down into sections. Each section would cover a topic but make sure your sections are of a sufficient size to capture all your thoughts. Some days you might have very little to write down but other days you might spew words out like a fountain. After several weeks things will start to take shape and you are on your way to reaching whatever you wanted to 

So you have everything you need to write and the topics you want to write about. The third thing that one needs to journal is time. This is also hard to implement. You want to form a habit of some kind. The best way I have found to do this is to set aside time in the morning or at night to make your journal entries. For me, my journal times are at night. I write down little things on a post-it note to act as a memory trigger for my journal entries. I also like to recap my experiences and go over things in my mind about what I did right and what I could have done better. Failure is a part of life but the people that progress push through failure and learn from it. After all, making lemonade out of lemons is yummy!

The Benefits

To me, the biggest benefit of journaling has been the focus I’ve acquired to achieve goals. Writing things down helps you manage those things you actually cared enough about to write down. Now you have something staring you in the face, a constant reminder of a goal or project status. This changes your mindset on what questions you ask yourself. I have found that I ask more in-depth questions to help me achieve my desired output. I find myself asking questions such as:

  • How can I achieve this goal with my given resources?
  • How can I overcome the barriers I am dealing with?
  • What is the best way to measure my progress?
  • What knowledge can I seek to increase my productivity?

These are all powerful questions and if framed in the right manner can help you focus on what is important instead of dealing with things that have low value. I am finding out that there is a big difference between being busy and being productive.

Another key benefit I have found with journaling is my stress level has gone way down. I don’t feel this constant anxiety about things that I have to do. I actually sleep better at night because I know what my path forward is and all I need to do is put in the time to get the desired outcome that I want. I feel confident instead of strung out because everything that I journal gets me another piece to the puzzle. As you gain knowledge clarity is sure to follow. Now the only thing I need to work on is patience. Knowing what boxes to check on a list is an amazing feeling but waiting for the results can be frustrating. After all, once you take this leap of clarity you will find that waiting for the rest of the world to catch up is a whole other skill that needs to be cultivated. Which might turn into another blog post. I have to admit I am not a patient man so until I hone that skill there will always be bourbon or tea.

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