I have recently become a keen journal writer; not the Adrian Mole kind or the teenage angst stuff. What I mean is I’m using a journal to process thoughts to help me to make changes; to defragment my busy brain, to allow the dust and chaos of the day to settle more easily.

There are many ways to use a journal to help with our busy and hectic lives, so here are just a few;

Daily intentions

Each morning, set out 3 – 5 intentions for your day such as:

  • ‘I will be open and accepting of others ideas.’
  • ‘I will speak my mind even if it feels difficult.’
  • ‘I will answer all messages by phone or email on the day of arrival.’
  • ‘I will face conflict willingly and confidently.’

This is a good way to put focus onto the new behavioural actions you want to put into practice.

Daily reflections

This is done at the end of the day and allows you to look back on your intentions and assess how you did. You can score yourself out of 10 or simply write up the acknowledgment of how much you lived out those intentions

Facts – Feels – Future

This has been a very useful practice for me. If I am stuck with a difficult decision or troubled thoughts then I use this model.

Facts – start by listing, in bullets, the facts as you see them

  • I am not getting along with my boss
  • We disagreed about that last meeting
  • She challenged me in front of the SLT
  • It’s affecting how I am at home

Feelings – This is the bit where you really cut loose and just splurge out onto the page everything you are thinking, no filters, – after all it’s only you who will read it.

“I feel undermined, annoyed, angry, hurt. I hate how she does this, it feels like she is covering her own back by trying to make it look like it’s my fault, she always does this, Stupid ***, I do all the work and she always takes the credit. One of these days I’ll show her. I hate how I snap at my wife/husband and kids when I get home, I hate thinking about it on weekends. I don’t like myself for having these angry thoughts about her either. I know she’s not that bad but it still really winds me up”

Future – This is the part where you action plan what you are going to do about it

  1. “OK, so I can either put up with it or challenge her on it. I’m going to find a good time to challenge her and have it out once and for all. Somewhere neutral and not when we are flat-out busy.
  2. On the way home, if it happens again, I am going to have a 20 minute rant in the car then leave it behind so the fall-out doesn’t come in the house with me.
  3. In the meeting in future, I will stand my ground. I get like a rabbit in the head lights but I’m going to be assertive and explain to the audience what is actually important and not worry about who did what etc. I think I have the support of some of the SLT, I do see knowing glances when it happens.”

With Facts – Feelings – Future you can really cut loose and say what you are thinking and feeling. It’s important not to hold back or to write as if you are being watched. It is designed as a therapeutic tool to facilitate change so be sure to make a good plan in the future phase to explore what you can do if you are to be the most effective you can be with the problem.

Gratitude Journaling

Expressing gratitude is one of the fastest ways people can generate happiness in their daily lives. It’s a simple process that graduates from a recent leadership course I ran have been sharing on WhatsApp each day. They post 3 – 5 things they are grateful for that day and they are really enjoying it. You can do it in a journal. I did it for a period of 6 months at the beginning of 2016 and it began to change how I viewed difficult people, challenging situations, set backs etc. It also showed me what was important and not to sweat the small stuff.

The powerful thing about gratitude is you can’t be frightened and grateful at the same time. You can’t be vindictive and grateful; you can’t be angry and grateful. It really helps to foster positive emotions.

Journal rules

  • Don’t filter
  • Use it to give your ‘monkey mind’ a voice
  • Be creative, write, draw, scribble
  • Use good old-fashioned pen and paper not phones, tablets of laptops
  • Write like no one is watching
  • Dedicate a certain time of the day, usually morning or evening
  • Use the same notebook, it doesn’t have to be anything special or buy a dedicated resource (check out The Artist’s Way: Morning Pages Journal on Amazon as used by Tim Farris)
  • You don’t need to write daily, do it when you feel you need or set yourself the challenge of doing it daily for a month. Anything goes, there is no right or wrong, just pick up a pen and write.