How To Adopt an Effective Daily Journal Habit

The first habit that you need to adopt is to maintain a journal. Please understand that you don’t have to be the second coming of Fyodor Dostoyevsky or Ernest Hemingway to write a journal. This has nothing to do with your writing skills. Instead, it has everything to do with your ability to commit.

It doesn’t matter whether you write a hundred words or a thousand words or more per day. What’s important is you write something meaningful. I hope that much is clear.

You’re doing this to maximize your self awareness. This is a key goal that would truly take your life to the next level.

Self awareness gives you the power to direct your life to where you feel it should go. It is a giant leap forward in terms of self ownership, responsibility and self control.

With that said, what do you need to start journaling? A lot of people have a tough time writing a daily journal. They think it’s like pulling teeth. Here are just some ideas on how to start journaling in a smooth, natural and almost effortless way.

Practice Gratitude

First, practice gratitude. Before you write anything down, for the first 5 minutes, mentally recite the things that you are sincerely thankful for in your life.

I would suggest that you be thankful for your health, the fact that you can think, the fact that you have a high enough IQ to write and do stuff, the fact that you haven’t been killed through a crime or some sort of accident. And also dwell on the fact that you don’t have some sort of medical emergency. These are the “usual suspects” that you should be grateful for.

Now, please understand that when you’re practicing gratitude, you shouldn’t just go through the motions. You shouldn’t treat it like you’re reading some sort of meaningless laundry list that is emotionally empty. Instead, when you write down something that you’re grateful for, feel the gratitude. Sincerely feel thankful.

The easiest way to get that sense of thankfulness is to assume the opposite. Let’s say you’re being thankful that your wife is faithful. Now, to let the gratitude sink in, imagine her with another man. Imagine how angry you would feel. Feel the burn of betrayal.

So this highlights gratitude because obviously, that’s not the case. She is faithful to you, so feel happy about that. Again, the secret to feeling gratitude is to write down what you’re trying to be grateful for, and then quickly imagine if that thing was taken away from you.

Write Your Goals

When you’re starting out with keeping a journal, it’s always a good idea to write your goals. It can be anything. What’s important is that these goals must line up with the big objectives or grand dreams you have for yourself.

When you do this, you gain a sense of purpose. Keeping a journal feels more important. It feels more substantial. You’re not just doing it because have nothing else better to do.

You feel that when you write your goals down, your journal has a purpose because when you remind yourself of the big dreams you have for yourself, keeping a journal of them takes you closer and closer to realizing them. You’re doing things for a reason. You’re doing things out of a sense of purpose.

This is a really important realization to have because it short circuits the normal human tendency to go around in circles and chase our own tail.

You have to understand that the reason why a lot of people feel miserable, unhappy, upset and frustrated is because they feel that their lives have no meaning. They feel like the next day is the same as the previous day because there’s really no purpose. There’s no overarching reason.

Write down your goals in your journal because they give you a sense of purpose, possibility and sparks a sense of adventure in your mind. You feel every day is a step closer to your big goals. Every day is an adventure to your ultimate destination.

Set Priorities for Your Day

Once you have identified your big goals, break them down into priorities. Which goal, when pursued, can take you to your grand objectives faster? Give these the highest priority.

Next, look at the things that you could be possibly doing today and sort them in terms of your personal priorities. Obviously, you’re going to do things that get you closer to your big goals first. Everything else takes a back seat.

Set Up a Purpose-Driven To-Do List

When you write your goals, you have reminded yourself of your personal purpose. When you prioritized your subgoals, you have laid out a map for yourself in terms of the actions you need to take for you to reach your big goals.

Your to-do list involves daily tasks that may seem small. In fact, in many cases, they may seem meaningless. However, for you to even put them on your to-do list means that they have something to do with your priorities. Sort them in terms of your priorities for the day.

Your to-do list must contain primarily purpose-driven tasks. When you do these tasks, you gain a sense of certainty that you are getting closer and closer to your big goals.

Do a Postmortem of Your Day

Keeping a journal is a daily two-stage process. You practice gratitude and write your goals and priorities for the day early on in the day. This also includes your to-do list.

After you have finished your day, you should devote at least 15 minutes to half an hour doing a “postmortem” for your day. This is a key part of the journal-keeping process.

If you’re just sticking to writing your goals and setting up to-do lists, you’re doing it wrong. You’re not going to benefit fully from this daily habit.

In the postmortem, you are trying to gain insights regarding how you normally pursue your dreams. Because ultimately, everything you do should be driven and guided by your dreams. This is how you gain insights into optimizing your day. This is how you fine tune the things that you normally do so you become more efficient in living a more purpose-driven life.

Rate Your Happiness, Growth, and Contributions for the Day

The first thing that you’re going to focus on in your postmortem involves your personal happiness. How happy were you today?

If you’re like most people, this is probably the first time in the day that you have even consciously contemplated the issue of happiness in a very direct and clear way. Sure, your personal happiness is always important, but it’s kind of like in the background. It’s in the back of your head, and oftentimes, it is clouded by assumptions and expectations.

Often times, you assume that you’re happy, but you really can’t quite put your finger on the reason why you’re happy. Now is your chance to ask yourself, “How happy was I?”

This is a very important step in self awareness because you are using a metric that is extremely important. You’re asking yourself, “Given what I did and what experience I had, how happy was I?”

When you ask yourself this question, you gain technical answers as to how to boost your happiness. It also reminds you that you are the only person responsible for your personal happiness.

The next question you ask yourself is, “How much did I grow today?” Again, this goes a long way in boosting your self awareness. It also helps direct your priorities. You remind yourself that life is all about growth.

You’re not really living if you stop growing. You’re just going through the motions. You’re surviving. You’re not living. You’re definitely not thriving if you’re not growing.

Finally, you also have to ask yourself, “How did I contribute to the world today?” Now, this is a big cosmological question. Different people have different answers.

The good news is that there’s really no right or wrong answer. What’s important is that you are happy with the answer you give to yourself.

Because when you ask yourself, “How much did I contribute to others for the day,” you’re taking your frame of reference from selfishness and self absorption to some sort of cosmological or cosmic consciousness. You remind yourself that you are part of something bigger. It’s not just all about you.

This can lead to profound insights. And also, this can lead to a feeling of liberation because if you feel that the world is all about you and everything centers on you, life can feel really heavy. You feel that you’re to blame for everything or you waste your time blaming other people for what’s going wrong in your life. Whatever the case may be, life feels heavy.

When you shift the focus to thinking about how you contributed to others, you reaffirm your connection to others and you gain a healthier perspective of your place in the world. This is crucial to a meaningful level of self awareness.

Log your happy moments for the day

A key part of your postmortem journal entry is to become aware of your happy moments today. Here’s a spoiler: there is at least one extremely happy moment in every day. The problem with most people is that they’re so focused on experiencing very big victories.

We set ourselves up to define happiness only in the starkest terms. This has a very unfortunate effect of essentially devaluing our other happy moments. It’s really is sad because if you’re really honest about it, you’re happy in many instances during the day. In fact, chances are, you were very happy in more ways that you can count.

The problem is it’s too easy for us to discount all these. Instead, we’re looking for that one moment of extreme happiness and if that doesn’t happen, then we weren’t happy at all. If you are playing these types of games with yourself, stop it.

Logging your happy moments for the day, regardless of their intensity level, is a very important step in reclaiming your personal ability to feel joy. A lot of people, especially in the United States and advanced economies, easily trick themselves into thinking that they can only feel joy if it takes them to the next level. They constantly think that joy, happiness, and fulfillment are things that you can scale. This is a serious mistake because the more you do this, the more you define yourself out of happiness.

Learn how to be happy even if it’s small and trivial. When you see a smiling child, that is an opportunity to be happy and to practice empathy. When you see somebody give you a thumbs up, that’s a chance to connect with somebody you don’t know. That’s an opportunity to be happy. Learn it.

I know that sounds crazy, but unfortunately, too many people have forgotten this extremely important skill. They keep defining happiness in such broad and stark terms that they ultimately define themselves out of the state of happiness. Stop doing that.

What did I learn for the day

Another key entry in your daily journal involves your daily revelations and daily experiences. You have to understand that people learn things on two different levels.

There are things that we experience, meaning we find ourselves in a situation where we see and experience things we haven’t before. We also experience revelations, in which, when we are able to connect the dots and things start to fall into place, all of a sudden, we can see the patterns and how it all makes sense.

Both of these are worth putting in your journal. They may not seem like much, but you’d be surprised to learn that these might be stepping stones to truly profound discoveries in the future.

Log your habits

The final entry to your daily postmortem journal involves your habits. There are two types of habits you need to track of day after day.

First are your negative habits. What are the habits that you need to overcome? I’m not talking about drugs, alcohol, tobacco and those kinds of habits. I’m talking about something more profound. Maybe you have negative emotional habits. Are you struggling with narcissism? Are you somehow, paranoid or do you exhibit an extreme borderline personality where you feel people either love you or hate you? Do you have an anti-social side where you deceive or hurt others? Are you an overly dramatic person? These are important mental and emotional habits to be aware of.

Understand these habits for what they are and come up with ways to overcome them.

You also have to pay attention to the habits you need to adopt. Do you need to be more self aware? Do you need to be compassionate and emphathetic? Do you need to be more intuitive and trusting? These two are habits.

Make sure you use a manual journal

I know this is going to be a controversial piece of advice considering the fact that mobile devices have pretty much taken over the world. In fact, you’re probably reading this book on an Amazon Kindle device or some sort of gadget. But what I’m about to say is extremely important.

If you are going to be writing, make sure you write manually. Why? When you write a manual journal, you trigger several levels of personal consciousness. First of all, you are intentionally in the reality you are logging. You are relying on your memory and are referencing how things are and how things should be. This creates a chain reaction of psychological and emotional states that are lined up with your physical reality.

When you physically write down, it becomes a formal commitment. You’re actually taking a distinct physical break from your daily routine to map out some sort of alternative reality. More importantly, you’re also speaking to deep and profound personal realities and being truly honest with yourself.

If you want to maximize the psychological, emotional, and other important personal impacts of this, you need to do this manually. Again, you’re doing this for yourself. It’s not like your writing it to be published. There’s no need to feel like you have to be the second coming of Ernest Hemingway. As long as what you’ve written makes sense to you and enables you to track your progress in taking ownership over your self awareness, you’re on the right track.

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