3 tips to help you journal and keep yourself sane

Before I started my morning ritual of journalling, I felt overwhelmed by all the decisions, pressures and anxieties that a full-time corporate job, deep ambition for my career and a city life naturally bring. As if fireworks were exploding within my mind, staying focused on tasks and on my future goals was impossible. Furthermore, I felt I was losing track of who I was and who I wanted to be.

So I had to figure out how to combat this attention deficit disorder that I was grappling with, and that I think many are currently struggling with. Considering the huge amount of new distractors, red spheres wherever we look hunting, screaming for us to engage with them, notifications calling our names so that we give them attention, it is all too common to lose track, to be engulfed by this new digital world.

A tool I use to keep my mind focused, my emotions in check and my anxieties at bay is journalling. It is a simple tool, it requires little time and little commitment, and if done well can add a value that I had not expected when I started.

Tim Ferriss, one of my favourite podcasters published a fantastic blogpost describing the values of journalling and outlined a few of his strategies [link http://fourhourworkweek.com/2013/11/03/productivity-hacks/]. He talks of his ‘Monkey Mind’, the mischievous, anxious self-talk that jumps hoops within your mind taking up your energy with its unabatable onslaught of personal degradation. It brings up your worries and your fears, and, sometimes causes us to not want to get out of bed. Journalling is one way to cage your monkey mind and focus yourself on what you want from your day, your week, your year and your life.

So what tips can I give you to help you start on this journalling journey:

  1. Gratitudes

My mother used to tell me the story of a father of a friend of hers. A very successful man who built huge businesses and lived a luxurious life. Every evening he would go to bed and recite the things he was grateful for and every morning he would do the same thing.

I watched a TED Talk, ‘The Happy Secret to Better Work’ by Shawn Achor and, in his talk, he discusses the values of journalling 3 gratitudes first thing in the morning. I decided to try this out.

What did I learn? Well, before I started this I would stand in the shower and berate myself, recounting hundreds of memories that brought me shame and unhappiness. As I started writing these gratitudes every morning I started watching these thoughts disappear. The liberty to feel happy in the morning is something that I would never trade.

Tip #1: Wake up, leave a notebook open on your desk, write 3 things you are grateful for. Repetition is fine, but try not to repeat the same gratitude every day, try to think up new things, challenge your mind to be positive.

  1. Do like Tim – write down the thing thats preoccupying you most

Being productive is hard, especially when you have hundreds of things to manage every day. Family, work, social life, it all requires your time and effort, and prioritising your day around your goals is difficult if you don’t take a little time out.

I have read many an article about Obama, Ben Franklin, and other great people who ensure they take time to consider what they are doing and why they are doing it. They work out what to prioritise, what they need to do and where it will take them. Ben Franklin would wake up and spend an hour or so ‘contemplating his day’ and then the same in the evening to consider what was achieved.

I started doing this not too long ago, and it helps to place things in perspective. If you act on it you feel you are progressing which builds confidence and helps you reach what you want for yourself in your life.

So, Tip #2: Write down 3-5 things that you are anxious about and that are preoccupying you, these are normally actions that seem to never escape from your to-do list.

Ask the following questions for each one:

  1. If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?
  2. Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?

Rank your anxieties based on the answers and then allocate 2-3 hours in your day to get it done.

  1. Finally, Just Write

The last tip I can give you is to just write. We walk around with a lot of baggage every day, a lot of things that weigh us down and this builds up every day.

Just writing these onto paper every morning will help keep them at bay when you are under pressure, acknowledge your anxieties and let them sink into the paper in front of you and slowly you feel relieve of them. Be honest, your journal is for your eyes only.

One last thing, use a pen, you use more muscles to write than you do to type and this means that your investment is larger and you can release more into the paper.

So, I hope these help you reach the peace you are looking for, and attain your dreams in the future.

Happy journalling!