In this edition, I’m focusing on one of my preferred approaches for finding ideas and avoiding creative burnout–journal writing. I’ve been keeping journals on and off for over 15 years. Even if you’re not a writer, it’s an approach I recommend for reflecting on your work. Plus, it’s cheaper than therapy!
You can read about my approach in 2,000+ word guide I wrote for Better Humans.
I also recently interviewed an entrepreneur who’s built a business around journaling. He details his approach below.
The Restorative Power of Journaling
Journal writing encourages capturing ideas and self-reflection, both key skills for creatives. It's also a useful skill for entrepreneurs and busy executives, as it fosters clear thinking.
For example, an entrepreneur running a new business probably has dozens of goals they'd like their business to achieve this quarter, never mind this year. They want to launch a product, recruit an executive assistant, write a book, create a new sales funnel, roll out a new approach to customer service and so on.
Focusing on multiple goals will dilute the company's resources and consume more time than the entrepreneur can spend. It's a recipe for burnout. Instead, he or she could write a brief about possible goals and reflect on each one over the course of several days.
This reflective process should help them articulate what goals they want to focus on for the coming quarter and why. A busy entrepreneur or executive could use a similar process to decide on their key priorities for the week or month ahead. They simply need to ask themselves, "What are my top three priorities this week?" and write a short entry asking that question.
How To Use Journaling for Work
Michal Korzonek is the cofounder of Journal Smarter. Living in the U.K. with his partner and cofounder Silvia Barros Bastos, he teaches clients and students how to use journaling for cultivating habits and focusing on their goals.
First, each entry is for you and you alone. Second, you can always include visual elements as part of an entry. An entrepreneur could sketch out a sales funnel or mind map the key elements of their next sales page, for example.
"I can't really draw well, but I'm always very attracted to different kinds of flow charts, graphs and basically visual representation of data, and I think my mind works a bit in that way," he says.
Korzonek teaches students how to use a minimalist journaling system for tracking cornerstone habits. The student starts by answering one question: What is the one habit that I can start doing tomorrow that would be the most effective first step towards my goal?
If the goal is running a marathon, the aspiring athlete could decide to run two miles on Monday and work toward a habit of running four times a week. If the goal is selling more products, the procrastinating sales executive could cultivate a habit of placing five sales calls before coffee each morning.
With a habit in mind, the student fills a page of their journal with squares, each one representing a single day. He or she picks a symbol for each habit (like a cross or circle) and fills the square with these symbols when complete. This type of journal offers a visual means of tracking progress toward a goal each week, month or quarter.
"You can also track more intangible things that happen in your life. For example, key events, how you feel, your productivity levels, your relationships, your sex life, maybe your insights," he says.
Famous journal keepers include inventor Leonardo da Vinci, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and entrepreneur Benjamin Franklin. Their experiences demonstrate just how versatile journaling is and how almost anyone can benefit from this practice.
"Benjamin Franklin is amazing," says Korzonek. "It's quite impressive that he managed to build his life around very powerful principles that he want[ed] to live his life by, then he tracked how he's doing."
What I’m Reading
Indistractable by Nir Eyal (I’m interviewing Nir soon…)
What I’m Writing
A Thought-Provoking Quote
People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time, they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy. – Seneca