I’ve kept a journal for as long as I remember. My collection of beat-up notebooks meanders from middle school crushes to college major selection to my decision to leave my 9-to-5 in pursuit of my passion.
I’ve always inherently felt that journaling helps bring me clarity, but it wasn’t until recently I realized how much of an impact it can have on your business when you put a little bit of structure behind it.
Regular journaling can improve your business and your leadership abilities in a number of ways and help you reach your big goals—those really ambitious, reach-for-the-stars ones—faster.
The Accountability Factor
One of the biggest things entrepreneurs struggle with is accountability. There’s no one holding your feet to the fire, no one bringing you in for quarterly performance reviews. You’re the coach and the player.
Journaling makes you accountable to yourself and the goals you wish to achieve. Writing by hand—not on a computer or smartphone—is key.
When you physically write something down, a fascinating thing happens in the brain; it’s like you put a pin in the thing telling your brain “this is important!” Later, subconsciously, your brain will take note of opportunities and useful tidbits to help move you closer to achieving that important thing. Pretty cool, right?
When you don’t write down your objectives, it’s too easy to push them back or forget about them entirely. Journaling about your goals and progress on a regular basis helps keep you accountable.
A savvy entrepreneur capitalizes on his strengths and delegates or outsources his weaknesses. But unless you were born with a heightened self-awareness, it can be challenging to accurately identify your own strengths and weaknesses.
Journaling helps us learn more about ourselves by documenting our achievements and shining a light on our shortcomings.
Perhaps, for example, in the course of your regular journaling, you find yourself repeatedly lamenting your struggle to grow your team. It might be an indication that hiring has become a stumbling block for your growth, and it’s time to bring on someone more qualified to manage hiring or outsource it to a third party.
Sometimes, putting your thoughts, fears and feelings down on paper is an effective way to deal with them.
That uncertainty that’s been nagging you for weeks? Write it down, get it out, and sort through the reasons it’s become such a thorn in your side. That accomplishment that’s been just out of reach? Use your journal to puzzle through what’s holding you back from getting there.
Some of the best ‘aha!’ moments come as my pen is moving across the lines of my journal.
Mindfulness is a term used to describe the intentional awareness of the present moment and the acceptance of our feelings and sensations about a given situation. In a nutshell, being mindful is akin to being present, not distracted by analyzing the past or worrying about the future.
Journaling on a regular basis forces us to be mindful, actively absorbing our present situation and looking inward to identify our response to it. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, make us less reactionary, and help contribute to greater overall satisfaction, all of which are an asset to an ambitious entrepreneur.
When we’re less reactionary, we’re able to make decisions based on what’s best for the business rather than our own emotional response to whatever challenge we’re facing.
For Your Health
It’s much tougher to achieve your goals when you’re not healthy—both physically and mentally speaking. Perhaps the most surprising benefit of journaling is its health implications.
In one study, patients with asthma and rheumatoid arthritis were instructed to journal for 20 minutes a day, either about the most stressful event of their lives or about emotionally neutral topics.
After several months, close to 100% of the patients in the stressful situation group showed improvement in their clinical evaluations and demonstrated less deterioration than the control group. Similar results were shown in a study involving journaling among HIV patients.
Journaling has also been scientifically linked to faster healing times for both physical wounds and emotional traumas. Next time you feel less than your best, try writing about it. It sounds crazy, but scientists say it’ll give your immune system a boost.
A Few Ideas To Try
The key to effective journaling is to do it consistently. You don’t have to commit to a strict daily regimen (and in fact, some experts say that can be detrimental to new journal-writers). Instead, aim to journal with a frequency that makes sense for you, be it daily or several times per month.
To get the most out of journaling as it pertains to your goals, try following one or more of these prompts each time you write:
- In order to move closer to my goal, this week I need to…
- One thing that’s standing in the way of my goal is…
- I feel ______ about my progress toward my goals, because _______.
- The most important thing I’ll accomplish this week is…
Don’t forget to review your progress! Regular reflection on where you’ve been and how far you’ve come is just as much part of the process as the writing itself.
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