12 Leader-Recommended Techniques to Actually Start Journaling Effectively

If journaling hasn't stuck in the past, don't be too quick to write it off entirely.

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A journal can be a valuable tool to an entrepreneur. Being able to sit down and reflect on your thoughts throughout the day can provide a much-needed dose of perspective and can help you to improve your focus.

Unfortunately, there’s no one step-by-step guide on how you should journal to obtain these desired results. Some techniques work well, and others are less effective. For a busy entrepreneur, journaling effectively may require trial and error. Here, 12 leaders from Young Entrepreneur Council share their techniques for those who may be hesitant to try journaling or those who are unsure of where to begin and how those methods help them get their thoughts in order as business owners.

1. Remember There Are No Rules

There are no rules to journaling. There is no right or wrong way to capture your thoughts on paper. You aren’t required to write every day. Do what works for you. Don’t like to write in full sentences? That’s OK. Prefer to draw pictures? Go for it! For journaling to be effective, you need to do it in a way that you find value from or it’s just another task on your to-do list.

Jonathan Prichard, MattressInsider.com

2. Keep Things Basic

A primary reason I’m able to maintain a regular journaling practice is because I keep things basic. My journaling is a simple gratitude practice that I do right before bed every night. I keep a simple notebook and pen next to my bed and each night before I turn the light out I write down five things that I’m grateful for and five things that were good about the day. That’s it!

Richard Fong, Automatic Growth

3. Just Get Started

Just start! Get all your thoughts down at the end of the day in whatever format you choose, and from that, fill in your schedule for tomorrow. That way, you can start afresh in the morning knowing that your day is already planned out and you’re not forgetting anything. I find it super helpful and meditative to end my day by handwriting my notes and thoughts without digital distractions.

Emily Stallings, Casely, Inc.

4. Set a Bare Minimum

Set a bare minimum and don’t seek to achieve a high level of quality. You aren’t looking to create a perfect piece of literature. You just want to get your thoughts out there. Whether it’s one page or one paragraph, set a minimum length requirement and accomplish this daily. Your mind will clear up and you’ll look forward to journaling. 

Michael Fellows, Patriot Crew

5. Create a Journaling Theme

There is no right or wrong answer when you journal, but to help you focus and begin, you can create a theme. For example, one year I did a self-care journal where I kept track of how to take better care of myself (e.g. schedule vacations, work out). This year, I’m doing a gratitude journal where I list all the positives in my life each day. This has made me a more positive and better leader.

Shu Saito, All Filters

6. Use Freewriting

An effective way to journal is to use freewriting. Simply sit down, set a timer for 10-20 minutes and start writing. You should not stop writing for any reason—not to think, correct mistakes or to control what’s emerging as you write. When you do this, you’ll find interesting insights. Especially when you make this a habit for the long run. 

Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

7. Use Prompts and Questions

Journaling can initially be intimidating. When I first began to journal, I found myself staring at a blank page. Something that helped me was to use journal prompts in order to inspire the writing process. Often, the use of questions can help us access our subconscious mind far faster and it becomes easier to write and reflect.

Leanne Lopez Mosley, GROW Coaching Solutions

8. Start With Just a Few Minutes

The key to getting into journaling is to dedicate a few minutes each day to writing when you start. For many of us, sitting down and writing about our inner thoughts doesn’t always come naturally. When you start with five minutes or so of writing every day, you train your brain to adjust to this new habit. As a result, you’ll get more value from journaling in the future.

John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC

9. Write When You’re Comfortable

To make the most out of journaling, I like to write when I feel most comfortable and in my element. For me, this is at night right before I go to bed. The world is quiet and I use that to my advantage to spill my thoughts, discuss what’s happening in my life, my goals and much more. If you struggle to journal consistently, try finding a time that works best for you for the best results.

Jared Atchison, WPForms

10. Keep It Short

For journaling and reflection, my advice is to keep it short! I use a Panda Planner daily. It gives me space to write down my daily gratitude, top goals, mantra for the day and more. There is only room for a few words, which takes the pressure off and keeps the exercise quick. Making it short and sweet allows for reflection to easily become a daily practice and not an onerous chore.

Ashley Sharp, Dwell with Dignity

11. Use a Digital Note Program

If you’re not sure where to start with journaling, start with a digital note program. I’ve had success writing about my thoughts with Evernote when I couldn’t be bothered to pick up a pen. It takes time to get used to, but there are plenty of amazing benefits that come with these thought exercises. 

John Turner, SeedProd LLC

12. Write Both Positives and Negatives

You can get the most out of your daily reflection or journaling by writing down both the positives and negatives. We sometimes think that journaling only means writing down the things we want to improve. The truth is, writing down things that made you happy or feel confident can help you grow personally and professionally. 

Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.

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