All my life I kept hearing that everybody should keep a journal. And more than once, I resolved to give it a try. But every time, journaling with consistency eluded me.
Everywhere I turned, people were telling me that journaling was one of those habits of highly successful people. Even though everybody kept telling me I should journal, nobody ever told me how to do it properly. And one of the things I kept hearing over and over was how keeping a journal helped process life, especially emotions. After numerous resolutions to try, I finally got one off the ground. I kept at it for a few weeks. And that, my friend, was a record breaking achievement for me.
Channelling darkness through my journal
But seriously, writing down how I felt, and processing my emotions on paper was not something that I enjoyed at all. I just don’t see how guys do it. Writing the journal became a chore, and as all tedious tasks do, it became something I avoided. Soon I started missing days. You guessed it, next thing the journal got buried and soon forgotten.
A year or so later I discovered it and gave it a read. All the emotions of those journaling days came rushing back. And to be honest, the reason I had decided I might need to journal was because I was going through a bit of personal hell. The emotions recorded in my journal certainly reflected that. Rereading it was so bad, I quickly made a fire and burned the journal. And hopefully with it, I banished all the spirits of that moment with it.
Discovering a journaling template
And so every time somebody would encourage me to journal, I would tell them: “I am glad it works for you, but journaling just isn’t really for me. I tried it and it was more discouraging than helpful.” Then one day a friend said: “Milton, you should try journaling with a template.” Well, he perked my interest just enough that I decided to research what this journaling with a template was supposed to be about. After all, all successful people journal, and I certainly didn’t want to exclude myself from that category.
And, lo and behold, one of the mentors whose blog I follow on a regular basis, wrote an article about journaling more consistently with a template. After discovering Michael Hyatt’s post on journaling with a template, I decided that maybe I should give it another whirl. And this time, the results are a lot more encouraging.
It is about keeping an intentional journal
Journaling with a template is about keeping it more intentional. It is about focusing on what really matters, and choosing the things you want to focus on in life. If you don’t want to focus on feeling sad or inadequate, why spend time writing about it. Don’t get me wrong, it is not about denying grief or emotional turmoil, but it is about trying to find the good in it and writing about what you want to focus on.
So I sat down and created my own journal template. Something that fits me and is important to me. It is designed in the form of a few questions. That way all I have to do each day is answer them. They don’t have to be long answers, but I do answer all of them even if it is cryptic. I want enough detail though, that if I read it a few years from now, I will know what I meant.
My journal template
So here are the things that are important enough for me to end up as questions in my journal template. Feel free to modify them, and use them for your own template. Mine won’t be perfect for you.
1. What was noteworthy about yesterday? Since I journal in the mornings, this allows me to recap some meetings, conversations, or experiences from the day before that impressed themselves on me.
2. How am I expressing a thankfulness? I believe thankfulness is one of the most important character traits a person can develop. And honestly, I kinda suck at that, so I try to become more intentional about it.
3. What books am I currently reading? Most of you know I am an avid reader. I literally feel like I die inside if I don’t read practically every day. It is one of the things that refreshes me and inspires me to live well.
4. What Scripture Passage am I reading this morning? Since daily devotions are important to me, I thought it would be cool to record this as well. And it may also give context to the next few questions.
5. What am I learning these days? This can be insights I gather from the books I read, reflections on the Bible passage I read, or just in general the things that seem to be my life right now for the seeming purpose of teaching me something. And they don’t have to be spiritual in nature either.
6. What do I think God is speaking to me about? Rarely ever do I know for sure God spoke to me. That is why I say “think” in the question. That allows me to answer it every day. Sometimes it takes a while before I realize that this must be God. Going back later and realizing what I sensed God was speaking to me, helps me see that maybe I hear God better than I thought. I just need to take the time to listen.
7. What specific prayers am I praying today? When I say specific prayers, I am talking about prayers that are so specific that you will know when God answers them. Then you get to come back and check them off and this becomes the praise centre.
8. What is my one thing I need to focus on today? This can be a task, project, event, attitude, or anything that seems to be important enough that for today it stands a head over everything else.
Still learning how to journal
Now I am no master of journaling yet. I am still learning to fit it into my day, so feel free to join me on the journey. But the experience is so different now. I actually enjoy picking up my journal and recording my answers to these questions. And going back over what I have written in the past is enlightening.
Fact is, I have enjoyed it so much that I kept getting into conversations about journaling with various people. So I decided to write a post about it. Hope you find it helpful. And after asking all my highly successful friends, I believe it. Successful people journal. I am betting your questions will look different than mine. I would love to hear about the questions you came up with and why. Join the conversation on facebook, google plus, twitter or linked in.