Most blog posts that talk about journaling ideas just give you the journaling techniques without explaining the purpose of using them in the first place.
If you’ve been following my work for a while, you know I focus on productivity methods as a means to an end instead of the end itself.
I adopted journaling techniques because I thought they could improve my life.
I don’t use journaling ideas for any of the common reasons I’m going to list below:
I adopted journaling techniques because:
Let’s take a look at my core routine and then also explore some of the journaling techniques I’ve also used over the years as well as different types of journaling you can use to change your life.
I’ve used the same journaling routine for the past half-decade. It takes no longer than 10 minutes. I prefer analog, so paper journaling works best for me.
First, I write down three things I’m grateful for because it keeps me grounded.
When I’m grounded, I work more effectively because I don’t let my ambition create anxiety about the future. I want to improve, but understanding I have many of the things I want already helps me improve for the right reasons.
Next, I use this core journaling technique that changed my life forever.
Every one of my readers who does this will tell you just how powerful it is.
Each day, I write down ten ideas.
In your case, the ideas could be about anything, e.g., 10 ideas for improving my health, 10 ideas for being more productive, or 10 ideas for making a political change in your community.
I focus on ideas related to my writing business. Usually, I write down 10 ideas for articles. But these days, I’m using this journaling technique for other aspects of my business.
For example, today I wrote down 10 ideas to improve the product experience for my online course. The other day, I wrote down 10 ideas for new features to add.
James Altucher, the inventor of this journaling technique, used it to create ideas for other people. He’d write down 10 ideas that could help someone else’s life or business and he’d send the good ones to them. This led to a bigger network, business deals, partnerships, you name it.
Give yourself permission to write bad, even horrible ideas
You fight through the bad ones to get to the good ones. I’ve written 20,000+ ideas over the years. I only need a small handful of those ideas to be good to change the course of my life.
Start using this journaling technique asap.
Next, I write a short and sweet to-do list.
I never add more than five tasks. Usually, I spend 4-5 hours per day doing focused work for my business. I write daily, which takes about two hours. Then, the other two or three will be used on things that can help improve my business.
I physically write these tasks down and cross them off. I like the visual representation of making progress that paper journaling provides.
Occasionally, I do other journaling techniques that serve a specific purpose and fulfill a need. Let’s take a look at them.
Julia Cameron created a journaling technique called morning pages to help artists be more creative.
You free-write three pages about whatever is on your mind.
I use morning pages when I have this vague sense of unease or a problem that needs to be solved. I take the time to articulate the problem in detail but I don’t force myself to write anything specific.
Damn, I’m in a bad mood today. Why?
Then, I’ll just write out the answer without judgment. Page one is usually just nonsense and gibberish, but by pages two and three the answers will start to reveal themselves.
Morning pages are great for mood regulation, but I’ll also use them to solve a complex problem or challenge like “How can I grow my business to seven figures in revenue?”
Much like the ten ideas strategy, I embrace just writing what comes out without worrying whether or not it’s good or bad. Sometimes I end up with an amazing revelation. Sometimes these journaling ideas I produce are…meh.
Either way, I almost always have more mental clarity than I had before.
With Marginalia, you produce journaling ideas from the information you read in books.
You literally write in the margins of the book while you’re reading it. This makes you an active learner. You can expand on the author’s ideas. Marginalia helps you retain more information and boost your reading comprehension.
Hell, you can even turn these journaling ideas into a business.
Just ask Maria Popova who built a seven-figure brand mostly by publishing her marginalia online. She just publishes her notes in the form of blog posts that are 70 percent words from the other with 30 percent of her interpretation of the ideas.
Most of the great ideas in the world already exist. Instead of trying to be truly original, use those ideas as a foundation to change your life.
I consider this next journaling technique as a twist on marginalia. I learned it from Ryan Holiday who learned it from Robert Greene.
When they read books, they highlight important quotes and concepts from the book.
After letting the book sit for a while, they read back through the quotes to see if they’re still relevant. If they are, they write them down on notecards. The notecards are labeled into themes.
I use this technique when I’m doing research for a book. The themes become chapters or chapter sections. My books turn out well because I’m stealing like an artist:
If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism. If you steal from many, it’s research. – Wilson Mizner
Even if you’re not a writer, you can use the notecard system for other goals, e.g., reading different business books to use those journaling ideas as seeds for the way you’ll structure your business.
This is another journaling technique you can use to store and categorize more information in your brain.
You should have a set of core values that you live by.
Not just a vague list of values, but an explicitly stated set of beliefs and worldviews you can use to navigate the world. Understanding your core values helps you make better decisions, form boundaries, and know what to say yes and no to.
My mentor taught me this journaling technique. First, focus on answering the three sacred questions:
Write page-long answers to each. Here are some other supplementary questions you can answer too:
Writing down the answers helps you articulate your belief systems. Writing them down makes the ideas more sticky. Taking the time to think about what you actually believe in and stand for will help you develop true self-awareness, something that many people in society lack.
The easiest way to solve your lack of journaling ideas is to buy one. There are authors and entrepreneurs who’ve created journals with pre-defined sections you can use to improve your life.
There are tons of different journals you can buy with different themes and methods you can use to improve your life, career, business, relationships, you name it.
Let’s take a look at some of the journals I personally recommend.
Ryan Holiday is famous for bringing the ancient philosophy of stoicism into the modern mainstream. His book, The Daily Stoic, teaches one lesson per day from stoicism and uses examples from the real world to illustrate them.
What is stoicism? It’s the art of keeping yourself sane in an unfair and chaotic world.
The Daily Stoic comes with a companion, The Daily Stoic Journal, which has an accompanying section for each lesson where you can write down your own thoughts.
If you’re feeling stuck, anxious, afraid, and full of doubt, this is the journal for you.
The Self Journal, created by Cathryn Lavery and Allen Brouwer, helps you reach your goals and come up with cool ideas.
It provides a systematic approach for both setting goals and tackling them.
It includes items like:
You can even get a pdf version of the journal for free right here.
These are the ones I’m familiar with, but there are many more you can find online.
Here’s a list of some I found that look promising:
Remember what I said in the beginning.
These journaling tips are just a means to an end.
Don’t use them as a crutch to feel like you’re productive without actually doing anything in the real world. Journaling should be an outlet you can use to enhance your mind, not a method you use to hide from the world and stay stuck in your thoughts.
Far too many people simply become journaling junkies who journal all day but see no real changes in their life because of the journaling techniques. Be different.
Use this and other productivity methods to transform yourself into a more powerful, productive, and knowledgable person who applies their knowledge and makes tangible improvements.