As part of my morning routine, I journal for 5-10 minutes.I will write continuously about whatever is on my mind. I will write about my feelings towards a sales presentation I have that day, an argument or discussion I had with my girlfriend, a new blog idea, how meditation felt or how my workout went. For that short time period, I transcribe my thoughts into my notebook.

I start each journal entry the same with “Today I noticed that…” from there my thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and emotions are translated from complex brain activity to the fine motor movements of my pen. Actually, I owe this structure of journaling to a friend who recommended I try out the “10-day writing challenge” on SkillShare (an online learning platform).

Journaling is not a novel idea. In fact, there have been multiple studies that showcase the psychological benefits of journaling and there are highly successful and famous individuals who insisted on journaling their ideas. While these articles are great resources for information if you’re interested in picking up the practice, I have four reasons around focus, accountability, creativity, and mindfulness that make those 5-10 minutes invaluable for me.

 

The Codex Leicester, by Leonardo Da Vinci, is regarded as Da Vinci’s most famous manuscript. Bill Gates purchased the notebook for $30.8 million in 1994. Source: Business Insider

Accountability

In my Journal, I will write about things that I want to accomplish and give myself a deadline to achieve it. For example, I had played with the idea of launching a blog for 6 months before I finally decided that it would be a monthly project of mine for February 2017. My target date for launching the blog was February 28, 2017, and my first post was published on March 1, 2017.

These goals, regardless of size, are things I want to achieve. Some of these goals may revolve around personal finance, personal health, or weightlifting goals. If I leave the goals in my head, they will stay fantasies and I will eventually forget about them. However, by writing down my goals I make a commitment to myself to fulfill the objective within the given time frame.

Clears my thoughts

Have you ever had your mind race so fast between thoughts that it feels like your brain is playing an intense tennis match with your every mental thought? There are times where I seemingly have 1,000 things on my mind with no sense of direction. Because I haven’t decided on a clear plan of attack, I am paralyzed with the anxiety of not accomplishing anything.

Journaling is my way of coping with the mental frenzy that we all sometimes experience. As a  solution-oriented person, when I have something to do, I need to have a distinct strategy in place to get my stuff done. Otherwise, I meander for a few moments, become distracted, and end up feeling defeated.

Those 5-10 minutes of mental vomit onto paper alleviates the mental weight of these unsolved issues or tasks. It enables me to jot down my ideas and create a plan. I then execute on my plan, if that next step doesn’t work, I adapt and find a solution that does. Journaling clears my mind of the noise and worry while increasing my focus on the most immediate task at hand.

Creativity

Contrary to my last point, there are days where I wake up calm, relaxed and tranquil; these are the days where journaling becomes difficult. When I am mentally at ease, I am forced to think creatively about a journaling topic. I force myself to fantasize about my future, what if scenarios, how I feel about this thought or that thought, or an article I read yesterday; I exercise my imagination.  Rationale and logic, are what I tend to use to counter our fantasies and deem them unrealistic. However, when I’m journaling, I am a dreamer and no fantasy is too farfetched. I let my mind wander and explore thoughts I would have otherwise brushed off. Once I latch onto an idea, I visualize and think of every detail I can and write it down.

 

An image of Frida Kahlo’s journal which she would use to sketch and paint in. Source: AnOther Mag

Mindfulness

Being a solution-driven individual, I have a tendency to think about “What’s next?” While this can be valuable for accomplishing tasks, it is not conducive for being present in the moment. Journaling presents me with an exercise in mindfulness. For those 10 minutes or so, I have the opportunity to slow down and be with my thoughts. The free structure of journaling allows me to reflect on past situations and recall how things felt during that point in time. What was it about that comment that frustrated me? What did I do well during my presentation, where could I have improved? How did meeting up with friends inspire me?

Give it a try

The most valuable thing about journaling is that there is no formal structure on how you should journal. However, the hardest thing about journaling is taking the time out of your day and physically writing or typing out your thoughts. It will feel unfamiliar at first, at least it did for me, but I promise you that once you start, the benefits will be apparent and it will quickly become part of your routine.

Readers, if you journal, how do you structure your thoughts and what are some of the benefits you’ve observed from this ritual?