Journaling lets professional and personal strategies surface when you allow your mind to wander
By Margaret Lisi, CEO
I can’t imagine it’s just me looking hard at myself and my business these days, with politics overwhelming the news and asking some tough questions about who we are, who we want to be and how we’re going to get there—not just as a country but as a marketing business owner and a person.
I was feeling stuck, talking to others in a loop trying to figure out, “What direction we should grow? What do we stand for—is it the same as it was a year ago? How do we get where we want to be?” And I realized there was only one person who truly could tell me the answers: me. So I returned to something I haven’t done since I was a teen—journaling.
Journaling isn’t just for personal reflection and growth, it’s also great for figuring out business conundrums, or setting bits and pieces of inspiration down (along with images, photos, matchbooks, whatever catches your imagination) that can lead to your creative or business breakthrough. In fact, research from the Harvard Business School shows that journaling can boost your performance and impact your career success.
Every problem-solver, including marketers and other creatives, have been logjammed before, blank as that sheet of journaling paper when you really need an idea. Now. Journaling is valuable because it’s a process, it’s a record of your thoughts and ideas, and you can just dump everything on a page—you may find yourself thinking faster than you can write. That’s some potent soil for idea growth! Here are some tips from The Daily Muse, a career feature of forbes.com, to get you started:
1. Log Good Ideas
Don’t let ideas fall by the wayside simply because you didn’t think of them between 9 and 5. With a journal on hand, you can write thoughts down when they come to you and make a note to share them with your boss or team. You might also find that, when you jot down one idea, more come to you.
2. Learn Your Lessons
There’s little value in going through experiences, both good and bad, if you can’t learn from them. So good or bad, don’t forget to take note of the lesson. By writing down what you’ve been through, noting what worked and what didn’t, and analyzing what might help you in the future, you’ll set yourself up for much greater professional success.
3. List Good Advice From Mentors
You know what’s even more valuable than getting advice? Remembering it when you need it most.
So, when you get great guidance from a mentor, manager, or peer, write it down and use it as a resource when you’re struggling or looking for a bit of inspiration. It’s likely you’ll want to remember their words of wisdom for the rest of your career—and maybe even pass it on to your own mentee one day.
4. Vent (in a Safe Space)
There’s no more perfect place to vent your workplace frustrations than in the privacy of your own journal (in fact, sometimes that’s the only place you should be venting your frustrations!). Don’t keep all negative feelings and experiences bottled up inside, but getting some of the little, day-to-day stuff off your chest, privately, is often the most therapeutic and safe way to move past your dissatisfaction.
In your journal, go ahead and write the response you really wanted to send to that colleague or client. Read it a few more times if you want, then let it go. Literally, turn the page.
5. Collect Compliments
It may feel a little self-absorbed, but there’s no better place to keep track of the compliments and praise you’ve received than in your personal journal. The value of this is twofold: First, it allows you to quickly remember the great things people have said about you as a testimonial of your work, and second, it’s also a quick and easy morale boost on days you need that lift. If you’re being praised at work, it’s okay to relish that!
6. Envision the Future
In The How of Happiness, researcher and professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky says 20 minutes each day spent writing a vision of your “best possible future self” can help cultivate optimism and an overall sense of happiness. This exercise, which involves “considering your most important, deeply held goals and picturing that they will be achieved” is a valuable workplace exercise as well.
Once you’ve journaled for a while, over coffee, in the shower, in bed before you go to sleep (so you CAN sleep), wherever you are relaxed and think most clearly, you can go back. Often, certain themes or threads emerge in your writing.
A friend has been business journaling for a while now after a trip with old friends made him feel he was stuck in the same place while they were much further along financially and professionally. Writing down his feelings, what led to them, obstacles, barriers and more have led him to a new vision of his company—and I’ll tell you it’s a great vision, and a hard left turn from where he was going. Do I think he’ll succeed, yes! Because those themes and threads, odds and ends from his journaling surfaced the very strong foundation of his plan. And since I can’t read his journal, I can’t wait to see how it all works out.
Do you journal? Has it helped you? Let me know!
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