A few years ago, I realised something. All of the people I looked up to because they achieved success in their field had one thing in common: they journaled. In fact, if you watch videos where successful people talk about high-performance habits, they will all list journaling.
After my realisation, I decided that I, too would start journaling, and I’ve now been journaling for 4 years. I believe journaling has helped me achieve the success I have and has contributed to my positive attitude. It has definitely helped me through some tough times too.
What Is Journaling?
Journaling is the act of writing out your thoughts and goals. It looks different for everybody. Some people like to review the day and work through their feelings. Other people use it to visualise their future and set their intentions for the day. Depending on how you journal, the process can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.
I keep my journaling short. I do 5 minutes each morning and another 5 minutes each evening. In the morning, I check in with my goals and hype myself up for the day ahead. In the evening, I reflect on the day and evaluate what I could do better in the future.
When I journal, I use my High Performance Body Journal. It has prompts to get me started, so I don’t have to spend my time thinking of what to write. If you are starting journaling for the first time, I recommend one that has prompts to remove the friction from your new habit. Once it becomes a habit, you can experiment with different styles or even use a notebook for free-form journaling.
7 Reasons to Start Journaling
These are the main benefits I saw when I started journaling and the reasons I recommend journaling to everyone. It doesn’t matter what your goal is; journaling is a great tool to keep you on track. I use it to improve my business and fitness primarily but I have also used it to improve relationships and start new habits.
Journaling Improves Focus
When I journal, I like to think about what I want to achieve in life. Thinking about my short-term and long-term goals twice a day helps ingrain that goal into my subconscious. Once it’s there, I begin behaving like the person I want to be without even thinking about it.
When pilots fly a plane, even 1 degree of error in their calculations means they are off course by 60 miles. This is true for anything else too. If you’re not making a consistent effort to stay on course, you could miss your goal by a large margin. The odd cheat day or day off isn’t going to ruin your progress, but if your mindset goes off course, then you risk missing your goal.
- What do you want to achieve?
- Where do you want to be?
- What do you want to accomplish?
- How do you want other people to perceive you?
- What do you stand for?
Write the answers down in your journal every single day. It may feel repetitive, but if you repeat these things to yourself every single day, your mind starts to believe what you are saying. You will start to change your behaviour to help get there.
If you start each day telling yourself that you’re going to be a happy, positive person, your brain will begin to believe it over time.
In fact, I have an example for you. I was looking back through my journals recently and found an entry from November 16th 2018. That was when I started writing, “I want to be a full-time online fitness coach.” Back then, I was working 9-5 in online marketing, but I had a dream. And look at where I am today!
Journaling Helps You Become a Better Human Being
Effective journaling doesn’t just look to the future; it also reflects on the past and present. My journal, the High Performance Body Journal, contains prompts to identify things that are going well and things that need improvement. It asks questions like:
- What did you do well today?
- What could you have done better?
- What are you proud of?
Perhaps you got mad and snapped at someone. Perhaps you fell down a rabbit hole of cat videos instead of doing your work. Perhaps you skipped the gym. It is important to acknowledge where you are struggling so you can look for patterns. You can start to look for what triggers behaviour you don’t want and start setting goals to improve in the future. For example, you might notice that you snap at people on days when you are tired. You can set goals to address both the symptom (snapping) and the root cause (lack of sleep).
Journaling Improves Mood
Engaging in regular positive self-talk improves mood. Journaling does that by listing things you are grateful for and congratulating yourself for achievements. No matter what happens during the day, you start and end your day on a positive note. Studies have shown that gratitude habits improve overall positivity and resilience. It teaches you to look for the positive in any situation.
If you consistently tell yourself that you can’t do something, then you will begin to believe it over time. But if you tell yourself that you can do it and that you should follow your dreams, then you will crush it.
Journaling Makes You Proactive Instead of Reactive
How does your morning currently start? Do you roll over and check your mobile phone as soon as you wake up? Do you wake up with just enough time to get ready and go to work? Most people’s first moments are spent thinking about other people. They’re reacting to messages or emails and they tend to set the tone for the day.
Think about when you wake up to an angry message from your boss or family member. Doesn’t that put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day?
My journaling practise comes before everything in my day. I wake up and start my journaling first thing. In those 5 minutes I decide how I want my day to go and what I plan to achieve. After that, anything else that comes up has to fit around my plan. Emails or text messages don’t jump ahead of my priorities anymore because the tasks I set for my day will help me further my goals.
It is really easy to get caught up in the energy of other people if you are in a reactive mindset. You let your anxious co-worker’s task jump to the head of the queue, or a grumpy interaction set the tone for your day. But when you’ve decided what is important for your day or that you are going to be happy today, you are less likely to waver.
Journaling Holds You Accountable
I often get funny looks from my clients when I tell them that journaling will improve their physical health. Okay, the journal will not work out for you, but it will hold you accountable. If your goal is to improve your health, then you will be setting goals and analysing your habits related to those goals.
The High Performance Body Journal asks about physical activity, mental health, and water consumption to keep you mindful. Tracking these habits keeps you on track for your goals. You are less likely to give in to temptation and eat that extra piece of cake if you know you will have to write it down later. The same goes for working out; you are less likely to skip a workout if you will have to write that you skipped your second workout in a row.
My clients get better results because they plan healthy habits at the start of the day rather than just trying to squeeze them in if they remember. Their health is at the forefront of their mind as they go about their day, and they subconsciously make better choices.
Journaling Forces You to Set Goals
Journaling makes you consider the future as well as the past and present. It naturally gets you thinking about what you want to achieve and what you are working towards. If you use a journal with prompts, the first few pages are usually for goal setting in different areas of your life. These pages will ask you:
- What you want to achieve
- Why you want to achieve it
- How you will achieve it
Most journals will also check in on your progress at the start of the week and ask you to set priorities or mini-goals for the coming week. I personally love this part of journaling because it helps me to clarify what is important. I go into the week with a list of priorities before anything else can demand my attention.
I think people often underestimate what you can achieve in a week. You can read a whole book in a week. You can adjust your diet and lose 1 kg in a week. You could even get your business started in a week. All it needs is focused effort and a clear list of tasks that will help you to achieve your goal; you’d be surprised what you can achieve in a week.
Journaling Helps You See How Far You’ve Come
One of my favourite benefits of journaling is that it helps me to see how far I’ve come. I try and look back over my old journals when I feel demotivated or stuck and see how much I’ve achieved. When I struggle in my business, I look back at old journals where Gym Performance was just a dream or back in the days when I was struggling to make Gym Performance profitable.
It also helps me to look back and see the habits that have contributed to my success. When I look back at old journals, I am shocked at the amount of time I spent on social media. Now, I am only on social media when I am creating content or keeping in touch with clients for my business. Whenever I need a boost of motivation, I look back at my old journals. It makes me think, Martin, you’ve come a long way, man!
Journal Your Way
Whatever your reasons for journaling, I urge you to just start. You can start with a blank notebook and use some of the prompts we’ve discussed, or you can purchase a journal with prefilled prompts if you need somewhere to start. I still use my journal, the High Performance Body Journal. It keeps my journaling practice simpler and more structured.
- Goal setting framework
- Daily pages, including morning mindset and evening reflection
- Weekly pages to set your goals and intentions
It doesn’t matter what kind of journal you use; what matters is that you start.