I cannot talk enough about the benefits of journalling. A seemingly simple activity which can have huge benefits.
Plenty has been written about how it can help your mental health, help you unwind, de-stress, be more creative, build discipline, work through problems… It’s a brilliant practice which is open to everyone. And all you need to get started is a pen and a piece of paper.
I’m not going to go into all of this - there is lots out there already - but I did want to share a few ways you can use it to stay motivated towards your goals.
Journalling is probably the best weapon in your armoury when it comes to goal-smashery. And in this article I’m going to share some of the techniques you can use to keep your motivation high, and some personal experiences on how just writing stuff down kept me going when things got tough.
So if you’re on the fence or are new to the idea of journaling read on, I may be able to convince you it’s worth a go! And if you're already a pro, there are a few different practices in here which are worth you having a go at too. And as always - please comment and share your experiences too!
PS. You can check out the new range of journals here!
A place to learn, reflect and grow
In 2013 I moved to London from Yorkshire, on a mission to make a new life for myself in the big smoke.
I had about five months to get myself a paying job and then hopefully somewhere decent to live before my savings ran out and it would have been farewell London.
On the job front, I had got myself an internship at a PR agency. A great first step, but being an internship it only paid some travel expenses (which I was lucky to get). With it being the Summer, I was also luckily able to stay with various friends in spare rooms while people were on holiday and had lined a few things up to get me started.
Lugging anything on London transport is annoying - especially during a Summer heatwave. And as I had nowhere permanent to live and would be hopping from place to place, travelling light was key. I had just enough outfits that I could wear something different each day for work and was also determined that my journal would come along too.
My dream scenario was to sort a proper job to start by the time my internship ended which I soon learned might be harder than I first thought. I remember speaking to someone at the agency who had been interning for over at year at various agencies before they got a job. A whole year.
This couldn’t be me, my money was only set to last five months and I definitely didn’t have enough friends to hop between for a year either.
So I was determined to learn as much as I could during the internship, absorb as much information as humanly possible - so the chances of landing an actual paying job would be greater.
I decided that my journal would be the place I would capture everything I learned - It would be my ‘working handbook’ so I didn’t forget anything.
And so I wrote about it all, made notes on how the agency worked, the different campaigns they were working on, and even the more mundane stuff like ‘best practice for compiling a contact database’. (a skill by the way, that has served me very well to date!)
I took on board every bit of feedback I could get, good and bad, then wrote it all down.
Every time we move towards our goal, we have a chance to learn. Whether that is things going right or wrong for us.
Writing about your experiences means you can learn from them, question the detail of what happened and then hopefully make more informed decisions in the future.
Asking yourself, why was this so successful? What did I do? What can I take forward to next time?
And if it didn’t go so well, this is not about giving yourself a mental beating - please never do this! But rather asking yourself what you can do differently in the future - what do you need to do next time? And while you are at it what actually went well?
IDEAS TO GET YOU STARTED
What can you learn from today?
Think about one of your successes this week - and look at why it was so successful. Write down five reasons it went well, and then write five lessons you can take away for the future.
For example - The event you put on at work which went really well, what made it a success? What will you always do in the future?
Or say you managed a the longest run you’ve ever done, or beat one of your times - ask yourself if there is anything you can do to help you repeat that success. Did you have a particularly good motivational playlist going? Was this the time of day you usually run?
A note on dealing with things when they don’t go so well…
Sometimes it’s hard to get perspective when things haven’t gone your way and turning your mindset around can be tricky. One thing you can use is a gratitude list to draw out some of the things you can learn. Start by writing a list of the things which went well and then think about the lessons you can take from things which didn’t go so well.
Starting by thinking about the positive can put you in a better mindset to then think about what you can learn, and generally will make you feel better.
For example - ‘I am so grateful I sent that embarrassing email with the typo in to the whole company, this has taught me to always read things three times, and get my friend to check over it too before I send it out.’
Never, never, never write down or say to yourself that ‘this failed because I’m useless’ or anything else horrible. Be kind to yourself, failure is a gift because it helps you learn - not something which makes you stupid, an idiot or any other insult you can come up with.
Learn from others
Read or listen to a story about someone you admire. There are thousands of free podcasts and interviews out there with inspiring people - read, listen, then reflect.
Is there something you can learn from them? What did they do to be successful? Do they have a daily routine you can copy? Do they have a particular way of dealing with stressful situations you can try?
One of the best ways to learn is from those who blazed the trail before us.
It doesn’t have to be people either - industries love to shout about their achievements. Read your industry magazine and find examples of companies or organisations who have done great things and see if there are things you can learn from them.
Keep on going - you are almost there!
After my internship finished, I’m pleased to say that I got a job about a month later. A real paying job with a full salary! Hooray! I definitely credit my ‘working handbook’ with some of this success.
The stars also started to align on my mission to find somewhere decent to live, at my friend’s flat where I had been staying in various rooms when people were on holiday. One of the housemates had got a job on a cruise for 8 months as singer (I know, very cool). He offered to sub-let me is room for while he was away, which was perfect for me because I really wanted to live with friends as opposed to risking it with random people on spare room.com.
The only snag was that in-between holidays and his cruise job there would be three weeks on the sofa…. Three weeks. Three very long weeks….. At the point where I had been living out of my tiny suitcase for over two months, had stayed in about 5 different places and was getting pretty bored of my lack of outfit choices.
Now, some of you might be reading this thinking, ‘What a diva, at least it’s not the floor!’. And I would also like to add how grateful I was that I was able to stay in living room for so long. But, the point of me telling you this is definitely NOT to get sympathy - but that for this was hard. Not having any of my own space, a place to hang any clothes or a proper bed to sleep on was difficult.
Challenges are all relative and personal to you. Someone’s mountain is another’s steady incline. And whatever journey you are on at some point as you work towards your goal it’s going to get tough. Something is going to come up that tests you, you’ll need to dig deep and find that little bit extra to keep going.
Reading back through my journal now, it quickly went from being a very practical guide to work to a list of reasons I hated sleeping on that damn sofa… followed by a mini pep talk and countdown of how many nights I had left.
For you this could be another Friday night spent at the gym, when all your friends are in the pub! Or Another Sunday afternoon spent working on your business when there are so many other fun things you could be doing. Or maybe you find yourself spending another weekend prepping for yet another job interview rather than binge watching Stranger Things on Netflix.
Any of this sounding familiar? Often it is also when we are closest to what we want that things get toughest.
In the moments when you want to give up, journalling lets you release your frustration and gives you the headspace to think about it, to remember why you started and remind yourself to keep going.
Let it out, write it down, move past it.
IDEAS TO GET YOU STARTED
Writing down your why
If you have read my six ways to stay motivated post and downloaded the goal planning workbook (link below) then you will see the importance of having a strong ‘why’ to keep you going towards you goal.
There are a few ways you can use this in your journal.
- Write down your full vision, in as much detail as you can - to the point where you can really imagine everything. Then. mark the page. When things are getting tough and you need a boost, re-read the vision to remind yourself why you started and what you are doing all of this for.
- Another option is to boil this down into a few sentences and memorise them. Rewrite them in your journal when you are feeling stuck and de-motivated.
There is a step-by-step guide on how to do this in the workbook.
You might not be where you want to be right now. But I can guarantee there will be lots of good things going on in you life. So remind yourself of them!
Maybe you hate your job and are seeking a new one. Write about how grateful you are that you have this job, all the things its taught you in the past and that maybe your boss isn’t so bad.
Doing this will lift your spirits, and remind you that there are lots of other lovely things in your life to be happy about.
A reminder of how far you have come
If I hadn’t written my journal a few years ago, I would firstly have had nothing to write about right now, and I would also not be able to look back on this time in my life and think - ‘No matter how bad it gets, at least it isn’t night 20 on that sofa’ or ‘you’ve got through hard times before, you can do this’.
Celebrating your achievements is a great short and long term way of staying motivated towards your goals. We always forget about the progress we have made and the great things we have achieved - our brains are very good at focusing on the bad and not so much on the good.
Writing about your successes also makes you relive them in your mind, which makes you feel good. You can go back to the moment you made the sale, ran 2k without keeling over, got the amazing feedback from your boss, climbed the mountain…..
So it’s a double win!
Those little things all add up. Make you feel happy, elated and like you can take on the world.
HOW YOU CAN GET STARTED
All the amazing things I’ve done list
Make a list at the end of each day with all your achievements, no one is too small! Try to write at least five.
Each week take a moment to look back at these and then re-write the top ones you are feeling particularly proud of. You may even notice a pattern ‘I wrote three job applications this week’ or ‘Five sales this week, more than I thought’.
You can do the same at the end of every month or year too - get a post it to mark the pages and re-read these often. It will remind you just how far you’ve come.
Find what works for you
The thing I love about journalling is that you can use it any way you want. There is no right or wrong way to do it. You may find you dip in and our of some of these techniques, that sometimes you don’t feel like writing very much and others you can’t stop!
But I definitely recommend you give some of these a go, I can definitely say from personal experience that they have all helped me!
As always, please share any thoughts and experiences you have had with this practice. What has worked for you? And how do you stay motivated.