Why A Journal Is The Best Productivity Tool

J.R. Heimbigner
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I love journals.

I will buy them even when I don’t need them. When we moved almost three years ago now, I found a box of journals that I had bought in the last two years.

A box!

In fact, I finally started using the last one out of that box. So, now I need to replenish my supply. The funny thing is that since COVID hit, my purchasing habits have diminished. Probably because I don’t go to Barnes and Noble during my lunchtime anymore.

While I might be a journal hoarder, I have a good reason for it. Honestly, I think they are the best productivity tool ever. EVER!

The journal is the best, most useful tool you can use for the productivity of all time.

But this isn’t only my opinion. In fact, lots of people think they are great and use them every day. After all, journals can be used as planners, idea capturing spaces, calendars, task lists, doodling, note-taking, and so much more.

Okay, okay, we all know this is true.

If you have been around productivity tips, tricks, and hacks you know the journal is an extraordinary tool. Many of us use them, so what makes this any different than any other article about journals?

Different Ways You Can Use This Amazing Productivity Tool

“I love paper notebooks.” —
August Birch, This One Silly Notebook Will Unlock 50% More of Your Hidden Potential (What a great title!)

The everyday Joe can love a good journal or notebook. But what about the uber-creative? What about CEOs? Does everyone love and use these great tools?

You bet they do.

Squirrel Notebook

I mentioned August Birch earlier. He has this awesome thing he calls the “Squirrel Notebook.” It is for those moments where the squirrels catch our attention and grab hold of us. The ideas for stories, books, courses, or simply something fun.

He uses this to capture ideas when he is consuming content or walking around.

That is the beauty of the notebook or journal. They are useful for capturing thoughts and ideas. They save us from losing something that could be profound for ourselves or for others.

When we use a journal, it can help us become a better creator.

The Daily Journal

“Journaling daily is the most potent and powerful keystone habit you can acquire.”
Benjamin Hardy, Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life (Another great title)

Daily journaling can unlock some amazing benefits in our life. They can open us up to a new creative world, help us get to our goals faster, and provide us with clarity in our lives that we need to do the things we want to do.

But it doesn’t stop there!

Another beautiful thing about writing in a journal is how it can help us recover from trauma or struggles faster. Journaling can help us better process our emotions and work through them. Especially, when they are a jumble.

When we journal daily it can improve our mental health.

The Logbook

“For one thing, I’m lazy. It’s easier to just list the events of the day than to craft them into a prose narrative.” —
Austin Kleon, On Keeping A Log Book

Sometimes, we forget what we have been doing or what has happened to us. Another beautiful use of the journal is to keep a log of our life. It’s like a calendar for the past.

This has been useful to me when I know I will be in an overwhelming time.

When we had our first child, I found that keeping track of the days let me know that I did something and that we were actually doing a lot. Sometimes with work, when it is going to be an overwhelming season, I keep track of what I do to remind myself of the same things.

Austin suggests doing this by breaking down each day with one page. Giving it a title. And then bullet-pointing the main events of the day.

Either way, keeping a log can help you sort through your busy life.

The Bullet Journal

I’m not going to go into this one too much because there are a billion posts about it. Though, I would be remiss to skip it altogether. I used Bullet Journals for years and loved them. They were a calendar, task-list, idea capturing space, and logbook combined.

The problem for me was that I couldn’t keep it all sorted out and it turned into a lot of work.

Yet, I know they work wonders for people who enjoy creating, organizing and sorting things in an analog format. I much more of a prose narrative journaler apparently.

Yet, keeping things in bullet points makes it easier to scan.

More Than A Diary

“For most people, journaling sounds like writing a diary…” —
Sinem Gunel, The Power of Journaling

Journaling can be used to help us be more thankful, help us to learn every single day, and explore our emotions. Most of all, it gives us space that we don’t typically have in our day or in our time.

Most of all, a journal can remove the hard things in life from our minds and help us fill our minds with good things.

Which we need more of in our world. We need to take out the negative and struggle. Not only because it is hard, but because we need to process it someplace. Yet, when we take out these things, we need to fill them with positive and empowering things.

Journaling isn’t simply a diary, it is a space to become the person we were made to be.

Why I Don’t Suggest Using A Digital Journal

Now, some people do and it probably works just fine. But I think it isn’t as effective as a paper journal. Sure, you can use a search function and keep your digital journal supremely organized, but it doesn’t have the feel.

There is something about writing my ideas, thoughts, worries, gratitude, and emotions onto the page with a pen or pencil. There is something truly therapeutic about it.

A digital journal is like a credit card, there is a disconnect with our person.

I find myself always feeling a little more unsettled with a digital journal. Whether I used Evernote, OneNote, Daily Journal, or any other app. A digital journal is like a credit card, there is a disconnect with our person.

Ultimately, if it works for you then use it. Yet, for most people, I think having the paper there before you will make a huge difference in how effective your journal will be for you.

How To Get Started

“I am a journal snob.” —
Jon Acuff every place Jon Acuff talks about journals (I promise I’m not trying to be snarky)

Most people would tell you to get any old journal or notebook and start writing in it. However, I think that is a terrible idea. If you want this to become a habit that sticks, I want you to take the cash out of the bank, go to the store, and buy a nice journal.

It will hurt a little bit.

Yet, when you start using these beautiful pages inside that nicely bound book, you will begin to understand why Jon and I agree that you can’t have any old journal. The effectiveness of your experience explodes.

Here are a few ways to get started making journaling a daily habit:

1-Set time to journal for five minutes a day.

That’s all you need. Five minutes. Start with keeping a log of your day. What happened? What was good? What was bad? Did anything change your life? Was something missing? Set the time, and write.

2-Write down five things you are thankful for.

Starting with gratitude changes the way we see the world. It helps us look for positive and experience those positive things. It is also a good way to remind yourself of all the good that is in your life.

3-Write down one thing you want in life.

This might be a goal. Or a thing. Maybe it is a relationship or job. Whatever it is write it down. It is said those who write down their goals are more likely to achieve their goals. The same goes for the things we want in life.

4-Write down an idea or ten.

I write down ten ideas a day. And sometimes, it needs to start with just one idea. Even if you aren’t a writer or creative, you have ideas. Maybe you want to start a garden at your house or change the color of the paint in your bedroom. Write it down!

5-Read what you wrote yesterday before starting today.

I find incredible insight into my life when I read what I wrote the day before. If I wrote through something painful, I sometimes see how the day turned out to be good. Other times, I see something I was thankful for and see how I enjoyed it more that day.

Final Thought

No matter what you do with your journaling time, I think it is important for everyone to have a journaling habit. The benefits are clear for creativity, mental health, and success in life.

I honestly want you to start journaling today.

Even if you doubt that it will be helpful or you have struggled with a journaling habit before, I think today is your day to start something new and effective. In fact, I declare it over you. So, go get your cash, and buy that thing!

Do you journal? How do you spend that time? What do you write down? Share in the response below.

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My goal with my writing is to help people get everything done they want in their very busy lives. I believe we can we all can achieve our dreams and I know it starts with having the right mindset, systems, and taking action every single day. My writing shares how to do this through self-improvement, inspiration, and productivity.

Spokane, WA
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