Do this 15 minute exercise every day, even if you don’t do anything else for yourself.
I started a new journaling practice two weeks ago and so far, this practice is working fine for me. I use an A4 notepad for this practice. This size is close to the US Letter size.
I used to do the daily journaling practice with Evernote last year, but that didn’t work well for me. I don’t like to type in to a laptop or smartphone at the end of a long working day.
The journaling practice is a good way to review the day and prepare for the next day. It doesn’t take that much time, because I keep it short and sweet. I’m not against journaling several pages every day. That might have value for some people. That’s just not something I do nowadays.
What does my daily page consist of?
I divide the page into four parts.
- Daily goals for tomorrow
- Life goals
- Positive things that happened today
- Points of improvement for tomorrow
I start journaling by reviewing the day. What went well today? I write them down in the positive section. That’s a good opportunity to acknowledge my accomplishments and feel grateful for all the good things that happen.
Most of the time, we are too much focused on what doesn’t work. We take the things that work for granted.
Your line of descent survived the 4.5 billion years of evolution to produce you.
Think about it for a second. That chain has never been broken for 4.5 billion years. Every ancestor in your lineage managed to survive to the point of reproduction and you are the end result of that evolution. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that something to be grateful for?
If I have to write down everything that I’m grateful for, I’ll be writing for weeks and not be able to complete the list. However, the idea here is to focus on the day and keep it short and sweet.
Points of Improvement
The second step is to write down the points of improvement for tomorrow. Be careful about the wording here. I don’t use the words “the negative things that happened today.” At worst, I call them challenges. When I call them challenges, I can find a way to overcome them.
Calling this section points of improvement implies that I have full responsibility of whatever happens in my life, not my boss, not my parents, not the president. This prevents me from blaming other people, events, and situations.
What have been the challenges or shortcomings of the day? More important than that, what can I do different tomorrow to overcome those challenges and shortcomings?
I know that I can’t change everything on a given day. I can’t overcome all of my challenges and shortcomings. However, I can make a step towards my goal. I can make a 1% improvement towards my goal in a day. And those 1% daily improvements result in a 38X improvement in a year. That is not 38% improvement; that is 3800% improvement.
Those 1% daily improvements result in a 38X improvement in a year.
I try to keep both, positives and points of improvements, short and sweet, a few lines at most. However, on some days, I’m so amazed by the miracles on that day, my positives overflow those few lines to the following page. When that happens, I allow that to happen. I don’t restrict myself.
The third step is to turn the page and prepare the page for tomorrow. I write down the daily goals for tomorrow. These are ten to twelve lines to give me an overview of tomorrow, so that I’m mentally prepared for the day.
The daily goals are a few lines that I want to get done in my private and professional life. The nice thing about the daily goals are that they are simple and easy. I know that I have the capacity to accomplish them.
If I keep accomplishing these simple and easy daily goals, day after day, I’ll be making a significant progress over time towards my life goals.
Every day, I write down my life goals next to my daily goals for tomorrow. It has a much greater impact when you learn your life goals by heart and write them down every day without looking at the previous page. I learned this technique from Brian Tracy and I have already made some progress towards these goals since I have started using this technique.
You might question my motivation to do this practice every day. Why not watch a bit of TV, drink a bottle of beer, and then go to bed instead of doing this exercise every night?
First of all, I know that I can make significant progress and achieve amazing goals by improving myself and my life just by 1% a day. This is true for everybody. The best way to do that is to keep track of what happened on a given day, how I can improve it, what I want to do tomorrow, and what I want to accomplish in my life. It’s as simple as that.
If you have a better method, please let me know in the comments.
Continuous improvement wasn’t my only motivation to start the daily journaling practice.
In the first week of 2018, I was reflecting on my life in 2017. I know exactly what I was doing in the first six months of 2017. I also know what I was doing in the last three months of 2017. But somehow, there were a few months or weeks in between and I don’t have any clue what I was doing then.
Sure, I went to my job and to gym and other stuff, but was that all? Which progress did I make on those days, weeks, and months? Those months of my life are gone for good and I don’t even remember what I have done then? That horrified me. I didn’t want to be in that position again. That’s why I want to keep track of my days now.
Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly Summaries
After every week, I make a weekly summary of the positives and points of improvements. This gives me a good overview of what I have done in the previous week and what I need to improve in the next week.
I plan to make summaries for months and quarters as well. That way I can go over my monthly and quarterly summaries and see the progress I have done in the previous year at the end of the year.
At the end of the year, I can take a moment to be grateful for all the progress I have made in the previous year and I can come up with the points of improvements and yearly goals for the next year with some real data to base my decisions on.
Spending 15 minutes a day on writing down the positive things that happened that day, points of improvements, daily goals for the next day, and your life goals can make a huge difference in your life over the long term.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of my latest posts.