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October 23, 2018   |   Episode #:

093: How Journaling Can Change Your Life

In This Episode:

Today, we’re talking all about the power of paper and how journaling can change your life. Paper is a permanent space in an all too temporary world. The words we write don’t disappear in 24 hours unless we want them to. Paper is a break from the consumption of technology.  In today’s episode, we’ll discuss the benefits of journaling, how writing awakens our creativity, and five ways that you can use a journal.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

Paper is a permanent space in an all too temporary world.

Questions I Answer

  • Can writing boost my productivity?
  • How can journaling make me more productive?
  • What are the best ways to use a journal?
  • How can I increase my creativity?

Key Topics in the Show

  • Powerful benefits of journaling you can get started with today

  • How writing will inspire your own kind of creativity

  • Feeling overwhelmed, stressed or unsure of what’s ahead? We’ll use journaling to understand our feelings AND feel confident moving forward

  • My five favorite ways to use a journal that you can use, too

Resources and Links

  • Please Note: Unfortunately, the download mentioned in this episode is no longer available.
  • 5 Ways to Use a Journal:
    • To set your intentions for the day
    • To decompress from the day
    • For clarity
    • To hone in on your goals
    • To express gratitude
  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Show Transcript

Welcome to season eight of Productivity Paradox with Tanya Dalton. A  podcast focused on using productivity not just to do more, but to achieve what’s  most important to you. Join Tanya this season as she focuses on planning for  success using proven productivity strategies. To get her free checklist, Five Minutes  To Peak Productivity, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/podcast. To get her free checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to  inkWELLpress.com/podcast.  

Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya  Dalton and this is episode 93.  

As you know, this season we’re talking all about planning for success and last  week we talked about the five P system. The system for creating plans to help you  get closer to your goals. And today, we’re talking all about the power of paper. How  journaling can change your life. Now as you know, I have a real affinity for paper. I  think it’s probably pretty obvious since my company creates productivity tools that  are made from paper. That so many of you use to lead more positive and productive  lives.  

Paper appeals to us not just for its colors, its textures and its designs, but its  simplicity too. Paper is a permanent space in all too temporary world. The words we  write don’t disappear in 24 hours unless we want them to. Paper’s a break from the  consumption of technology. It’s output rather than just input. And it hearkens back to  a time before keyboards and that constant connectivity we all experience and we  sometimes need a break from.  

Now in today’s world, writing things by hand is becoming a bit of a vanishing  art. In fact the majority of elementary students don’t even learn cursive anymore. It’s  kind of sad but it’s true. We’ve all become so accustomed to using screens and  swipes to communicate our words, we sometimes forget the power of the written  word and it really is so powerful. Many times we forget about that. But when we write  by hand, we end up doing that critically. Your brain automatically filters your  thoughts to determine what’s significant enough to appear on the page. You might  choose to sketch or draw a graphic representation of key ideas. This is especially true  in note taking. Writing helps us remember what we’re thinking. Jotting down ideas  gets them out of our head and into a permanent space whether it’s a sticky note or a  notebook or a journal. This is that idea we talked about last week with those five P’s  of purging, of getting ideas out of our brains and into a space where it’s no longer  cluttering up the space. 

We talked about how important that was. Writing things down enables you to  articulate. It’s hard when things feel abstract. Writing takes the abstract and makes it  concrete. What were once only thoughts become ideas and then those ideas become  goals. Those transitions are key takeaways for why writing is so important. And as we  move through life there are transitions for us as well. The transition into adulthood  

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often means the movement away from written expression in the form of journals but  it doesn’t have to. We often feel the need to use technology for everything in order to  not look behind the times. We want to appear on the cutting edge. We worry  sometimes that maybe writing makes us look antiquated. There’s a huge resurgence  in writing among people in all age groups because of the success it can bring. And  research really backs up this idea.  

One of the ways to really dive back into writing again is through journaling.  There’s so many reasons to journal. Journaling provides a form of tracking,  prioritizing and affirming. We can track our emotions. We can prioritize our concerns  and we can even affirm ourselves. Or we can do all of those because journaling  invites us to make time for expression. But the making time, that’s the hard part,  right? In our already busy days, we sometimes feel like we don’t have time for this  even though it really does feel good.  

Set yourself up for success. Keep supplies handy. Keep them in places where  they’re easy to grab and they’re right there so you don’t forget about them. Put them  in an obvious place. Next to your bed, next to your coffee pot. Somewhere where you  can just grab them when that urge to write or draw or doodle grabs you. I keep an  entire selection of different colored Le Pens in my handbag so I can have them when I  want to write and I personally just enjoy using those pens. I love the way they feel on  the page. I love the different colors on the page. It makes me happy and so I always  keep a stash on my desk but I also keep a stash with me in my handbag all the time. If  you ever see me, I generally have a bag of Le Pens with me as well.  

But really what I love about it is I love seeing the results of my work on the  page. There’s something about watching your hands create these breadcrumbs of  thoughts on the page that makes me feel successful. And of course there’s lots of  different products you can use for journaling. InkWELL Press, we have several. We  have sewn journals, bound journals, hardcover journals and they all work for note  taking or sketching. What’s really important though, is that you have something that  you like. That makes you want to write. You have to decide on a style that works for  you and then just keep it nearby. And don’t worry what you should write either. Write  what is right for you. Doesn’t have to be the same thing everyday. What matters is it’s  things that really interest you. You don’t have to limit yourself to certain topics.  Honestly, there are no rules.  

Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is one of the most popular books on  creativity out there and she includes a free writing exercise called, Morning Pages. It’s  a prompt to basically take these blank pages and connect with your unfiltered  thoughts. The way she talks about it is this, she indicates that three pages is the ideal  length and you write just when you get up in the morning. There are no topics. She  urges you just to write. This should be a stream of consciousness so you don’t worry  about spelling or grammar or punctuation, any of those things that kind of slow us  down. Don’t overthink it. Don’t edit. Just let your words flow. And even 25 years after  the book’s initial publication, this idea of morning pages really resonates with the  readers and there are hundreds of artists who swear by doing morning pages every  single day. Most frequently note the transformative power of these blank pages.  

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Now, I know how daunting blank pages can seem so what I’ve done is I’ve  decided to give you a little bit of inspiration to get you started on some journaling. I  created some writing prompts to help spark a little bit of your creativity. These are a  free download. You can grab them at inkwellpress.com/podcast. Just look under  episode 93. Or if you’re on my email list, you may have already received them in your  inbox. I always send out the free downloads the day the episode goes live. But be  sure to grab those because that might be a good way to get you started. I know for  me when I started trying to do morning pages, I found it really difficult to have this  blank page and just think about this stream of consciousness. Try the prompts and  see if that helps. But start writing every morning like she talks about in Artist’s Way  and see if that doesn’t surge a little bit of your creativity.  

Now, journaling is not just about the process though. It’s also about the  outcomes and there are so many. We immediately think of course of the mental and  emotional benefits of getting the words on the page, right? But there are so many  physical ones as well. Did you know that writing on a regular basis can strengthen  your immune system? Research conducted by UT Austin psychologist, James  Pennebaker, has even found that keeping a journal can strengthen the immune  system and decrease the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Kind of  crazy, right?  

Writing also inspires creativity. Because writing engages our left brain, the side  that is analytical and rational, it frees up our right brain to feel and create. And  sometimes that can even empower us to work through our feelings. Sometimes it’s  easier to work through our feelings when we’re writing them down because we’re  allowing those thoughts just to flow. There are some things we don’t yet feel  comfortable expressing out loud and a journal is a safe place for expression and it  promotes self-confidence.  

We develop a greater sense of self and we can become more confident in  doing things or not doing things for our own wellbeing. But one of things that I really  like best about journaling is that it’s a stress management tool. We all know the toll  that stress can take on our bodies which goes back to those physical benefits I just  talked about a few seconds ago. But it helps us problem solve too. As you know, it’s  really important to trust our intuition. Our initial response is the most often the right  one. However, using a journal to work through problems can be crucial to reaching  that best solution for you. Writing in a journal can promote conflict resolution.  Expressing our feelings in words on paper can help us move through our feelings. 

Think about it. Maybe you’ve done the unsent letter exercise where you write a  letter to someone and you tell exactly how you feel and then you tear it up or you  burn it or you just throw it away. But it’s often the act of just writing this out, of  expressing ourselves, that helps gives us not only clarity but oftentimes that closure  we need. It’s really cathartic. Journaling provides that same benefit. But it’s not the  only one. Writing also allows you to clear your mind. Doing so can help us discern  what’s truly important. Recording our thoughts frees us up and allows us to take the  time and intention to get to that sense of clarity we’re really looking for. And it’s not  just about ourselves. It can really help us make sense of the world around us.  Processing your emotions and your responses to life’s events is really important for  

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our growth and isn’t that what we want? We’re all looking to grow and become the  people we really want to be. 

You see, when we journal, we’re recording our experiences and that promotes  a lot of insight and understanding. Journals are a record of our past, our present and  our future. Our thoughts and our dreams are collected in these bound pages of  notebooks and soon we find that our boundaries end up being pushed to actually  explore these thoughts and dreams. We get out of our comfort zone and we push to  get to those big goals.  

But here’s the biggest key for me. It’s productive and not just because we’re  producing words on a page. It’s using our time in a mindful way. Instead of just  passively consuming other people’s ideas on a daily basis, reflective writing, which is  what we do when we journal, reinforces a sense of self and it promotes our own  learning. Writing in a journal actually strengthens our brains. It also improves our  ability to think critically and to create our own thoughts. It’s a commitment to  ourselves. True self-care comes from that commitment and I think that’s really  important. It awakens our potential to create. Not just thoughts and ideas, no matter  your craft, we can all see tremendous benefits from putting pen or pencil to paper.  It’s self-expression and it’s self-care. The vessel can be a journal but it doesn’t have to  be. A notebook, any space that works for you to write consistently, really can make a  difference. 

I want to talk about the five ways to use a journal and I want you to keep in  mind when I say a journal, again, it doesn’t have to be a notebook or something that  is bound. It’s whatever that really works for you as a way for you to write out and get  your ideas out on paper. Let’s talk about those five ways.  

The first thing is to use it set your intentions for the day. Intentions are similar  to affirmations in that you’re setting yourself up for success and setting the tone for  your day. You can begin each statement if you wanted to with something like, I intend  to. Or, I want to and then start writing that out using that sentence as your start and  just let your thoughts go from there. It’s not necessarily planning, it’s almost like  visioning. It’s using visualization in the form of writing to really think about where you  want your day to go.  

The second way to use a journal is use it as a way to decompress from the day  when you leave work. Writing what you’ve done for that day and how it made you  feel or how you moved closer to your big goals, you know that 1% we talked about in  last week’s episode? Really can make a difference. If you prefer, you could use  something simple like the daily download notepad for this. That’s a notepad that a  have that’s designed for the end of your day so you can get those ideas out. Or you  could do it on a blank sheet of paper. I fill out my daily download each day because I  think it allows me to close up my work compartment of my life and then I open my  personal compartment. I find that it allows me to be more centered on my family  when I don’t have all of those work thoughts swirling around in my head. It also helps  me sleep better at night. 

The third way is to use it for clarity. When we write, we move through ideas  that we often can’t or don’t want to express verbally. Journaling allows us to clarify  

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thoughts that occupy our minds all day long. Taking the time to write them out helps  us make sense of where we’ve been, what we’ve done and where we’re going. It helps  to promote an increase in focus and gives you that sense of stability that we all really  

crave. It can be a touchstone for your day. It’s a great way to release your thoughts  and emotions, allowing you to detach and let go of the things that might be  hindering you. Kind of holding you back whether that’s your growth or where you’re  wanting to go or just how you’re feeling. I think it’s really important to use that for  clarity. 

The fourth way to use a journal is to use it to hone in on your goals. Studies  show that writing down your goals makes us 42% more likely to achieve them. You  heard me say that last week. You can imagine this idea of writing and goal setting  goes hand in hand for me throughout this entire season and that’s what I’m so  excited about with this season because it’s not just writing them down that drives the  success. It’s considering how you can do it and why you want to achieve them. When  we reflect on our goals in a written form, it’s a continual reminder to make those  steps necessary in order to attain them. Doing this, helps us identify our priorities and  it allows us to track our progress and that keeps our motivation going as we move  towards our goals.  

And the fifth way is to use it to express gratitude. We’re entering into that  season of the year where many of us start to set the intention of making note of what  we’re grateful for. This is a great way to transition to using a journal daily. As you  know, it’s not just about doing things. It’s about doing what matters most and  expressing gratitude really allows us to see what it is that matters most to us.  Expressing gratitude makes us happier and healthier. It promotes optimism and  reduces materialism. Making note of the things for which we’re grateful, helps us  really scan our environment for the positive. Grateful people are usually more well  liked and less self-centered.  

We could use a gratitude journal as a starting point. When we set the intention  to write about gratitude every day, that will actually improve your self-esteem. We  can begin to see that we have so much to be grateful for. Journal writing because it  strengthens our sense of self and affirms our thoughts and ideas in words, that’s adds  even more value as we focus on what we’re grateful for. Really gratitude increases our  energy levels and helps us recover from challenging situations. A gratitude journal  isn’t all sunshine and lollipops though. We can express gratitude for things that are  challenging too. Let’s say you know, “I’m grateful that I had patience while waiting in  the car ride or line today.” And that’s something I have to be grateful for often  because a lot of times I am not grateful for carpool. It really, really frustrates so when  I focus on the positive parts of what I’ve done well, it really does encourage me. 

But it’s true, grateful people are more optimistic and they project that to  others that they meet. People respond with how we present ourselves. That results in  us doing much better work. We become more focused on the process than just the  act of completion and I think that’s really important because gratitude really does  improve our productivity. It does help us lead happier lives but it also helps us focus  our energy on being grateful and in these positive ways that we really want to live.  Instead focusing just on the outcomes, we’re really focusing a lot more on the journey  and the things that maybe didn’t go so well but the bright spot behind the clouds  

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and those kinds of things. That really does go far in helping us lead happier, healthier  lives and I think that’s really one of the big takeaways from journaling and especially  with our gratitude, is at its heart, it’s really about creating this best life for yourself.  It’s finding ways to help you feel successful because I think that is so important in our  days. 

Now each month in my Facebook group, we do a new challenge. Something to  push us collectively as a group to be more productive. In November, I think what  we’re going to do is we are going to go ahead and do a gratitude journaling  challenge. If this idea of jump starting your journaling through gratitude journaling  appeals to you, you might want to request an invite to join. I’ll be sure to share the  link at the end of the show but I’d love to see you in there because we’re talking all of  the time about productivity but this would be a great way also to help push you a  little bit to get going with your journaling.  

Because really, journaling allows us to be more intentional. It’s really at its heart  about setting aside time for ourselves. These may be just a few minutes in the early  morning before your household wakens up or it could be at the end of the day but  sitting down with pen and paper and maybe even a nice cup of something hot if  you’d like, really can help us feel a little more centered and a little more in touch with  who we are.  

Journaling though, needs to take place at a time that really works for you.  Could be at the end of your day before you go to sleep at night to allow you to  decompress or it could be midafternoon. Maybe a little bit of quiet time for yourself.  Set a timer or play some soft, soothing music. Just remember that journaling is more  than just putting words to paper. It’s generating output rather than just consuming  input. When we journal, we make time to be thoughtfully present and we can begin  or end each day with a grateful heart.  

And it’s not just the writing that makes us introspective. Looking back over  what you’ve written is such a strong learning tool. We’ve talked before about the  breadcrumbs and how that helps us move forward but that’s the idea here with  journaling. This is your story and there’s no better way to fully grasp that you in  charge of your own story than to actually write it. Keeping a journal reminds you that  not only are you the one in control of your path and its journey but you’re also in  control of how you view that path. You control your own narrative. Too often we  subscribe to someone else’s narrative for our lives and we should do this, we should  do that. Journaling empowers us to focus on who you are and who you want to be.  Silencing those other voices so you can truly hear your own. 

If you love this idea of journaling I would really encourage you to request an  invitation to join my Facebook group. You can do that at inkwellpress.com/group. As I  mentioned, throughout the month of November, we will be doing a challenge to help  encourage you to start journaling with gratitude.  

Now, next week we will continue talking about planning for success by talking  about how time blocking and routines can help make us happier and even more  productive. Don’t forget too, to grab that free download I have for you at  

inkwellpress.com/podcast and then go to episode 93 to grab those journaling  prompts. All right, until next time, have a happy and productive week.  

Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox. To get free access to Tanya’s  valuable checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to  inkWELLpress.com/podcast.