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
- 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
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.