One of the big things I’ve learned over the past year on my personal development journey is the importance of reflecting on your systems to ensure what has worked for you in the past is still working now and if there are any opportunities for improvement to give them a try. This idea is very much intertwined with a concept I wrote about called Provisional Truths —I believe we are meant to seek out the best ways to optimize our lives, but inherent in this idea is that there isn’t necessarily one right answer. We have to detach our identities from our current ways of doing things and be open to experimenting and prototyping with new methods to see how they work for us.
My most recent test has been changing how I journal. I’ve had a steady journaling practice for the last 2–3 years, doing it practically every day in a variety of formats. It’s been a really important way for me to develop a healthy internal dialogue and more effectively process the jumble of thoughts in my head. (Click here to learn why I journal in more detail).
Something I’ve been set on since the beginning of this practice is the idea of using a physical journal. We spend so much time already on our phones and computers; journaling on paper is a simple way to detach for a few minutes. It forces you to slow down your thought process and writing in your own handwriting adds a special flavor to it.
But there are cons: Journaling on paper takes longer. Slowing down my thoughts also means I’m able to process less in the given amount of time. At times I’ve felt limited by the speed my hand could write and therefore my writing has actually felt filtered. Plus, because I have my own format for journaling, there is a fair amount of manual work to get the page ready for when I want to journal.
So, I got the inspiration from one of my favorite Notion-obsessed YouTubers to test out a digital journaling system. Here’s the daily system I created for myself in Notion:
And for the last month, I’ve used this system and I really like it for a few reasons: For one, the whole process is so much faster. All the manual work is automated so that each morning I click “New Day” and my pre-formatted page populates. I’m able to focus my energy on the actual reflection piece rather than the setup. Plus, I’m a much faster typer than writer, which allows me to flesh out more thoughts in my “Blob” free-flowing section. Other than time savings, I just really like the interface of Notion and find the output to be very visually appealing.
I thought it could be helpful to provide the actual Notion template for my current journaling iteration and to provide a quick rationale for each piece:
To keep things organized and remind yourself how quickly time passes by.
3 Things I’m Grateful For 🙏
Happiness is not an objective result of what happens to you, but rather a combination of what happens and how you perceive and value those things. By creating a daily habit of gratitude, you are able to make gradual adjustments to your mindset to be more optimistic and feel more satisfied with where you are at. (I talk more about this here)
1 Thing I Wish For Someone Else 👱
This one is something new for me. Similar to the gratitude piece, it’s about creating a mindset shift. Of course, going out and taking action to help people is where it really counts, but creating that positive wish for the wellbeing of others is a great way to shift your focus from yourself to others.
1 Thing I’m Proud of 🎖️
Growth-focused people like myself tend to focus on the amazing things that can happen in the future and forget that we are already really great and are doing lots of impressive stuff on a regular basis. This helps to get my confidence and appreciation for the process flowing in the morning.
1 Thing Uncomfortable/New Today 😅
Doing things that make you uncomfortable are key to exploring life and growing (My first article). By naming something new/uncomfortable every morning that I will do, I’m able to hold myself accountable and often reframe something in my calendar that I’m nervous about to be a growth opportunity.
Things I Did Yesterday ⏲️
This is just going through my calendar from the day before and quickly recounting what I did. This helps remind me where my time is going, what I’m getting done, and is useful when I want to look back on old journals.
This is where the bulk of the time goes and where the true “journaling” happens. Recently, I’ve been starting every day by saying “Today is going to be a great day.” While it may sound corny, it’s been effective because I find that confirmation bias causes me to look for evidence throughout the rest of my day to support that hypothesis.
After that, I’ll write about 7–8 sentences on whatever my mind goes to first using absolutely no filter; just getting words and thoughts onto the page. Often, I write about something I’m worried about that’s bouncing around in my head, and I’m able to come to some sort of conclusion on it. But sometimes it’s about something totally random. That’s kind of the beauty of it.
I’m not saying that a digital journal is better than a regular journal or that my format is the perfect one. I bet that my system will change at some point in the future, but I wanted to explain why I’ve made the changes I have, the benefits I’ve seen, and reinforce the idea that systems need to evolve.
Some ideas for getting started with journaling:
- Check out why I think it’s important
- Try using/adapting my Notion template
- Find whatever way’s easiest for you (physical journal, Google Doc, etc) and commit to writing down your thoughts for 5 minutes a day
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