By Iona Nicola

How Journaling Can Help You Increase Productivity


A little creativity can help you get more done strategically.

Throughout generations, people have used journals for a wide variety of purposes.

Some might record anecdotes from their daily life, while others decide to use them to plan out their otherwise incomprehensible schedules. Whatever the reason, journaling is a powerful tool and a practice that comes with a wealth of benefits. Most crucial among these is that it can help increase your productivity. If you find that keeping details inside your head no longer does the trick, journaling might just be the answer.

It helps you keep track of goals

You’ve already heard of “speaking things into existence,” but did you know you could write them into reality, too? If you’ve got goals, the best thing you can do for yourself is to jot them down. You’d be surprised what a difference it can make as an alternative to just thinking about them.

In her study, psychology professor Gail Matthews explored the art and science of goal setting. She put together a pool of individuals who came from various careers —including artists, lawyers, finance professionals, entrepreneurs, and educators. Afterwards, she divided them into two groups, according to who wrote down their goals and who didn’t. Results show that those who wrote down their goals had a drastically higher rate of achieving them, compared to those who did not.

This is because the act of writing down your dreams and goals is almost as tangible as seeing them unfold before your eyes. It opens up your subconscious to the possibilities that are harder to see if you’re just thinking about them. It also shifts your awareness about the opportunities in front of you, but aren’t easily realized or seen if you’re just thinking about them. And because they’re written down, it’s also there for you to go back to every time you feel stumped and need a reminder. While you’re at it, you can also check out our suggestions for the best writing pens here on Ink and Volt.

It helps you stay on top of tasks

A journal lets you keep track of all your tasks at hand, whether it’s mundane chores like buying groceries, or the more pressing list of deliverables you still have for work. Whatever you’ve got on your plate, listing everything down helps get your foot in the door. That’s because once everything is put to paper, you can see more clearly what you have to accomplish and plough through them one by one, rather than having no clear start or end point.

To-do lists are the backbone of your productivity flow. Although it might seem like a simple process, not all lists are made equal. There are various hacks and methods that work for different people.

Some people like to break down big assignments into bite-sized tasks because it helps make things more manageable. It also allows you to approach each step in a holistic manner, rather than attempting to tackle everything head-on.

This is the same principle behind focusing on small, achievable goals for New Year’s Resolutions instead of radical ones. On an episode of “Another Mother Runner” podcast, running coach MK Fleming shares why people often don’t achieve their resolutions as the year passes. “By the end of January, most people have given up [on their New Year’s resolutions],” she observed. “They didn’t anticipate what was really necessary to achieve that goal.” Similarly, instead of approaching tasks like “finishing an essay” head-on, look at it as a series of stages such as “outline,” “research,” and “proofread.”

Other people like to swear by setting realistic but aggressive targets. After all, they say there’s no better inspiration than a looming deadline. Use your journal calendar to block off time to finish tasks. It will not only give you a sense of urgency, but you’ll be less likely to cave under the real pressure.

For the more digitally inclined, there are also numerous options designed for mobile journaling. According to the communication experts at Maryville University, there’s a huge shift in how media is consumed today. Analog is no longer the only effective form of media, and journaling isn’t exempt from this change. Not only can mobile journals be just as useful, but they’re also easier to take with you everywhere. Moreover, apps like Diario and Journey even let you insert pictures and other files related to your journal entries.

It helps you reflect

Entrepreneur and journaling advocate Jane Lee states that journaling alone won’t magically boost your productivity. However, when you combine action with reflection, you’re more likely to make better choices over time.

Think of your journal as your best friend — one you can unload all your worries to at the end of the day. As you go over previous events and reflect, you are able to figure out points of improvement and discern how certain things made you feel. You can start with simple questions, such as: how did today’s tasks make you feel? Were you stressed? How can you be more effective next time? Doing this might not seem like much at the beginning, but the gains definitely build up over time.

The reflection aspect will help you grow as a person, too. By having your journal to go back to, you are able to take a step back and observe your past actions. You’ll see which parts you can improve on, and more.

It keeps you inspired

Inspiration is good for everyone. Similar to helping you keep track of your goals, writing down inspirational words or phrases could provide that jolt of energy you need on a slow day. After all, we all need our “why,” or our bigger purpose. Write it down and return to it every morning to lay down the foundation for a great day — whether it’s a popular passage reminding yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to, or even a quote from someone you look up to.

Writing is a form of empowerment. When you are able to express your innermost sentiments, fears, and dreams, you feel free to reach your goals. Frida Kahlo, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein are just some of the most brilliant people in history who are known to have kept a journal. They wouldn’t have achieved what they did without the company of their written personal musings, and we wouldn’t know them the way we do now if not for these handwritten accounts.

All it takes is a few minutes of your day. And while we’ve chronicled the many elaborate ways to keep a journal, the most important thing is to just write, write, and write.