Dr. Caroline Webb is a behavioral economist that wrote the book How to Have a Good Day.
In it, she documents the ways she’s helped private clients and CEOs to better their overall experience in life, take the reins and make things happen on their terms.
Things like taking a walk when you’re stuck on a decision or on a project.
Setting an intention about your controllable self as you walk to a meeting.
Or scheduling time at the end of the week to write down what you accomplished.
This retroactive documentation can disrupt negative thought patterns and inner criticism. Even if it’s possible that you didn’t get everything on your to-do list done, you certainly did something, and there’s value in what happened.
You’ll also get a perceptive glance at what is important to you.
One of the simplest ways to journal is to use a nighttime ritual to document your day. Meaning, you end up writing down the things you find worth remembering. The pause it takes to reflect at all can slow down time.
In my friend Dan’s journaling course a few years ago, and he’s one of the most valiant and perceptive people I’m aware of period, he asked us to skim back over our writing and put a few summary words or notes at the top of the page when we were done with an entry. Skimming those notes could be useful when trying to touch base with yourself, or to do an end-of-the-week checkin on what the hell happened. Boom. Self-awareness skyrocketing.
I say ritual because I want something pleasurable in the writing for you. A deep few moments to check-in and make sure you’re ok. You’re always ok. A moment to slow down as you get ready for bed, perhaps signaling to your body and mind that it is time to begin the process of sleep. Something to replace the fact that you stay up later after the sun goes down than your ancestors.
Practically, this can calm racing thoughts by getting them on paper, and by organizing the kinds of things you wish to do the following day. Another self-reflective friend of mine, Peter, used this nighttime journal planning to come to agreements with himself that all of him was ok with. Workout tomorrow for 90 minutes? Eh, I feel a tug away from that. 45? 40? Let’s go.
Ryan Holiday recommends doing a pre-mortem for yourself from time to time, evaluating and reflecting on yourself before you die. Applied to work projects this sort of thought can jar come-to-Jesus moments out of a team, who, when asked to imagine that the project has failed before it even launches and to come up with the reasons why, might just admit that they saw some cracks forming they’d been loathe to admit before. Ideally this galvanizes the team to greater depths of honesty, integrity, and rigor.
Overall, journaling and writing becomes a conversation with yourself. You can ask questions and then answer them. You can get better at asking yourself questions. It can confront you with the way you talk to yourself. And it is a place to allow yourself to give credit to you, and all the things you’ve accomplished up to now.
For very forward-thinking people, listing out what you’ve done is a recalibration to slowness for a few private moments a day/a week.
For people who need a jump start, listing what you’ve done can create accountability and insight into your own behavior.
But mostly, it’s letting yourself win a little.
And that focus on reality – what’s actually happening – and focus on what’s working – what you like that’s happened already – helps to grow the things you want to happen by the simple act of paying them attention. Most of us focus too much on fixing problems which keeps us oriented toward finding problems and flattens our energy. If you want motivation, start giving credit to what you’ve done.