Journaling is one of those tools that I wish I had known about early in my leadership journey. As a young man, the idea of journaling conjured images of teenagers with diaries hidden under their beds. Later I began to associate the act of journaling as a practice used by mental health therapists. Though both are probably accurate, I recently started to understand the benefit of journaling for leaders, specifically those looking to increase their self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
Table of Contents
- What is journaling
- The benefit of journaling
- How to get started journaling
- Journaling FAQa
- Top leadership journals
- My top journaling tips for leaders
- Final Thoughts
What is Journaling?
Though I don’t think about the teenager with the diary hidden under the bed anymore, the concept of journaling isn’t that different. The act of journaling allows a person to transfer their thoughts, feelings, and experiences onto paper. Journaling is a great way to keep track of your life and the changes that occur. It’s also one of the best ways to get in touch with yourself and discover your professional and personal triggers. For leaders, this is an opportunity to reflect on the past day’s or week’s activities, specifically focusing on your strengths and weakness.
While journaling has been widely researched and supported in mental health and self-development arenas, leaders may not have fully taken advantage of the benefit of journaling. Therefore, this post will focus on how journaling can help make you more effective as an entrepreneur or leader.
The Benefit of Journaling
Leaders are consistently looking for the best tool to help them better themselves and better support their families, workplaces, and communities. However, experienced leaders have many tools in their toolboxes and limited time to take advantage of them all. As a result, before snatching up the latest gizmo claiming to be the easy button to being a great leader, we want to make sure that the juice is worth the squeeze. If the leader is going to add more tasks to their already hectic schedule, the leader must know the benefits.
You are in luck because research supports the leadership benefit of journaling. Specifically, leaders may benefit from journaling about what they are learning and about themselves as leaders over time. Below are six benefits of journaling for leaders.
Help to develop your leadership vision
A leader’s vision is the single most significant factor in determining an organization’s future. A vision that the leader can articulate with clarity and detail, supported by a clear set of values, will attract like-minded individuals to join your team and help you accomplish your goals. Similar to the benefit of mindfulness, writing a journal entry every day will help you clarify your thinking and better understand yourself. It will also illuminate hidden or unclear thoughts when the leader buries thoughts in their subconscious mind. By uncovering those hidden ideas and opinions, they will see the true benefit of journaling when developing a clear, purposeful vision.
Increases your ability to be open to feedback and criticism
The most important thing you can do as a leader is to create an environment where team members feel safe to share their ideas and thoughts. This environment allows the leader to be open to feedback and criticism and help others learn from their mistakes. It also means keeping an open mind about the feedback you receive.
If you aren’t receptive to feedback, your team won’t feel comfortable sharing their opinions.
Another benefit of journaling is that it helps you remain open-minded because it forces you to reflect on your good and bad actions. It inspires self-awareness, making accepting criticism and other feedback forms easier.
Manage your emotions
Leaders journal because it helps them better manage their emotions and develop a clear vision. Controlling their emotions is critical to emotional intelligence and self-awareness, which are foundational components of a strong leader. A leader’s journal should be a private space to reflect on the challenges they face, the people they lead, and how they work. Another benefit of journaling is that it allows leaders to self-reflect, which is critical for personal development. Journaling helps leaders become more aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots. This awareness will enable leaders to adjust their strategy and improve their leadership skills.
Most leaders are constantly on the go, so they don’t have the time to write in their journals every day. But journaling is an essential tool for leaders because it helps them reduce stress and focus on the big picture. It’s also a way to document essential thoughts that help leaders grow as people.
Studies have shown that writing in a journal every day can reduce stress by 23%, lower blood pressure by 10% and lessen depression by 50%.
Boost Self Esteem
When others see leaders, they seldom see some of the insecurities and doubt hidden under the surface. Leaders are often viewed as unshakable and as billboards of confidence. However, new and experienced leaders alike experience self-doubt at times. Yet another benefit of journaling is an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem. Studies have also proven that writing in a journal can improve self-confidence and self-esteem. Another benefit of journaling regularly is it can make you happier with yourself and your life.
Track and progress towards goals
The practice of journaling is essential for leaders to make progress on their goals. Journaling is not a luxury but a necessity. What do you do when you have a crazy day at work? Do you return home and prepare dinner? Do you catch up on your favorite shows? How often have you thought: “I need to write that down. I’ll remember later. I’ll do it tomorrow.” Making a habit of journaling will help you get those thoughts onto paper.
How to get started journaling?
As leaders with busy schedules, we need to know what is involved in a new routine or task that we will add to our schedule. One of the best advantages of journaling is there is no right or wrong way to journal. You can do it daily, weekly, or when the need arises. You can buy a beautifully designed journal with blank pages or one with prompts. You can print your own or go digital.
Journaling frequently asked questions
What should you write about in your journal?
Your journal is an open notebook. An empty canvas. A blank slate. It’s a tool for you to express yourself and document your journey. I recommend that leaders reflect on their strengths and weaknesses over the time covered in the journal entry. Starting with the successes, annotate contributing factors to your success. Once you reflect on the achievements, move on to the weaknesses and do the same.
How do you choose what to write about?
If you find yourself writing a lot about something, it’s probably worth noting it. For instance, if specific life lessons keep coming up for you, you feel writing down thoughts is an excellent way to develop your thought process and clarify a particular topic. By writing things down, you solidify your understanding and can then share what you’ve learned with others. To help leaders get started, I’ve created a 7 Day Leader Journal. You can grab your copy here.
How long do I journal for?
Once again, this is totally up to you. Penzu.com suggests timing yourself and sticking to a timeframe between 5-20 minutes. I use a general rule to stop writing when my thoughts are no longer free-flowing. If I have to think too long about what I should be writing, I may be forcing the action. You want to avoid forcing the activity. You want to utilize this time to transfer the thoughts from your mind to paper for later reflection.
How often do I need to journal?
I like to journal weekly, but every couple of weeks is a good starting point if you are a beginner. You will still receive the benefit of journaling. Dunlap (2006) recommends scheduling journaling activities every two or three weeks to minimize burnout or planning them after key events or project milestones. Hence, leaders can incorporate this practice after important presentations or meetings, at the end of project phases, or at other meaningful points in time.
Do I need special resources, materials, etc.?
I’m a huge fan of pen and paper, but there are some excellent digital options for those that prefer to use their computer, tablet, or phone. You can start journaling by grabbing a simple notebook, opening up your favorite not app on your phone, on using a program like Evernote or Onenote. Are you looking for a few recommendations to get you started? Here are my top three leadership journals with prompts.
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The 52 Week Leader Journal is my collection of prompts to center, focus, and reflect on my leadership qualities. I just released it on Amazon to share with other leaders because the guide has been beneficial in honing my leadership skills in those of others. Amazon description: We’ve created a journal that is easy to follow and will help you remain consistent. The 52 Week Leader’s Journal provides weekly prompts to help keep you on track. The prompts also take all the guesswork out of what to journal about and how frequently. We’ve designed the 52 prompts to help you increase your self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and consistency, the body blocks of a great leader.
John Maxwell is a household name for leaders worldwide, so it should be no surprise that you would find his 365 Day Devotional Journal at the top of the list. Amazon description: “John Maxwell, brings winning concepts and daily devotions into a journaling format designed specifically for today’s leaders. Each devotion offers clear and straightforward leadership examples that will bolster confidence and encourage leading from the heart. Journaling lines allow space for writing personal reflection.” Of note, if you are new to journaling, this may be slightly aggressive with daily journaling prompts.
52-Week Motivational Journal: Prompts and Exercises to Inspire, Motivate, and Help You Achieve Your Goals (A Year of Reflections Journal)
This journal is a good middle-ground for beginner and experienced journaling with weekly prompts instead of daily. Though not explicitly targeting leaders, the journal prompts target self-development to include inspiration, motivation, and general self-help. All leaders can benefit from this 52-week journal. Amazon description: With the right balance of motivation and dedication, you can achieve whatever goal you set your mind to. The 52-Week Motivational journal is filled with prompts and exercises to guide you in accomplishing your goals over the course of one year. Find the inspiration to get started, maintain focus, and reach your objective―no matter how big or small.
Are you surprised to see a journal for kids on the list? It’s never too early to begin mentoring and training the next generation of leaders. Parents are unheralded leaders and are usually the leaders we first want to emulate. Therefore this is a great guide the start the young off on the right track. Amazon description. I AM A LEADER: A 90-Day Leadership Journal for Kids (ages 8 – 12) is a guided journal to help kids cultivate authentic leadership skills such as Confidence, Self-Awareness, Grit, and Gratitude!
My top journaling tips for leaders!
Now that you have the basics for journaling, here are three tips to ensure you truly experience the full benefit of journaling.
- Write it down – I know this seems like a no-brainer, but you won’t remember it if you don’t write it down. Writing down thoughts is an excellent way to develop your thought process and clarify a particular topic. By writing things down, you remind yourself that what you’re doing is important enough for you to time, reflect, and jot down your thoughts. By writing things down, you solidify your understanding and reflect on your thoughts and observations.
- Prioritize Journal Writing – Journal writing is an undervalued practice, even though it can provide an endless supply of inspiration if you can turn your journal into a habit. Many people think that journaling should be reserved for writers, but this is far from the truth. There’s never been a better time to develop a habit of journaling. It’s easier than ever with all the great tools out there.
- Get the right tool for the Job – Pen and paper, computers, tablets, and apps are all tools you can use to record your thoughts in a journal. They’re all equally valid options, but some of them may be better or easier for you than others. Make sure you choose the one that’s going to fit your style. If you prefer to type, go ahead and jump on the computer. If you are a dinosaur like me, grab your favorite notebook.
In this post, we’ve explored journaling and how to start a journal. Hopefully, you are convinced of the value of keeping one yourself and the leader benefit of journaling! I genuinely believe that journaling is one of the most effective ways to improve a leader’s self-development. If you are ready to start your journaling journey, download our free 7 Day Leadership Journal.