Journaling, Just like Brushing Your Teeth Part 1

I brush my teeth every day, usually at least twice 🙂 

It’s not time-consuming and something I manage to do even if I am running late. If I am travelling, I remember to pack my toothbrush. A habit that is part of my daily routine. 

Last year I kept setting the goal to “meditate daily” and then subsequently failing to do it. I would feel stink that I had failed at the goal, but I wouldn’t actually change anything about my day to achieve it. One day I was brushing my teeth, and it clicked. My idea of meditating was not lining up with my daily routine. 

I realized that if I was going to be successful with this goal, or any goal for that matter, I needed to change one of two things – my expectations or my routines. 

Do you brush your teeth every morning and night? Is it something you consciously do, or can you do it in autopilot? What if we had the same approach to our mind and the goals you’re trying to achieve? What if you could make little tweaks to your daily routine, only two to five minutes in total, that have a big impact? 

As one of my friends said, “I don’t brush my teeth because I want to but because I know my teeth will rot if I don’t.” Most people would identify with this. 

One single day of brushing (or not brushing) your teeth won’t make a big difference. However, the compounding effect of doing this every day, over and over, makes a big impact. 

For the next three weeks I will post a short (less than 500 words excluding this introduction), a straight-to-the-point conversation on Journaling, Meditation, and Prayer – small practical things you can do every day.

Little actions that when repeated consistently make a big impact. 

Just like brushing your teeth 🙂 

Journaling

I would define Journaling as a way of getting something out of your mind and onto paper. 

It would be easy to think, “What’s the point? No else is going to read this. Or worse, what if they do read it! It sounds weird. It’s only a couple of small sentences.” 

Many times, I feel like a fake when I read the words I have written. Are those really my thoughts? Often, I think, “Why I am doing this?” 

I don’t journal every morning or night. It would be easy to beat myself up about the fact that I should do it more. It’s easy to build it up in my head; if it doesn’t feel like some magical experience, I feel I am doing something wrong.

But much like brushing your teeth, one single day of brushing (or not brushing) your teeth won’t make a big difference. However, the compounding effect of doing (or not doing) this every day, over and over, makes a big impact. 

It’s always hard to see the change while you are in the middle of it. 

Thinking about journaling this way motivates me to keep jotting down the random things I am thinking, knowing that somehow, they will have a positive effect long term. 

Seeing my thoughts on paper gives me a better perspective on them, helps me to approach them more pragmatically. Other than random musings, which only fill up a tiny amount of my journaling, some other things I like to jot down are: 

Mind Maps: when my head feels full to the brim on a subject, it becomes hard to see the forest from the trees. I write a key word in the middle of the page and just chuck down every word I can think of that’s related. This helps me start to process. 

Plans: If I am contemplating a bigger project, I will list out what I think the steps involved are. 

A Decision List: Often, a “Pro’s and Con’s List” leaves you feeling confused and no better off. A great exercise I got from The Decision Bookis to ask yourself two simple questions about a decision you’re facing: what’s pulling towards and what’s holding me back. Writing down the answers brings a different clarity to the decision. 

And off course, To-Do Lists: I don’t write big ones, usually only 3 -5 items. 

I would like to encourage you to “journal” something now. Not something huge and big – start small, and write down a random thought, a decision, ideas for something. Don’t worry about having a nice pretty journal to write in; just get your thoughts on paper. 

Then pause for second and reflect before carrying on your day. Remember, just like brushing your teeth, you may not see the effects straightaway, but your mind will be better off for it. 

Here is an example…

The page on the left is my planner. I aim to write this the night before, noting the big or important stuff I want to get done that day. Even though it’s Sunday this would be a good reflection of how much space I like to leave in the day. Then listed is out my to-do-list. 3 tasks I need to complete that day – keep it simple and set my self up for success. I also use a digital calendar for work meetings, along with reminders for smaller work orientated tasks.

The page on the right was two to three minutes of thinking on paper before the day got started. It doesn’t really serve any purpose other than to get me going. Sometimes I fill up half page, other times I will fill in ten pages over the course of the day, with notes, ideas, to-do’s. As you can see my writing is pretty is messy 🙂

TOOLS: a couple of links I have found helpful

What My Morning Journal Looks Like – Tim Ferriss

Morning pages don’t need to solve your problems. They simply need to get them out of your head, where they’ll otherwise bounce around all day like a bullet ricocheting inside your skull.

Could bitching and moaning on paper for five minutes each morning change your life?

As crazy as it might seem, I believe the answer is yes.

How To Live A Happy Life – Barking up the Wrong Tree

Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.

and the Five Minute Journal – their tagline is “a toothbrush for your mind”