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Keeping a journal increases your chances of success at crushing your goals. Journal writing helps you get crystal clear on what’s important when goal setting so you can get more done and waste less time.

How to keep a journal to reach your goals. Woman writes in her journalKeeping a Journal To Manage Your Goals

You have a lot of things you’d like to accomplish. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t enough time in the day to do all the things you’re already committed to, let alone take on anything else.

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Yet, you realize you need to make time for things that are important to you if you want to make any changes in your life.

It’s hard to stay on track sometimes with all that life throws at you. Using a personal journal can help you keep your goals top of mind so you can actually accomplish them. Here is the notebook I recommend and use for bullet journaling.

Whether you do journaling, bullet journaling, jot things in a notebook, or use a planner, taking time to write things out will give you the nudges you need to work toward your goals.

You might worry that taking time out of your day to journal will give you even less time to work toward your goals, but I find the opposite to be true. Daily journal writing gets you focused on what matters so you can avoid wasting time with all of the little things that don’t.

Here are several ways your journal will help you reach your goals:

Thought Journal and Idea Capture

  • Before you come up with your goals, you may have a bunch of ideas. Using your journal to capture these ideas will help you to formulate a plan. This can be done in several ways:
    • Mind Mapping – With mind mapping you create a visual board of all of the different ideas and how they are connected. This method can breed creativity since the branches of the map lead to more and more ideas.
    • Narrative Journaling – Writing whatever comes to you mind on a topic in a narrative form can help you get your thoughts on the page and help you to take the next steps toward your goals.
    • Brainstorm – Brainstorming involves writing down everything that comes to mind on a topic, usually in list form. You write this all down without censoring. It’s an awesome way to come up with a bunch of ideas and then narrow those down to things that work.
  • Using a journal to capture ideas leads to greater creativity not only in what your goal is but also how you are going to accomplish it. Through journaling, you can examine your thoughts about your goals and see if there are other ways of thinking about your goals. I do this using a guided journal and book about stoicism. Taking time to read the book and do the journal entries helps me to change my mindset around my goals and go about them in a more effective way.
  • Keeping your ideas together in a journal allows you to go back to them when you need them. As someone who has lots of ideas, it is easy to lose track of them. Either you try to do all the things at once, or you end up doing nothing because you don’t even know where to start. Having an area in your journal to capture ideas allows you to let go of the anxiety around them since you know you’ve written them down and will get to them when the time is right. You can track a lot of different things in your bullet journal. 

Clarity and Goals Planner

  • When you talk to yourself in your journal about your goals it helps you to gain some clarity on what it is you want to accomplish. Many times when starting out with a goal it starts out vague. You’re not real sure what would equal success with that goal. When you journal it helps you figure out what it would mean to be successful with that goal.
  • Journaling helps you think through decisions. When you slow down you get to look at both sides and make sure you aren’t acting just out of avoiding fear. On the other hand, you also get to make sure you are doing what is actually important to you rather than just doing what you think you should be doing.
  • Being clear on your goals is important over the long haul because you understand what you are trying to accomplish, and sometimes more importantly, why you are trying to accomplish it!
  • Journaling helps you to discover your feelings about the goal. It won’t work if you decide on a goal that you don’t really care about or that doesn’t align with your values. One question to ask yourself when journaling about goals is whether the goal is something you want or is it something you think you “should” do.
  • When you are clear on what you’d like to accomplish, you are more likely to reach the goal. Keeping the end in mind helps all the pieces come together. Writing about what you’d like to achieve helps you to get emotionally engaged with that ultimate goal.

Motivation and Measurement in Goal Setting

  • Things that are measured are more likely to improve. Have you heard that before? Your journal is a great place to measure your progress and show the steps you’ve taken toward reaching your goal. When you know you will be tracking something, you’re more likely to follow through on it.
  • Seeing improvement over time is motivating! Have you ever lost weight and tracked your weight loss over time on a graph? Seeing the numbers going down over time makes you want to stick with it! When you see the impact of your work in this way, it helps you keep going.
  • Tracking things helps keep you accountable. The best example of this is self monitoring what you eat when trying to lose weight. If you write down every morsel you eat, you will know exactly what you did. Instead most people stall on weight loss because they aren’t accountable for the things that seem like they don’t count, like taking a taste of something while cooking.

Planning in Goal Setting and Achievement

  • Using a journal or planner to get strategic about what you want to accomplish helps you get there. I find the flexibility of a bullet journal allows me to figure out what I need to do to complete my goals. One thing I am currently working on is creating pages related to the 12 Week Year process of productivity because it helps you focus on what is most important and get those things done.
  • Writing and journaling allows you time to break large goals into smaller steps. It is really easy to get overwhelmed by large goals. In a journal you can use the methods taught in this book to break your goals down into pieces. For instance, you have this large goal. What do you need to accomplish in the next year, month, week, day to achieve it? What is the next one thing you need to do to get there. Taking time to think through this assists you in figuring out what the best actions are for you to reach your goals.
  • A journal helps you prioritize the things that are important. Always remember that people tend to do thing that help them avoid pain and approach pleasure. Unfortunately not everything about our goals are fun. Without prioritizing you may find you are doing a ton of work and getting nothing done because you’re avoiding the hard things. Also, without strategy it seems like everything is equally important. Here’s how I prioritize my giant to do list in my bullet journal.
  • Journaling helps you to remember what you agreed to do. It helps you remember how things went and what the next steps are. Capturing your ideas helps you to avoid having to reinvent the wheel every time you are ready for the next step. It’s all in one place and as you document your process through your journal you will be able to be more and more strategic in your goals.

Journal Writing For Reflection and Improvement

  • Mindfulness – One of the best reasons for journaling while working on your goals, whether in the planning or implementing stages is mindfulness. Sitting down with your journal for a period of time working through stuff in writing allows you to put some careful thought to what you’re doing. This is probably the most important thing for me in terms of how journaling helps me reach my goals. It is too easy to get distracted by all of the things around me. Mindfully thinking about my goals helps me to be strategic about them and stick to them.
  • Journaling helps you recognize growth you’ve made over time. One of the coolest things about journaling is looking back to see how far you’ve come. As you get more experience in working toward your goal you will learn more and more about it. Looking at how your thinking and behavior has changed over time is amazing.
  • Journaling helps you reflect on how your own thinking patterns limit you. Journaling helps you see the patterns of thinking that stop you from progressing.
  • At the end of the day, taking some time to look at what worked and what didn’t work is powerful in goal accomplishment and growth. When you are intentional in your decisions about what to prioritize, you can then review whether you accomplished what you set out to do and if there is anything you could do to improve.
  • Journaling helps you keep track of what worked and what didn’t. You make a plan, and then you can write about how that plan worked out. This helps to to test out new behaviors and see whether you should keep doing those new behaviors or try something different. Your journal helps you look back at the context of decisions you’ve made on the way.
  • Keep track of positives! I can’t stress this enough but having somewhere where you keep a record of what has gone well will help you keep going when times get hard. Journaling helps you capture the progress you’ve made.

In today’s crazy world, taking time to journal will help keep you focused and on track to reach your most goals. It helps you cut through all the crap so you can have clarity and a plan.

How to keep a journal to reach your goals. Woman writes in her journal