How to Use a Work Journal for Clarity, Calm, and Focus

We get it. You really don’t need any more things to do. But taking a few minutes with a work journal for clarity and calm WILL change your work (and possibly your life). Try it and see.

You know your work matters, but it doesn’t always feel that way. There are simply too many things to do: “fires” to put out, crises to deal with, and a never-ending stream of tasks to tick off.

So how can journaling help?

Well, first things first, it’s not about keeping a diary of appointments. Nor is it about making lists – although you may do that. Primarily, a journal is a place to reflect. A place to measure progress. A safe place to let off steam. And a way to rid your head of that annoying inner monologue. You know the one – that voice that tells you that you did it wrong, or your idea isn’t good, or that you always rush and mess up.

Most of all, journaling puts our work (and our lives) into a better perspective. Instead of running on autopilot, we use journaling as a tool to seize the moment, relax the mind, and get back to focus. So, here are five ways to get started using a work journal for clarity, calm, and focus so your work day can be productive and enjoyable.

Start the day with head space

Begin each day with scheduled thinking and planning time. Take a blank piece of paper or start a new journal entry on Teamup, think about what work rhythm you’d like.

  • When and where would you like to take breaks?
  • When will you do your most focused work?
  • What tasks or projects are the highest priority today?
  • Then try to align this with your daily tasks, responsibilities, and meetings.

Next, do 10 minutes of freewriting – either with a pen and paper, or straight into the app. Put simply, freewriting is writing continuously about whatever is in your head, without thinking about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. This practice helps to get worries and niggling thoughts out of your head and onto the page (or screen). It helps “declutter” your head and bring clarity, so you can focus on what needs to be done.

Take a break to refocus

At work, most people operate from a high-tension energy created by the body’s fight or flight mechanism. From this state, you push, strive, and feel a sense of urgency while you tick off to-dos and achieve linear goals. Productive? It can be, but solely operating in this way is like trying to drive your car at high speed in third gear. It burns up energy; it’s jerky and jolty; it uses huge amounts of fuel and eventually burns up the gear box.

Reset your energy by taking a five-minute break to journal; it’s the equivalent of cruising on the motorway in fifth gear. Let go of multi-tasking and all the distractions. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself: How does my body feel right now? Write it down. Then refocus on a single task, riding the alpha brain waves.

Capture ideas and insights from walking

Shake off stress by going for a walk. Even 10 minutes will blow off the cobwebs and you’ll emerge with a clearer head. Not convinced? The New Yorker article “Why Walking Helps Us Think” presents a rock-solid case for the intuitive relationship between walking, thinking, and writing. Try it yourself:

  • Before you set off on your walk, decide on an issue, topic, or task you’d like to ruminate on.
  • During your walk, jot down whatever random thoughts you have as a note, a voice memo, or a quick drawing on your phone.
  • Or simply write them down when you get back. If you already use the Teamup app for journaling, add any visual or audio or textual pieces you’ve captured as attachments. This creative space is ideal for problem solving, and gives you a way to use your work journal for clarity that you can turn into effective action.

Drop into your heart space

So, how was your day?

In a personal relationship, this question is often the first we ask our partner or friend. But how often do we ask ourselves and really think about the answer? And if we took a few minutes for daily reflection, what could we learn? There are insights waiting for us, if we’re willing to put a little effort into gathering them.

So, before you switch off your devices and wind down for the evening, take a five-minute musical break with some 60bpm music (to put you in the Alpha zone). Then, write a couple of sentences thinking beyond your to-dos and your daily routines. What went wrong? And more importantly, what went right? As author and psychologist Kendra Cherry explains, “we are hardwired to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events.” This means that we need to force ourselves to remember and record our highlights, and using a work journal for clarity can really help.

End your day with gratitude

Finally, to truly embed a sense of fulfillment each day, end the day with gratitude. Simply jotting down a handful of things you’re grateful for will positively impact your heart and even begin to change the molecular structure of the brain.

Over time, as you practice and build the habit of journaling every day, you’ll find that spontaneous ideas, insights, and “aha” moments come into your consciousness more easily. Don’t worry if you can’t journal every day, or don’t manage to journal more than once a day yet. Just keep coming back to the practice; there’s a lot to gain even if your work journal habit is still sporadic. And, as you build consistency, you’ll reap even greater rewards.

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