Among the Fizzle team, I’m known as the skeptic. I like to think I have a finely tuned bullshit meter. If an idea lacks in evidence, I’ll usually either question it, ignore it, or ridicule it, depending on my mood.
Chase and Steph fall somewhere on the other end of the spectrum. Over the years they’ve learned how I see the world and now often preface a topic they think I might be skeptical of with “you might think this is a little woo-woo…”
It’s a nice balance to have on the team because they’ll often introduce me to things I might not otherwise have given a chance, and I like to think I’ve done the same for them.
One of those topics that came up over the past several years is journaling. It all started with episode 99 of The Fizzle Show (one of my favorite episodes for it’s production value, by the way) titled “2 Experts Share Exactly How to Use a Productivity Journal (& Increase Productivity by 23%).” And in this case, I seem to remember Chase being a bit skeptical about the idea to begin with too.
Journaling has the sound of a classic woo-woo idea. “Journaling? You mean like keeping a diary? How the hell is that supposed to help me accomplish anything important?”
The claim from the episode was exactly that, and Mike Vardy and Shawn Blanc each shared their approach to journaling and anecdotal results. But in this case, there was also some evidence to back it up in the form of a Harvard study that showed by simply spending ten minutes writing about what you accomplished at the end of each day, you could boost your overall productivity.
From the extract of the Harvard study I mentioned:
[the authors] argue that learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection— that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience.
The study focused on how reflection improved learning and led to a greater perceived ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy), which in turn increased worker productivity.
Between Mike and Shawn’s enthusiasm and the Harvard study, I was curious enough to see if journaling could really make me more productive.
The episode aired back in early 2015. Shortly after, I started journaling every day by just recapping my day at the end of each day using an app called Day One. I wrote down what I accomplished, and what I learned.
After several weeks of this, I noticed that I felt better about my productivity level. Was I actually more productive? I have no idea, because the kind of work I do varies so much from day to day and doesn’t lend itself to being measured like a routine job might.
But that feeling, of having a better idea of what I finished each day, what I worked on and how it mattered to my goals, it stuck with me and seemed worth the 10 minutes of effort.
The problem, was that the end of my day isn’t a specific event. I don’t work on a schedule, and there’s no “quittin time” whistle that sounds at the end of the day. Sometimes I finish at 6pm, other times I work for several hours after dinner. Other days I might be done earlier in the afternoon, depending on what else is going on in my life.
This lack of schedule made sticking to a daily end-of-day journaling practice a challenge. Because I couldn’t commit to a specific time of day, it was difficult to remember to write in the journal every day.
Months went by until I realized the habit had fallen apart for me. When I finally remembered the journaling process and what it meant, I knew I wanted to start again and find a way to make it stick.
For me, this meant starting my day with journaling instead of ending it that way. By starting my day with journaling I was able to commit to a consistent schedule and turn it into a habit.
I know Chase came to the same conclusion. He’s been journaling every morning for quite a while now. Chase says journaling has helped him learn to create motivation on demand, instead of waiting for it to magically appear.
Each of us has a completely different approach to journaling now. Chase’s process has trended a little more woo-woo, and mine is more of a “roll up your sleeves and get to work” approach.
That’s part of the beauty of journaling. We have very different approaches, but we both feel like we’re getting tremendous value from a simple 5-10 minute daily activity.
So, if you’re like me and you take pride in how finely tuned your bullshit meter is, I wrote this for you. If you haven’t committed to a daily journaling practice, or if you haven’t found one that works, I challenge you to give it another shot.
There are two ways you can get started. The first is by listening to episode 99 of The Fizzle Show, which serves as an excellent introduction to the approach.
The second is by checking out the new course Chase launched this week (he calls it Daily Direction Journaling for Vision, Focus and Motivation). And incidentally, if you sign up for the course by next Wednesday, Chase will be leading a series of free live coaching sessions to help you establish and stick to the journaling habit.
Enroll in the Daily Direction Journaling for Vision, Focus and Motivation course here »
And whether you give journaling a shot or not, I’ll see you at the next Skeptics Anonymous meeting 😉