My journaling FAQ

At luncheon gathering of CEOs this week in San Diego, I gave a talk about the importance of creating an offensive game plan for their life. During the Q&A session, one of the executives asked about how to best discern which opportunities to pursue. My response was that it is nearly impossible if we don’t practice the discipline of learning how to think slowly. And the best way I’ve discovered to do that is to journal.

My journaling FAQ

I could tell that it wasn’t the answer they were expecting. One of the CEOs in this group of men suggested candidly that it didn’t really seem like a very masculine thing to do. But when I explained that research has shown that retention and learning increases when you handwrite, rather than use a computer, they seemed to take notice. Several of them approached me later to say they were going to give it try. But they had questions.

Since I often get these kinds of questions from others when I tell them about my experience, I thought I’d post my quick journaling list of frequently asked questions:

  • How often do you write? Really. Even after saying that I do it every day, I still get this question.
  • How many pages? I fill exactly three pages of an extra-large Moleskin Cahier notebook each day. No more. No less. Writing every day will fill one of these notebooks in about 5 weeks.
  • How long does it take? I take me between 25-40 minutes to complete an entry, depending on how slowly I write. Some days I write more leisurely; on others more rapidly to capture my thinking. But my goal is always to write non-stop and never to worry about whether my writing is legible or grammatically correct.
  • Do you do write it all in one sitting? Yes, most often. Occasionally, if I allow a call or something else to distract me, I may have to go back and finish an entry later in the day. Rarely are these fragmented entries as valuable, however, as those that are accomplished in one sitting.
  • Do you write at the same time each day? I find my ideal time to write is in the morning right after my morning devotional time. That is not always possible on some days and I may find myself writing just before heading to bed (even if at 2 a.m.). While not ideal, I still benefit from the sustained rhythm of committing to a daily entry.
  • What do you write about? Really, anything. I see it as my time each day to explore what’s on my mind and in my heart. I’m exploring the fields of business, ministry, personal development, relationships, and wherever my mind wants to go. Nearly every entry includes a prayer and many entries are nothing but that. If you’re wondering what to write about, see my list of ideas to jump start your journal entry.
  • What do you do when you don’t know what to write about? I write that I don’t know what to write about—repeatedly—until I bore myself into thinking about something more enjoyable to write.
  • Do you go back and reread your entries? Some of my friends who journal reread their entries on a regular basis. I do not. I have have other friends who destroy their entries after writing them to preserve their freedom to write candidly. I don’t do that either. When I finish an entry that has something I want to revisit—to develop further or to use in a blog post, for instance—I’ll create a note in Evernote with the key topic and the date of the journal entry. That way I can easily search Evernote to quickly find the entry. At some point I may go back and reread my entries—or burn them altogether.

What questions did I miss? If you journal, how would your answers differ on these questions? 

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