Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Featured Productivity Tool: How to Use a Journal for Clarity & Decision-Making

For writers, a journal is your Swiss-army knife. It can be used for just about everything, While journaling is traditionally used for jotting down what’s going on in your life – tracking your actions, activities, and emotions, one of my favorite ways to use a journal is for clarity and decision-making. 

Whether you’re pondering your next writing project or dealing with a personal matter, you may find yourself mulling it over constantly … and sometimes to no avail. However, when you take pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – you are much more likely to come up with an effective solution.

To gain clarity for about just about anything, try my directed journaling technique. Directed journaling is stream-of-consciousness writing spurts, focused on a specific theme, issue, or problem. 

Here’s how Directed Journaling works:

  • In your electronic calendar, schedule between three and five 15-minute sessions over a few days. Be sure to set a reminder. 
  • When you get the alert for your appointment, set a timer for 15 minutes, and start writing. Note: While there are numerous benefits to writing by hand, if you are more likely to complete the process by typing on a computer, go for it! 
  • During each journaling session, ask yourself pointed questions. 

For a writing project: 
  • What’s the genre? The format? Novel, screenplay, story...
  • Who is the main character?
  • What's the motivation?
  • What's the theme? How do the characters reflect the theme? 
  • How does the story begin? End?

For something personal:
  • What's the issue? 
  • How can I resolve it? 
  • What are all the possible solutions?
  • What are the pros? The cons?
  • What are my other options? 

When you do your journaling, think outside the box. Be as logical - and as extreme - as possible. Your journal rants are for your eyes only. And don’t worry about repeating yourself. The idea is to get everything out of your head and onto the page.

Here’s the Trick

  • Do not read any of these journal entries until you have done the process several times.
  • Once you have exhausted your thoughts on the subject, then you may read the journal entries. 
  • As you go through them, note the ideas you repeat – those are what you are most drawn to. You may also come up with solutions that seem to come from left-field. That’s what happens when you allow yourself to babble on paper. 

Final Thoughts 

When you open yourself to all possibilities and look at them objectively, you are more likely to come up with a successful solution or comfortable decision, along with a feasible plan. And when you have a plan in place, it’s much easier to face and embrace change!

Good luck. The power is literally in your hands.  

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For more inspiration and motivation, follow @TheDEBMethod on Twitter and Linkedin! 

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How has journaling helped you? What is your journaling style? Do you use pen and paper? Or do you type your thoughts? Please share in the comments. 

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Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A writer, editor, and project catalyst, Deb works with entrepreneurs, executives, and creatives to set goals and manage their projects through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online support. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; Vice President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Women's National Book Association; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.


Karen Cioffi said...

Debra, great tips on why journaling is so important and how to get the most out of it. I haven't gotten around to journaling yet, but I do keep an detailed daily planner.

deborah lyn said...

Love this thoughtful and informative post, Debra!
"Your journal rants are for your eyes only. The idea is to get everything out of your head and onto the page." We see better & solve better with mental clarity. Thanks much Debra!

Debra Eckerling said...

Karen, a detailed daily planner works too! Brainstorm in the way that works for you. Thanks for your comment.

Debra Eckerling said...

Thanks for your comment, Deborah. Much appreciated. - Deb

Terry Whalin said...


What an innovative way to use a journal for decision--making. It's something I have never read about or done--since I have never been one to journal much. I do have a gratitude journal that I use every day but it's for a different purpose. Thank you for this insightful piece.


Debra Eckerling said...

Thanks for your comment, Terry. The gratitude journal is another powerful tool, for sure! Happy writing. - Deb

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I like the idea of waiting to read your entries!
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Mplcreative said...

I enjoyed this post so much. There are so many ways that this is helpful. Thank you.


Debra Eckerling said...

Thanks, Carolyn! Hugs back!

Debra Eckerling said...

Thank you, Mindy! Happy to hear it! Appreciate your comment.

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