I used to co-facilitate a leadership development program for employees interested in professional growth. Before the program began, we gave participants a journal and asked them to read a Harvard Business Review article Want to Be an Outstanding Leader? Keep a Journal. Research demonstrates the power of journaling to level up your leadership. Great leaders are great learners, and learning about oneself through reflection gives leaders a competitive and creative edge.
Our days are packed with meetings, more meetings, and fires to put out. Imagine how how much more effective we could be if we had more time to think? Journaling can help in that area. Journaling helps you reflect on your day, gain perspective, process emotions, and express gratitude. Compassionate leaders are attuned to themselves and others and demonstrate emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence has multiple components – self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Self-awareness and self-regulation, in particular, can be boosted with a journaling practice.
Artist Julia Cameron is known for her morning pages routine. She encourages us to write 3 longhand stream-of-consciousness pages every morning to clear our minds and begin the day fresh. Researchers found that writing, particularly writing to do lists, in the evening before bed encourages quality sleep. The process of writing before sleep clears our mind and reduces anxiety, allowing us to fall asleep faster. Gratitude journals are known to improve your well-being and overall health. There is also the genre of art journaling, which I am in awe of. I previously wrote about a five-year journal, which I am really enjoying now that I am in year two. I love looking back to my entries from a year ago.
My journaling practice looks like this –
- Shopping for a great journal – I don’t have a particular type of journal that I use. Usually in the summer when we visit fun shops while traveling, I will pop into a bookstore or gift shop and look at their journal selection. If I find one I like, I buy it. If it’s on sale, even better! I currently have a stack of about ten journals on deck. I also receive them as gifts, which I so appreciate.
- Morning pages – I try really hard to work morning pages into my morning routine. I fully believe what the experts say about getting the stuff out of my head as soon as I wake up. I keep my journal and a pen on my nightstand. I try to do this before I look at my phone, but my Wordle habit has made this challenging. Mel Robbins says we should focus on ourselves before we let people on social media into our bedrooms in the morning.
- I start by writing the day, date, time and location and underlining it. This creates separation from each entry and provides context. I also usually put my name and the date of the first journal entry on the inside cover of the journal.
- Stream-of-consciousness writing – I often will write 3 stream-of-consciousness pages as soon as I wake up. If I don’t write first thing in the morning, I will write later in the morning. Sometimes I’ll draft a blog post or include a to do list. My journaling is whatever is on my mind with a mix of what is going on in my life and the lives of my family. I find journaling is also a great way to process my emotions and frustrations.
- Evening journaling – at the end of the day (in bed), I write an entry in my One Line a Day Five-Year Journal. I usually write what happened that day. I’m also trying to remember to write about one thing I’m grateful for. It’s a nice way to end the day.
How does journaling help you with your leadership? If you don’t journal, is this the year to try it? Journal prompts will be offered as part of my new group coaching program for women working as college administrators. You can find out more about this program on my website or schedule a 20-minutes Q&A session with me to learn more about it. All of these topics can also be explored further in private coaching sessions.