The ultimate journal strategy and prompts for goal setting, productivity and success | with free PDF templates download
Keeping a journal was the only self-improvement tool the ancients had. I’m talking about Napoleon, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo Da Vinci and Aristotle. I think they did pretty good in their lives. They all used journals for everything: note-taking, scheduling appointments, planning projects, drawing sketches, defining principles and measuring progress. Today we have apps for all these things but journalling is still useful. Actually now it’s important more than ever with the constant stream of distractions. It should be part of everyone’s day as a place and time for self reflection and adjusting the course of one’s life. There is something special about having an open canvas to write your thoughts in your own words. However thoughts and words are not always easy to come out. An open canvas doesn’t have to mean a blank canvas. Journal prompts or questions are very useful as a direction and starting point for your journal. Your journal prompts are not to be set in stone and never change. They should evolve as you move through life and go through different phases. I will share my journals strategy and elaborate prompts that I implemented in LifeHQ. It is based on the natural hierarchy of Days, Weeks, Months and Years. Follow along as I step inside each of them, explain why it’s there and how to use it properly. At the end of this article you can download all of these for free in a single PDF. Let’s get started.
Daily journal templateSplit into two sections, morning and evening. Morning for getting a leg up on the day, Evening for reflection. I have found that writing in the morning wakes up my brain and gets me going.
Something I’m looking forward to today?Have something to look forward to most days. Could be as simple as going to dinner or going to the gym after full day of coding etc. But having that one thing to look forward to makes you less likely to procrastinate during the day because you have your reward already planned.
Something scary or uncomfortable thing I will do today?Again this can’t be achieved every day but at least 2 days per week do something uncomfortable. Look for these uncomfortable things in the goals you are pursuing. If you’re pursuing something meaningful and something you haven’t done before, there are plenty of scary things to go around.
Write 3 things you are grateful for?This is a no brainer, expressing gratitude early in the morning is the best thing you can do for your mind, body and soul. It relaxes you, makes you more conscious and gives you perspective about what is truly important.
What would make today a success, what a super success?Helps me define a success goal for the day and a stretch goal if things are going great. I usually define one task per project that I’m actively working on. Since I’m using LifeHQ I have my daily mission module there so this prompt becomes obsolete. But it is still nice to write it down if it’s important enough.
Month mantraThis is something I’m experimenting with that I heard from the guys at Ultraworking. A month mantra is usually a quote that is valuable to you and you’d like to embrace it for a whole month, or more. So it’s something that you would like to read every morning and get in the right mindset. I like to pose it as a rhetorical question, here are some examples:
- Would you prefer success this year or in 5 years?
- If not now, when?
- Are you the hardest worker in the room?
- Focus on making magical products, you can, but will you?
EveningThe usual prompts for self reflection at the end of the day.
What went according to plan and what didn’t?
How was your productivity today. Why?
How were your energy and mood today. Why?
Now plan out your tasks for tomorrow.Reminder to go into the Master list in LifeHQ and pick the tasks for the next day from my active projects.
Week journal template
Before the week starts, on Sunday
Tasks I must accomplish this weekSelf explanatory. Pick a few, I choose 3, bigger tasks that must get done this week.
Mid week checkupCheck the 3 big tasks again and see what the progress is.
End of week, reflection
Review daily journalsLifeHQ has an awesome split view in the journals module that lets me scroll through the Daily journals on the left while I write my Week journal on the right.
Notice Positive or Negative patterns from the days in terms of energy, health, mood and productivity.Positive pattern: Workout out every day for a week boosted your creativity Negative pattern: Drinking out 2 days in a row made you oversleep two days in a row
What was the best day of the week and why?
What was the worst day and why?
Plan one new experience or scary things for next week.
Month journalSidenote: Keeping both week and month journal is bit of an overhead at times, so month and week could be merged into one if you feel you are skipping one of them way too often. If you haven’t, start one of your major goals for the year, that we’ll look into in a minute, and make a project for it. If you have your plate full already with projects move on.
You have four weeks this month, what must be accomplished each one
- Week 1:
- Week 2:
- Week 3:
- Week 4:
End of month reflectionReview your weekly journals and also review the previous month journal.
In what areas are you better this month, in what worse?Choose areas that are important to you at this point in your life. For me it is Productivity, Health, Mood and Energy.
The benefit here is not in logging it precisely and having a perfect scale for measuring mood and productivity, it’s impossible. The benefit is just thinking about measuring it and by doing so you become aware of it every day. Then you will start to look for ways to improve all these things you are tracking. Track different things in different times. But it’s important for these things to be measured, daily, weekly and monthly.
Used for defining your goals for the year. This is the place to think about the big picture but don’t get carried away dreaming. We are going to use the SMART strategy for goal setting.S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
- Specific – Define the goal in detail, answer specific questions: What, Where, When, How much.
- Measurable – How will you measure the success of your goal
- Achievable – Although sky is the limit. Make sure to set achievable goals for the time constraint you will set for yourself
- Relevant – Make sure to pursue goals that will make your life better and that are important enough to you so you can push until the end
- Time-bound – Set a deadline, every goal must have one, otherwise it’s just a dream that could go on for years.
Example of the SMART strategy for goal: Starting a blog and making it successful
Vague goal setting : Start a blog and make it successful
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting
Specific: Start a blog in the tech space niche about Virtual Reality
Measurable: My target is 2000 daily visitors and get featured in 2 major publications.
Achievable: 2000 per day is achievable
Relevant: I read every day and I’m very interested in VR, plus it’s an emerging technology. So it’s both relevant to me and relevant in the world.
Deadline: End of this year
Subgoals: How I plan to achieve my big goal
- Set up the blog and make the design decent.
- Become a better writer, read books on great writing.
- Write every day, publish 2 articles per week minimum.
- Make connections in the industry and develop social media presence.
- Become great at SEO.
End of year reflection:
What do you remember this past year for?
What was the best thing that happened to you and can you top that next year?
How many of your goals did you finish this year and did they improve your life as much as you thought they will?
How have your priorities changed from beginning of this year to now?
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Productivity nut, Tech lead, Writer. Founder of FocusHub, the First Productivity social network.
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