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Two Simple Frameworks to Get Started With Journalling

In a previous post describing my mental health challenges, I briefly referenced ‘coping mechanisms.’ These are a set of actions that you can develop to help boost your mental health.

My favourite coping mechanism by far is journalling and I now journal way more than just for mental health reasons.

I’ve found it’s an incredible stress reliever but more importantly for me its the best tool I’m aware of for self-discovery. In particular, one of the frameworks outlined below allows me to live an intentional life without regrets in the short or long term future.

Over my journey of self-discovery, I believe I’ve gravitated to journalling because I am on the introverted scale. If you are an introvert and by nature you internalise your thoughts, journalling can be a excellent way for you to get the benefits of externalising your thoughts.

When you first start journalling it can feel weird, I certainly thought so at least.

I don’t journal daily and don’t feel pressure to. I’ve found my best time is at the end of the week to get work out of my head and then focus and live the weekend intentionally.

I used to only journal when things were tough or I was getting stressed but started to do it more frequently after reading Matthew McConaughey’s Green Light book where he says journalling when it’s tough means it’s more negative whereas journalling when things are good means you have more of an open mind to explore thoughts and plan ahead.

So to get started and to break that barrier steal two of my frameworks below. One I developed myself, the other I saw on social media.

First before you dive in, I’d recommend buying a nice book and pen as it can make the experience way nicer. Not essential but adds to the experience. I’m not a fan of the journaling apps as for me we’re on screens so much anytime I can get off screens I take advantage of.

Framework 1: Day Dividers

At the end of each day, break up your day into quarters and score each quarter out of 10 then just give some bullet points about why it was good what you could have done to improve the score.

Why is this good?

  • Means you reflect on the day

  • Your more intentional in your actions the next day

  • Gets you started with some kind of structure and framework to start with journalling

  • Can get you in the rhythm to journal daily

Here’s a rough example of dividers:

  • Q1: 5am – 10am

  • Q2: 10am – 2pm

  • Q3: 2pm – 6pm

  • Q4: 6pm – 9pm

Break these up as you like based on your day. Each section you can rate and just add points from anything like “unproductive meeting, tomorrow I need to avoid what I did today” / “had an unhealthy lunch” / “had an incredible workout, proud of how many sets I did, will aim for four sessions this week” / “I was on my phone too much in the evening, need to leave my phone upstairs tomorrow.”

Framework 2: Sam’s System

I have no fancy name for this, I just developed it myself after the first year of journalling.

Open your journal to two blank pages side by side, divide into quadrants with the following headers:

  • Reflection short term

  • Reflection long term

  • Future short term

  • Future long term

I do this one once a week, typically on a Friday. The four areas cover the full range of reflection and planning in my opinion.

Don’t worry at all if one quadrant is nearly empty. I find depending on me that day one quadrant will be massive and the others pretty small but it’s not until you start you know which one that is.

Reflection short term:

  • Focus on the week just gone (can include week previous too).

  • Just cover how the week went overall; if it was a particularly stressful week this section maybe long

  • If you had a big meeting you may just focus on that, it doesn’t matter whatever you want to drill down into

Reflection long term:

  • This is can go as far back as you want it to go

  • Sometimes here I’d think back to my childhood and reflect how far I’ve come or I may dig into and assess a certain event or job I had in the past

  • This one is an interesting one and something I’d recommend everyone tries, you’ll be surprised what you dig into

  • I’d recommend the first thing that comes to your mind dig into it and assess

Future short term:

  • This is just looking one or two weeks ahead

  • Potentially a busy week next week you can mentally prepare and get any final thoughts out your head so you aren’t dwelling on them over the weekend eg ‘I should do X on Monday’

  • You may have annual leave and family time scheduled in so you can hold yourself accountable to get things done by X day so you are present for family time

Future long term:

  • This is big picture stuff of where you want to go in the future, maybe a new job or exploring a career route

  • Here I find asking yourself questions just as someone on a podcast would ask or a therapist eg why do I want to go down this career route, do I actually enjoy this day-to-day or whats stopping me from doing XYZ

  • I found this quadrant incredibly helpful when I first started journalling to assess my plans for the future and get them out of my head

In conclusion, journalling can be a powerful tool for self-discovery and mental well-being. It provides a space for reflection, helps manage stress, and allows for intentional living. I’ve given you two simple frameworks to get you started or to add to your existing arsenal you may already have. I find journalling can help to gain valuable insights into your daily life, long-term goals, and personal growth. So grab a nice journal and pen, take a break from screens, and embark on a journey of self-discovery through the power of journalling.