Journaling to Process Your Day
Today’s episode is a cooking show! Not really, but I am giving you a recipe of how you can process your day in your journaling. By the end of this episode, you will have a quick recipe to try for yourself to learn how to process your day through journaling. This recipe is really good for someone who doesn’t know what to write about.
I journal in the morning and do a loose, less-formatted version of this. I imagine this will also be a really good nighttime routine for someone who wants to have a little journaling exercise to do in the evening or to transition from active time to resting time at the end of a day.
Reflecting on your Day
Think about this: How often do you reflect on the day as a whole from an observational perspective?
Sometimes, when people think about journal writing, they think about diary style journaling. It is like reporting events, but what if you intentionally and systematically took yourself through a processing process, a way to process your day?
Benefits of Processing your Day
What are the benefits of processing your day? Why not just write in diary style: “this happened, then I did this, then they did that, etc.”
If you take a little bit of extra time and intention in your journaling to process your day, not just write a list of what happened, you might get some really helpful outcomes.
Journaling to process your day gives you something new to write about every day.
It helps you see patterns and learn about yourself in short periods of time.
It may help you remember what you would otherwise forget. There are probably so many more, individual benefits I’m not even thinking of right now.
I tried to think of other examples of how we might collect information, store data and keep track of ourselves outside of journaling. It made me think of my smart watch.
Processing your Day with a Smart Watch
My watch tells me how much (and how well) I’ve slept. It tells me when I need to stand up and how active I’ve been throughout the day and on a day-to-day basis. There are so many additional apps and settings I don’t currently take advantage of that can tell me so many other things about myself and my routines that I am currently unaware of.
Maybe our watches already do parts of processing our day for us. Our watches collect information for us, in theory, so that we can take a more proactive approach to our own well-being. Our watches might also give us an early warning system that something might be wrong, such as if we’re not moving enough or getting enough sleep, or if our heart rate changes drastically.
Seeing the information collected by our watches might be interesting if you are just a curious person. Seeing personal information collected is the same thing that doing this journaling for processing your day recipe might do for you.
It can make you feel more proactive about your emotional well-being. It might be an early warning system if you start to see things going in a direction that you don’t want them to go. and You might just be a curious person who enjoys seeing all this information spelled out in front of you.
Recipe for Journaling to Process Your Day
I’m not a big cook. I like recipes with three ingredients or fewer. I like to use the same recipes over and over again. So, today it’s a little out of character for me to give you this information in a cooking analogy.
Some people cook without a recipe, they just seem to know what goes together and how much to add and if the dish needs something else and if so what that might be. Other people prefer a step-by-step precise instruction-filled recipe (with pictures).
I am somewhere in between. I like to use the step-by-step instructions the first few times I make a recipe. and then if I really like it, and it becomes part of my routine, I can guesstimate the amounts and substitute ingredients and make just enough for how much I want that day.
That’s what I hope this recipe that I’m about to share with you will be like for you. I’ll give you some step-by-step instructions and then also the freedom and license to make this recipe your own. You can use it daily or just on the days where you think you need it. You can add to it, embellish and mix it up, and subtract the parts that you don’t like.
Deviate from this Journaling Recipe
Allow yourself to deviate from the recipe whenever you want. You can add anything else that comes up for you as you’re writing.
The point is to journal to process your day, not to follow the recipe exactly.
The tools that you use for this recipe can be journaling prompts, worksheets, guided meditations, a special notebook, different colored pens, white out tape, decor items, an icon system to note certain things and anything else that you like to use during your journaling. And also, none of that is required. You can keep it very minimal.
Here is the recipe to process your day
Prep your Area
Prep your area (this means your mind).
Whatever’s currently in the forefront of your mind, just get it down and out-of-the-way so that you can see what else is there. This is kind of like clearing out a prep space in front of you so you don’t keep bumping into things and keep getting distracted by them. Write down whatever’s on the front of your mind.
What Happened, Feelings and Lessons
Next, in equal parts, add to your journal the major things that happened in the last 24 hours and how you feel about those.
Notice how I said in equal parts?
That means you’re not just writing a list of events and occurrences and you’re also not only writing your emotions. You’re writing both.
You can add and mix these up in whatever order and amounts work for you. So, now you’ve written equal parts of things that happened and your feelings about those things.
The next step is to mix in realizations and/or lessons learned. As many or as few as you can think of.
Discard Unhelpful Thoughts
Then, check for unhelpful thoughts and discard those.
What is an unhelpful thought? It’s usually a little utterance, sentence or phrase that your mind suggests to you that sounds really true, or important, or un-debatable that just doesn’t feel great. It doesn’t point you in the direction you want to go. It drains your energy instead of pumping you up. It feels out of alignment.
I want to point out that this is after we’ve already written about our feelings (in equal amounts to what happened in the day), so we’re not censoring ourselves here when we’re looking for unhelpful thoughts. We’re not trying to deny our authentic feelings.
We are noticing if there’s something we are thinking, as if it’s a true fact, that really isn’t. Some of my personal examples that might show up in my journal usually show up as questions (because I’m a questioner by nature) – they might sound like: “Why does this always happen to me?”
That question can be translated into the unhelpful thought that it really is “this always happen to me and it shouldn’t.”
Sounds like a fact, right? Something always happens? It’s not a fact. It’s an exaggeration. It doesn’t happen 100% of every minute of every day. Maybe it’s happened 2 times now, and my mind is suggesting 2 times means always.
I’m glad I’m noticing a pattern if something happens twice and I don’t like it, but thinking something always happens and shouldn’t makes me feel powerless and hopeless and therefore, that thought is unhelpful for me.
How to Find Unhelpful Thoughts
You can find these unhelpful thoughts by scanning through what you’ve written. Another way to let unhelpful thoughts surface is to just sit quietly with what you’ve written in front of you and ask yourself “what else? What else am I thinking or what else is running through my mind?”
My advice when you find an unhelpful thought is to write it down in a very objective way, almost clinically or in a non-personal way. In my example, I could write:
“I notice that I am thinking this always happens to me and that it should not happen. It has happened to me 2 times in the past 6 months. It did happen (even though I think it should not have happened). “
Writing it out in this reporting style, non-attached way removes so much of the emotional charge and then lets me consider it from a more detached place so I can decide how I want to proceed.
Sprinkle In Credit and Gratitude
Moving on in our Journaling to Process your Day recipe, the most fun part is for you to sprinkle in credit and gratitude to taste.
Sprinkling in credit means noticing and writing down what you deserve credit for. Give yourself compliments. Accentuate what you did well. Pat yourself on the back for your efforts and accomplishments and achievements.
Sprinkling in gratitude means writing down what you’re so thankful for. What went your way. How you were so lucky!
Set your Reminders
Finally, set aside any reminders that you need to deal with, as needed.
I do this in a few ways. I have my calendar next to me as I’m writing in my journal, so sometimes when a reminder pops into my mind as I’m journaling, I’ll jump over to my calendar and add it where it goes, then come right back to my journal pages.
If I feel like opening my calendar could be too much of a distraction, I’ll use a sticky note that I also have nearby and just write it there to transfer to my calendar later.
I also like using the back pages of my journal as a “lab” where I put all my ideas and brainstorms that I can come back to and be reminded of later.
This recipe that I’ve just shared with you is a base recipe.
If you flip through a cookbook, you’ll probably find a few recipes that have the basic recipe first and then on the following pages there are all sorts of variations and additions or ways to embellish or change the recipe. That’s exactly what this is. This is your base recipe of how to journal to process your day. And you get to make it your own with your own preferences like the time of day that you journal or the amount of time that you like to journal and all kinds of other variables.
Rereading your Journal
Once you’ve done this recipe for a few days or weeks and you have developed a little bit of a habit of journaling to process your day, one suggestion is for you to decide on a cadence that you want to reread and collate the information.
You might decide to reread something you’ve written once a week or once a month or on a certain day of every month. Whatever you decide, that’s perfect.
I offer this only as a suggestion, because personally, I don’t have a specific cadence for rereading my journaling entries. I do it as necessary, pretty frequently.
Because I frequently reread my journal, I’ve been able to see some patterns, as well as being reminded of some surprises that I had forgotten about.
For example, some of my surprises that I encounter as I reread my previous journal entries are good ideas that had completely escaped from me that I can now take action on. I’ve also been acquainted with things that I now see I really deserve credit for, that at the time didn’t seem like that big of a deal.
Another thing that I love rereading and encountering is the first hint or sign of something that I became worried about and eventually solved. Reading it from the future (compared to when I wrote it in the past) reminds me how things work out and how I solve problems. Or, how things I thought were problems weren’t really that big of a deal.
That is your complete recipe for journaling to process your day.
Your Next Step
Tonight, or first thing tomorrow, follow this recipe. See how you like it.
Write out these steps and questions and the answers to process your day.
I even shortened this down for myself and wrote it on a little index card that I can use as a bookmark in my journal in case I ever feel stuck or don’t’ know what to write about.
Journal to Process your Day Recipe
Prep your space
Equal parts things and feelings from 24 hours
Mix in realizations & lessons learned
Check for unhelpful thoughts and discard
Sprinkle in credit and gratitude
Set aside reminders
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I thought about making a specific Journaling to Process your Day notebook or workbook with the recipe written out for you on every set of pages, but, I’m holding off for now because I like how variable the recipe is, it can be expanded or contracted based on the individual person.
If you do really want this in a worksheet format in a notebook, let me know and I’ll create it.
So, without a specific Process your Day notebook to share with you, this week’s featured notebook is What Are You Making It Mean?
It’s a blank dot graph notebook with all the space you need to run this recipe over and over again. (Or use it for anything else that you can think of).
It’s got a bright, bold rainbow cover and the title What Are You Making It Mean? is in big glittery font – so fun!
In Non Journaling News
I want to float an idea by you that (I hope) will be coming up in the next few months.
I’ve been thinking about it and planning and strategizing for it mentally for months now, but I haven’t really taken solid action on it because I’ve been consumed with other fun things in my personal life – like a house remodel and hosting paint parties.
But here’s what’s cooking! In the Spring, I’m hosting a weeklyish book club based on the book It’s Not Your Money by Tosha Silver – it’s one of my favorite, most recommended, most life changing books from recent years.
This will be an invested book club that meets 1x a week for 8 weeks on Zoom. We’ll discuss a chapter a week and we’ll have an online space for discussion in between and a place to hold our recorded calls in case someone misses a week. I’m calling it invested because I am asking you to invest your energy, time and money to be a part of it.
Like I said, I haven’t taken too much solid action towards it yet, but if you’re hearing me describe this and already know you want to hear more about it when it’s ready, head over to bexb.org/membership to get on the waitlist so you’ll be the first to know when you can sign up