Keep a Journal to Be a Great Leader

There's more to leadership than just great ideas and management skills. The strongest leaders take plenty of time to think things through on their own before and after consulting with others. Doing this on a regular basis allows you to be ahead of the curve, serving as a stronger example to others.

Studies demonstrate that all highly successful leaders share a few key traits, and regular reflection is one of them. Imitating this habit will make you a more mindful decision-maker by allowing you to get deeper in touch with your own perspective and goals. Daily practices such as intentional journaling set successful leaders apart from the pack.

While you may associate journals with creatives or writers rather than with leaders, the fact is that regularly recording your thoughts is helpful for leaders in any field. Here are some tips for how to journal in a way that cultivates a stronger sense of leadership. Below, you'll also find some writing prompts to help you get started.

Getting started

Establish a routine.

Those who experience the most success journal every day. Choose a time when you won't feel rushed, when you're in a quiet space, and when you feel relaxed and clear-headed. This may be early in the morning before work or at the end of the day before bed. Any time works, as long as you commit to it.

Writing for about 15 minutes a day is ideal, but you can start with less time if that's too daunting. The most important part is that you write every day, regardless of how much you write or how long you spend doing it.

Write by hand, as handwriting connects much more deeply to your brain and memory. A paper journal is also less riddled with distractions than a computer. Depending on your style, you might prefer a handmade journal or a plain composition book. Choose something that's pleasurable to write in to make the process more enjoyable.

Let it flow.

Sometimes opening up an empty page can seem intimidating. You feel as though you have to write something brilliant, use proper grammar and not waste time. However, there are no wrong words to put on the page. Whatever comes to your mind is what you should write.

Eventually, you'll reach a point where the pen keeps moving without you having to think too much about it. This sense of “flow” is where journaling becomes the most productive, but don't worry if it doesn't happen every time. Keep practicing.

Even if you choose to follow a specific writing prompt or structure, that doesn't mean you have to stick to the script. If you feel like it needs to come out, then write it down.

Keep it confidential.

Keeping a journal is akin to having an intimate conversation with yourself. If you share your journal with others, it will impact what you feel comfortable writing and impede your sense of “flow.”

Journaling is useful for leadership precisely because it positions you as the expert on your own feelings, instincts, goals and plans. Don't shortchange that by letting someone else read and comment upon your thoughts.

What to write about

The above tips will work for anyone who's seeking to get started with journaling. So what sets a leadership journal apart from another one? In large part, it has to do with the topics that you choose to focus on when you write.

You don't need to hold back at all — even if you're writing about things that may seem irrelevant to your career, chances are there's a connection there somewhere. Still, it helps to regularly choose a high-level prompt related to your leadership or other aspects of your career and work through it in your journal.

If you're stuck on ideas, try starting with a general question:

  • How do I feel about my leadership today?
  • How am I feeling in this moment?
  • What's inspired me recently?
  • What am I hoping to accomplish in the next year?
  • What is my purpose in life?

You can also start with a more specific prompt. Often, the most specific questions can yield the most general insight:

  • What do I feel energized by right now?
  • What do I feel drained by right now?
  • What role do I play in other people's lives?
  • Who benefits most from my work?
  • What am I currently doing to manifest my visions?

Throughout our daily lives, thousands of ideas and questions float in and out of our heads. It's hard enough to remember everything that's on our to-do list, let alone all of our many thoughts. Keeping a journal allows you to file away those thoughts and sort through them at your own pace.

The mere act of writing things down is tremendously helpful for processing your ideas, but the power of journaling doesn't end there. You can return to your former journal entries over and over again to draw insight from your own writing. The act of reflection leads to an increase in creativity, ingenuity and mindfulness, which makes you a stronger visionary overall.

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