Thick Mind or Thick Book? The Power of Journaling

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” 
― Anne Frank

Like many busy, driven people, I’ve struggled over the years with so many thoughts and ideas that it’s hard to focus on what’s most important, or I get lost or overwhelmed in too many idea opportunities.

For years I studied meditation – highly effective to calm and focus my mind – then one day, I reconnected with journaling, which I used to do at school, in creative writing time. At the time, I did it because I had to, but the technique I learned is insanely powerful for mental clarity and focus, today.

Writing words on paper clears my head and has become one of my most powerful Resilience Rituals (as in Chapter 3 of my recent book Your Oxygen Mask First).

One executive I work with, in India, summed it up by describing it as “thick mind or thick book”: either clutter your mind, or record it in a book. It’s magical when thoughts leave your head to be comfortably held on paper.

That discipline creates mental freedom: the ability to think about what you would like to versus what you are distracted by.

Whether I journal early in the morning after a workout, in a coffee shop or on a plane, here are the techniques that work for me:

  1. Take out the trash. Write down all the thoughts in your head, whether it’s one or a thousand. Write randomly about everything and anything that comes up for you. This can be in two minutes on two pages or 20 to 30.
  2. Solve problems. List all the things you want to dig into, opportunities you want to make the most of, and problems to solve. Then write more specifically about each one to create a mini action plan – or until you get the insight you are looking for. In almost every case, you’ll get clarity on your next step.
  3. Make to-do lists. As you go, write down ideas of tasks that need to be done, on the back page of your book or in your phone.

Ultimately, I end up with a few pages of trash and a few pages of strategic, deeper thinking. When I’ve finished, I tear out the pages of lists and strategies to get into action with and let go of, or shred, the rest.

It doesn’t matter how you do it – any free writing helps you to turn down the noise and figure out what to do.

It’s game changer – a life changer. You’ll be clearer, more grounded and have more high-value thoughts on what’s important.

The Challenge

  • What do you do to calm and focus your mind and ensure your brain is open for high-value possibilities?
  • What two or three things can you write about today?

What are you waiting for? Grab a pen – or device!