6 Ways to Use Your Journal to Become a Better Leader

Journaling can be one of the easiest, least expensive, and most effective parts of your personal leadership development.  Easiest because you already know how to write.  Least expensive because all you need are some simple materials.  Most effective because your journal can be the centerpiece of your leadership development.  Plus, a good journaling habit makes all the other parts of leadership development work better.

So, what do you need?  You need enough discipline to establish an effective journaling habit.  You should spend some time with your journal every day. You should learn how to gather insights through the day that you can think through in your journal.  And you should develop the habit of reviewing your journal and turning your insights into action.   

Here are six ways you can use your journal to become a better leader.  

Use Your Journal to Preserve Memory

We forget things fast.  There's a saying that, "The palest ink is stronger than the strongest memory."  Believe it.  Use your journal to write down things that you may want to refer to later.  

Use Your Journal to Improve Your Daily Work Performance

The best leaders strive to improve their performance in regular work every day.  Your journal can help you do that.  During the day, capture your thoughts about what you did and how you could do it better.  Record those things in your journal.  Then reflect on them and change your behavior.

Use Your Journal for Personal After-Action Review

The military uses after-action reviews to critique operational performance.  You can do that, too.  Use your journal to capture your thoughts when you complete a project or a major initiative.  Write down what you intended to do.  Write down what you did.  Write down the situation, what happened, and how it affected your work.  Then, make notes on how you'll do things better next time.  

Use Your Journal to Sharpen Your Thinking

President Dwight Eisenhower was the master of this.  He described a situation and listed all his concerns.  Then, he worked through them. He decided some were not valid. He modified others. Finally, he identified the most important thing to do.

Use Your Journal to Get Good Ideas

One of the best ways to get good ideas is to wrestle with a problem in your journal.  Do a little bit of "personal brainstorming."  Write down ideas as you get them.  Analyze them, combine them, or eliminate them.  Use tools like mind mapping and free writing. Let your ideas rest for a few days and then return to them.

Use Your Journal to Capture Interesting Stuff

Use your journal to capture stuff that interests you.  Capture quotes you think are inspiring or insightful.  Grab some statistics that you may want to use someday.  Make lists and notes about books and articles you want to read, speakers you want to hear, or courses you want to take.  Capture your good ideas in your journal so that you can review them later.  

Bottom Line

Use your journal to bring experience, insight, analysis, and reflection together in a place where ideas can spark off each other and you can sharpen your thinking.  Use your journal as the centerpiece of your leadership development.  It is the easiest, least expensive, and most effective leadership development tool. 

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