Set yourself up for genius breakthroughs at work with journaling

Sophia Ellis
Aug 08, 2017

I had a few good hours worth of writers block just trying to write a short article this week. No matter what, the thoughts just would not come out properly in a way that I could put them on paper (or screen). It’s one of the most frustrating things imaginable as a creative worker when you know you have solid thoughts and ideas but you can’t seem to get the “lightbulb” to go off when you need it to.

Now with our brains being distracted by notifications and clickbait articles every 10 seconds, it’s impossible to get into the flow of thinking that sparks our best ideas.

There is an exercise that some of the world’s greatest innovators have used to get the lightbulb moment to happen more often: journaling.

Journaling in this sense doesn’t mean spilling your deepest, darkest secrets on paper. It’s about getting your uninterrupted thoughts out so you can make the connections for that next great idea or solution.

Here are some tips and guidelines I use when using journaling at work:

Keep a digital blank space:

One of the things about our thoughts and ideas that’s so frustrating is that we have no control over when they hit us or when we will need to remember them again. We’re always on the go these days, it’s hard to keep track of anything that’s not your laptop or your phone. So you always have a place to get down those last minute thoughts, try a super simple journaling app like Day One whose easy interface and chronological design help you see how your thoughts change. It’s easy to go back and look at individual notes later on as well.

Keep a physical blank space:

Digital journaling is good and all, but there’s something about being able to physically write, draw, and scribble new ideas and thoughts without the bounds of an app. Our brain operate differently when we’re physically sketching out ideas rather than typing. You may be able to make connections you didn’t before. Keep a small physical notebook at your desk that you can easily access at work for brief sessions.

Force yourself to write for 10 minutes at the start of work:

Journaling is one of those difficult habits to form and stick to, like meditation. Set a timer for yourself at the beginning of each workday, before you are distracted and bogged down by email, to write out any ideas or thoughts for 10 minutes straight. Don’t have huge expectations for yourself, but make it a consistent habit to force yourself to do this simple exercise. Our subconscious works on autopilot behind all of our multitasking and stress. You’ll be surprised what you’re able to realize and build upon later.

Make time each week to look back on your journal:

Set aside some time at the end of each week to look back at both your digital and physical journaling spaces and see what you can make of your thoughts and ideas. So often I have moments where I work through a great idea in my head and it’s gone within seconds if I don’t have the time to act on it then. Later, I’ll be questioning when and where throughout my week I had that idea. Looking back at physical records of your thoughts may help you discover those lightbulb moments and build on them.

Share ideas with others:

I know for a fact there are just certain connections my brain doesn’t make as well as others who think just a little differently. It’s really helpful for me to share bits and pieces with ideas with others and ask them to help me see further possibilities and solutions. Your coworkers are the best for this as you’re likely working towards the same goals. Make sure to open up your journal every so often to other minds for a helping hand.

If you can, try journaling this week and see if your thoughts feel any less jumbled or you make a breakthrough you wouldn’t have. It’s worth a shot!

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