How Can Journals Increase Productivity

It is difficult to make the most of your day when you have no idea what to do. While planning and to-do lists might feel hard to get into, a system of reflective writing might do the trick. But is it possible that journaling can actually help increase productivity?

Journals can help increase productivity by enhancing clarity of thought, focus, creativity, narrative capacity, empathy and reflective abilities. Keeping one reduces stress, leading to calmer, happier and better life quality. A clear mind is more productive since it lacks mental blockage and emotional stressors. 

The utility of journals goes beyond secret records of your crushes or tools for unloading all psychological sewage. In today’s world, where people are forced to multitask—juggle school, work, family and personal life, it can be a roller coaster staying on top of things without a personal record, and that’s one of reasons that makes productivity journaling resourceful. Read on to learn more!

Journaling to Increase Productivity

Journaling is usually considered a self-care practice, especially for dealing with stress and galvanizing your mental health. However, did you also know that Journaling can be a fantastic hack for productivity?

That’s right! You can use this unassuming tool as an emotional mind map to get things done through your day (which means work and other stuff on your to-do list). Examples include:

  • Dealing with procrastination to anxiety.
  • Performing better at your job.
  • Dealing with complex math problems or becoming a better writer.

Productivity journaling is just like creating a to-do list. According to popular opinion, people are more likely to commit to their goals when they have them written down on paper than when they passively conceive their thoughts.

The reason is the link between their cognitive and motor skills, where the effort spent to write things down forges more neurons in their brains that help solidify the thought in their long-term memory. This is why you seldom leave things unattended when you work with a note-taking system like a productivity journal or to-do list.

It is often said that the shortest pencil is better than the longest memory. Hence in today’s modern world, science and technology have invented many project and program management software to help people stay on track, like Trello, Slack, etc. If you find yourself using a planner (digital or paper), you have already begun the journey of productivity journaling.

So the following sections of this article will enlighten you on how you can get more from your journaling practice by hacking it to boost your productivity. Let’s get started!

What Is Journaling for Productivity?

Journaling for productivity is all about personal accountability. It is the practice of recording your tasks or activities and how much time they require – you can call it personal time tracking (a system of holding yourself accountable for how you spend your time and on what activities).

You can record projects and the time you spent completing them, social events, appointments etc. But in addition to monitoring how you spend your time, journaling for productivity lets you write your thoughts, feelings and observations about the events of your day, with more emphasis on your work.

So whether you are a student, self-employed or work in a corporation, Journaling helps track your energy expenditure. That way, you can spend more time on activities that help you develop and accomplish more things.

For instance, if you are a student, productivity journaling enables you to identify what subjects to study more to improve your grades – the same effect applies to other endeavors.

How Journaling Relates to Productivity.

At first glance, Journaling seems like an activity to help you vent your feelings and unload depressing thoughts – while there is no lie in holding such views, there is more to Journaling than strictly pent-up emotional energy.

Being productive is a game of the mind, and effectively channeling your mental energies leads to increased motivation and productivity. Productivity journaling helps you:

  • Clearing your mind to allow fresh thoughts and ideas – think about gaining a new perspective on things or issues.
  • Monitor your energy channels, track your progress and reflect on your growth process.

The reason is that journaling allows you to exercise your mind through planning, forecasting, and brainstorming, all of which increase creativity and spike motivation. Essentially when you spend time creating plans, your brain releases a neurochemical called epinephrine that elevates your mood, giving you the required energy to carry on your daily tasks.

Similarly, when you return to your journal at the end of the day to check accomplished tasks off your list or write selectively about all you accomplished, your brain releases dopamine—the reward neurochemical that makes you feel accomplished. As a result, you will want to repeat the cycle, which is how most people get into the positive habit of Journaling for productivity.

Why Do People Use Journaling To Track Productivity?

The ultimate purpose of journaling to track productivity is personal time accountability. The reason is that time is the basic unit of measure for all life achievements. It is why you are given deadlines to meet a target at work or work out for 30 minutes daily.

By recording your little milestones, you can build more motivation for more achievements while identifying areas of improvement.

Here are some reasons for starting a productivity journal:

  • To encourage introspection for personal development.
  • Add clarity to your goals by writing them out.
  • Formulate action plans for achieving your set goals.
  • To better understand how you work— your peak performance time of the day (when you are most productive) and times of lower energy.
  • You can use a record of your steady progress to identify whether or not you are growing.
  • For personal analysis to identify areas of improvement and other time-wasting propensities.

It follows that what you do not measure does not improve, and in the exact words of Benjamin Franklin, “he who fails to plan, plans to fail.”

How To Use a Journal To Increase Productivity

Using journals to increase productivity is not about making boring to-do lists. When you use journals to increase productivity, you establish a personal relationship with your journal, where you document your activities and how you handled them. As the name implies, it is precisely a record of your productivity. It is like always wanting to know the best use of your time.

In other words, you utilize time as the fundamental unit of measure to track your goals, whether you succeeded in achieving the plan and how you felt afterward.

Here is a brief guide for the process of productivity journaling:

1. Write your goals, tasks and activities.

2. Estimate the timeline for accomplishing your goals because SMART goals should be time-bound.

3. Track your progress as you work, taking note of essential elements like your feelings while working, difficulty, etc.

4. Write a reflective note about how it felt while working. You can ask yourself questions along the following lines:

  • How did the task make you feel?
  • Was it difficult or easy?
  • What aspects did you find easy or difficult?
  • Are there areas you need to improve or added skills you need to acquire?
  • Did you complete the task within a reasonable time?
  • How did you feel after the job?

5. Come back at the end of the week to read through your journal, carefully identifying your growth process and areas of change. Reflect on your performance, success and failures as you read and use this insight to improve.

Pros and Cons of Using Journals To Increase Productivity.

You will discover with regular practice that your productivity experiences steady improvement because your journal holds you accountable to yourself. As a bonus, your increased productivity also adds to your self-confidence and self-esteem, which are essential for a balanced life.

Here is a table with some advantages and disadvantages of using journals to increase productivity.

Productivity journals are great for people who already enjoy writing, such as freelance writers, novelists, poets, and other writing enthusiasts or wordsmiths.It can be time-consuming.
It provides the user with a long time to sort through their thoughts and feelings through detailed and descriptive accounts.Some people may get bored from the extended writing.
It engenders patience and creates new meaning or perspective.Unfettered usage can lead to negativity and obsession, making it counter-productive.
Writing is somewhat therapeutic for the mind.    It may not be exactly objective as you have had time to think and decide to accept or reject any event.
It improves your IQ and makes you more expressive.It can be emotionally overwhelming for some people.
It boosts your positive energy and self-esteem. 

More About the Benefits of Keeping a Journal

Now that you understand what productivity journaling is, its purpose, and its pros and cons, it is time to explore some detailed benefits of keeping one.

It Improves Your Critical Thinking Skills.

Productivity journaling encourages excellent critical thinking skills that lead to better decision-making. The reason is that keeping a productivity journal allows you to engage in reflective writing—a process of exploring your thoughts and feelings on things around you. As a result, you gain a new perspective on things and make informed choices in your life.

It Helps With Healthy Emotional Processing.

Sorting through your feelings is one of the first principles of keeping a productivity journal. Every day comes with challenges, like limited funds, toxic coworkers, being stuck at a job you hate, or dealing with an overbearing relative.

All these challenges breed negative emotions from anger to frustration, depression, sadness, anxiety, boredom etc., that destabilize your emotional wellbeing.

So, productivity journaling helps you healthily process your feelings, analyze them, figure out a solution or come to terms with them peacefully. It gives you a clear mind and calm attitude, which are examples of excellent mental health.

It Helps With Stress Reduction.

Stress reduction is one of the therapeutic benefits of Journaling. It slows down your heart rate, counteracting the effects of adrenaline when you feel stressed. Writing things down allows you to practice detachment which helps to reduce your stress levels. In addition, it boosts your moods, primarily when you practice gratitude during your Journaling.

Things To Know When Starting Productivity Journaling

If you have never tried using Journaling for productivity purposes. It can be challenging to wonder how to get started. Perhaps you have gotten your notebook or other writing material; here are a few tips to help break the ice.

1. Always Insist on Writing

Although Digital documents and note takers allow you to use technology to practice Journaling, the benefits of Journaling are embedded in old-fashioned longhand writing. The reason is that writing with your hands activates the neural pathways that keep information longer in your memory. As a bonus, you can improve your handwriting with constant writing practice.

If you really want to remember important information, writing in color while you’re journaling can be extremely beneficial

2. Remain Consistent

Consistency is the fuel behind productivity journaling. When you journal consistently, you can only begin to discover patterns in your attitude to work and tasks.

For instance, if you have issues with motivation, procrastination, etc., you will spot them faster when you write consistently to track your progress. You can write in the mornings once you wake up from sleep, before retiring to bed, or at both times of the day for 15 minutes each. The choice is yours.

3. Be Patient With Yourself

Self-monitoring requires time, so do not rush the process or write in a hurry. Your journal entries provide an intimate time with yourself, your thoughts, and your feelings. That’s why it’s reflective writing.

However, as you go deeper in self-discovery, avoid perfectionism. The goal is to write freely and not spend time analyzing the slightest things, like spelling errors. Ideally, you should write to get your thoughts and feelings out on paper without editing or critiquing your writing. Your productivity journal is not a contest and will not be graded or evaluated.

4. Try Different Journaling Approaches

Different approaches to the same activity create unique experiences. Some people combine two or more types of Journaling to enable them to derive optimal performance. Your first time is an excellent opportunity to try several journaling approaches so that you can quickly cultivate the habit.

There are several approaches to Journaling for productivity. You can experiment with several options to find the one that works best for you. The goal is to track the events in your life, your response to these events and what lessons you can draw for self-improvement.

Here are some:

Types/Journaling ApproachesExplanation/Uses  
Morning pages or journals.  They are perfect for making daily entries in the mornings, especially if you are a morning person.   You can also use it as a task manager, where you outline all you have to accomplish before the day ends. It is an excellent way to build daily motivation.
Evening journaling.  This approach is the direct opposite of morning pages because you only have to make entries in the evenings or before bed.   It helps you clear your mind before sleeping by reflecting on your day. This way, you can destress and make a resolve to do better the next day.
Free writing.Free writing is almost like morning and evening journaling, except that you can make entries randomly (at any time of the day).   This method allows you to track your emotional responses to situations as they happen. Also, you can record brilliant ideas as they pop into your head.   You can also optimize your free writing to track your work and progress using it as a timer, to-do list and planner.

5. Make Your Writing Holistic

In Journaling, a holistic writing style is detailed and expressive. Your journal is your private property; no one can read it except if you allow them. Therefore you should be free to include all your thoughts and feelings, including your fears and shame.

Writing expressively about your past, present, and future allows you to view your life from different timelines to make you a better version of yourself. That’s what productivity is all about!

6. Pick a Format and Commit to It

If you have had the liberty of experimenting with different approaches to productivity journaling, then you have a chance to pick your favorite pattern.

Since the benefits of using Journaling to increase productivity only comes from practice, it would be best to commit to an approach that resonates with your personality and lifestyle. What matters is to form the habit of writing regularly.

7. Try Using Journaling Prompts

Journaling prompts (productivity journaling prompts) are designed to spark your imagination, especially if you are new to the practice. It helps you get past these blank pages or blank memory by asking thought-provoking questions about the events of the day.

By attempting to answer these questions, you will gradually cultivate the habit of introspection to make your journaling sessions much more enjoyable and productive. You can quickly get productivity journaling prompts on the internet.

Here are a few sample questions to help you get started:

  • How do you feel at the moment?
  • What are your goals for today?
  • What are your plans for tomorrow?
  • What activities did you engage in today to bring you closer to your long-term goals?
  • Why do you feel so stressed right now?

If you are bullet journaling, trackers can be an easy way to get reflective about your day. Mood trackers can make you think about how you’re feeling, exercise and other goal trackers can keep you on track etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Journaling Yield Adverse Effects?

Yes, Journaling can yield adverse effects when the practice becomes obsessive. Journaling aims to clear your thoughts and find solutions to your problems, but when the practice becomes one of self-obsession and negativity, it becomes toxic.

Is Journaling Therapeutic?

Journaling is therapeutic for treating emotional and mental challenges like anxiety, depression, anger, stress, etc. It also provides an excellent coping mechanism for grief and helps people practice gratitude as a lifestyle for a healthy mind.

What Is Daily Journaling, and How Long Should One Practice Each Day?

Daily Journaling refers to making daily entries in your journal. There are no specific recommendations for how long you should journal each day, but some people prefer to write in their journals for at least 15 minutes daily once they wake up from sleep or before going to bed.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know all about Journaling as a productivity hack, you can use it to increase your motivation to get ahead in your career and personal life. Remember to start small and consistently put your thoughts on paper. Hopefully, this piece gives you a head start with using Journaling to increase productivity.


Okay – I know. You are probably wondering ‘Why do I need a course to Bullet Journal?’ and the answer is that you don’t.. BUT if you want to get REALLY good at something you need to learn from someone who has done it before and is better at it than you are! Whitney and her team are those people that can teach you better than any Instagram or blogger can!

This course has 10 different teachers teaching you the ins and outs of starting your Bullet Journal and using advanced techniques inside of it to increase your productivity in 40 guided videos. On top of this they include 100 Printables that you would use throughout the course for your bujo!

Check out Whitney’s Journal You course – you will NOT be unsatisfied with the results it brings you!

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