The journal. The non judgemental sanctuary for introverts. It demands nothing but honesty and regularity and has the ability to absorb all your thoughts, fears, tears and ideas and spit them back out for you to analyse and better understand yourself and any life events that may be occurring.
I can’t tell you exactly why I started a journal at my new job, did Bridget Jones do it or something, i don’t know, i’ve never met her, but for some reason i just thought it would be beneficial and interesting to keep a track of what was going on in my head during a significant personal transition period. A new job! Ahhhh! My first big career jump in years. Out of the comfort zone again, into the new. Everything was new, new industry, new people, new location, new skills to learn, i even had to go back to wearing actual work attire, a suit and tie on my first day. It was exciting, starting a new phase of my life, however going from knowing everything and everyone to what I perceived to be absolute zero was both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. I was the new kid on the block but i knew i had the right stuff.
There was no real plan on how long i was going to journal for, i didn't really know what i was looking to get out of it, maybe just a log of all the ridiculous acronyms people kept saying around me, maybe a learning tool until it all clicked? I didn’t know anybody so I needed time to gauge people, who was disengaged, who was helpful, who was interested in my background, who was talented, who shared my sense of humour and who could i confide in, ask questions and get honest and clear answers. While i was still scoping that out, the task function on outlook became that blank canvas. I knew it would be uncomfortable but thought it would be interesting to see how i reacted to it.
In the first few days i was just logging stuff that i had done, who i sat with and what they did. I logged more detail around what was expected of me, what the team did and what their backgrounds were. I went back to it a few times as it felt like my safe place. A place where i could test what i had just been told but put it in a language i understood.
After week two, i randomly wrote about my journey into work and how the train was delayed and packed which pissed me off, which then put me in a sulk until about 11am. This was the first time i had expressed any type of detail as to my ‘feels’. The following day i wrote ‘feel good today, positive’, the day after ‘hint of self doubt’, the day after that ‘overwhelmed’. I was logging what i was learning about the role but also about how i was feeling about it.
'Get comfortable with being uncomfortable' appeared in week three.
Week eight i was bored. I wrote ‘bored’ three times that week. ‘Dull’ also made an appearance.
Weeks nine, ten, eleven and twelve included mentions of positivity, energy, frustration and lack of clarity. I also mentioned resilience as some days were particularly difficult. I had to ask myself ‘are you tough enough?’
‘I GOT STRESS MOUTH!’ was something i logged during week 20. One of my signs of stress is when my jaw starts to ache for no reason. Also a sign i couldn't be bothered to articulate it properly that day.
Week 22 I had started to notice that people confided in me. They saw me as a safe place.
During one day in week 30 i was in such a state of flow, i actually forgot to eat lunch.
Step by step i was figuring it all out. The more information i was collecting about highs and lows through the work day and beyond, the more i understood fully what i enjoyed doing. I had a rough idea before but actually that was just a view of what i thought i should be enjoying.
So were there any revelations documented that i wasn't already aware of? Well, yeh. I found that i like to ask and then answer my own questions, only written though, not verbally. Strange.
All The People - Anything that involved collaborating with others, talking with others about challenges or providing support really got me in the zone. The desire to make an impact in people’s lives.
None of the People - As much as i enjoy being around people, it also wipes me out so i need to spend time alone to recharge and focus.
Praise - Turns out i like to be praised. Who doesn't? But turns out that i really feed off people getting benefit from something i have done. It drives me to go and do it again for someone else.
Solo lunchtime walks - When the weather was good this was a particularly good tool to boost ideas, get the heart going and get out and about.
Morning person - I always thought that it took me a while to charge up in the mornings, but turns out i am more creative and do some of my best work in the AM. (This essay was mostly written in the mornings).
Simplifying - I found a passion for simplifying (no wonder being a minimalist) but I started to detest things that were over-engineered for the sake of it.
Buy in - If i don't buy into what the end goal is, i struggle to turn things around to the quality i expect.
Overthinking - Through journaling i managed to reduce the time spent on processing negative scenarios and returning back to a decent place. I found myself borderline being a conspiracy theorist.
Lack of clarity - If i understand the why, i find it easier to do the what.
Manners - Common sense but not common practice in the workplace. If you’re a nice person, make time for people, have respect and genuinely show interest, i will go the extra mile for you.
Flow - I only managed to get into flow state once. One day in all that time.
The journal now forms a regular part of my working day. It’s the tactics board i can refer back to. It doubles up as a great mindfulness tool as well as somewhere you can log your successes, plus you can use it in any change situation, new diet, stress management, habits etc. It can improve decision making, critical thinking, calmness and control as well as providing an opportunity to remove clutter from your memory to have clearer thoughts.
Some top tips
Make it a habit - Don’t journal when you’re feeling crap or when you remember, do it daily.
Make it honest - The system is only as good as the data that's in it. Face the music.
Take your time - Focus on things. Think about them deeply.
Identify a purpose - In my opinion, you don't necessarily need a reason to start a journal but if you have a change situation taking place, either now or in the future, it makes sense to build towards that.
Ask why - Why did something annoy you, why did that comment make you feel good, why was that meeting positive? Sometimes the real answers are a few layers down.
Are you knee deep in your own journal? What revelations did you discover? How many New Kids on the Block references did you see? However you prefer to write, just start writing, the journey starts now.