Journal

Last time I talked about how important it is to write a learning plan for every endeavor you undertake. Today I will be sharing some tips on how to keep a journal that will help you to keep focused on your goals.

What kind of journal are we talking about?

You can use anything as your journal. Whatever feels appropriate and comfortable. A folded piece of paper. A .txt file on your computer. The Notes app on an iPhone. A leather-bound diary. Et cetera. I’m using my refillable leather journal that fits perfectly in the side pocket on my shoulder bag, because I usually get more ideas when I’m outside, so having the journal at my disposal at any moment is convenient.

What you have to pay attention to, of course, is capacity. If you’re sitting in the train and run out of space on your paper slip, you should have something else to write on except your palms. Be prepared.

One journal for every major goal

I’m talking very generally here. You might be wondering what I mean by a “major goal”. A major goal is an endeavor that is made up of minor goals. (Very general again…) Well, those minor goals are just single tasks that need to be completed in order to advance toward the completion of the major goal. So, simply put, a major goal is just a collection of minor goals.

Here’s an example:

Major goal: Learn to read Japanese
Minor goals:
1. Learn hiragana
2. Learn katakana
3. Learn 50 kanji characters
4. Learn 100 kanji characters
5. Learn 200 kanji characters
et cetera…

So, if we were to keep a journal for the example above, we would focus on “learn to read Japanese” since that’s the major goal.

Proper form and structure

It’s important to structure your journal well, keeping readability and conciseness in mind.

Journals should be easy to scan. Focus on using keywords. Don’t worry about writing complete sentences. We want to build a collection of ideas that are easy to access.

When you’re on the move, you might want to sketch something down quickly. But I know from experience how regrettable (and embarrassing) it is to not be able to read your own handwriting. I suggest rewriting your sketched pages as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary problems.

Content

So what should we write in these journals? Here’s a rundown of the essentials.

  • Major goal. It has to be clearly stated, because we specifically want to focus on it. Write down the major goal right after the title, unless of course the title already denotes the major goal.
  • Minor goals. List down all the tasks that have to be completed in order to achieve the major goal. If you think that a task is unnecessary, don’t hesitate to erase it. Your journal should be kept free of unneeded data, so it should be constantly updated.
  • Schedule. Your goals should be scheduled. This is important because procrastination is the great enemy of success. If your tasks are scheduled to be completed on predetermined dates, you will have a visual estimate of your progress, and you will always be aware of your tasks’ deadlines. And if you happen to miss a deadline, you can easily pinpoint what is hindering your progress.
  • Personal thoughts. These should be kept separate from your main content. Your main content has to stay concise, but you can reserve additional space for your own input. Jotting down your thoughts and feelings can be an effective tool for generating ideas and solutions to your tasks—but with some tasks it might be unnecessary.

Update your journal

Adding words to your journal goes without saying, but you should also try to keep it uncluttered. Remove what is unneeded, and invest time in rewriting parts that are unclear, incomplete, or out-of-date.

Treat your journal as your home base. Even during inactive periods, when you’re not working as productively on your tasks as you should be, go back to your journal and (re)schedule the next steps for your tasks. Don’t give up completely. Get comfortable working with your journal.