How to do Gratitude Journaling

These days, we see articles everywhere about how to “set your intentions for the day” … “start your day with a plan” … “have more focus” … “be a happier person.”  Well, I want to talk about a great way to do ALL of those things with 1 simple exercise, which is called Gratitude Journaling.

I learned about gratitude journaling through my work with a business coach and mentor. We meet on a quarterly basis to discuss my current status and feelings around my personal and professional growth, progress towards previously set goals, things to focus on moving forward, ways to improve, and setting new goals for the next quarter. It is such an amazing way to make sure I am accountable to someone other than myself.  I think the other really powerful thing of any type of coaching is actually just having the objective point of view of someone else. In my next post, I am going to talk about why coaches need to also be coached, but we’ll get to that next time.  For today, let’s focus on the task at hand…that’s part of what we’re about today, right??

Gratitude journaling started at the suggestion of my coach and mentor. She recommended gratitude journaling as a way to set intentions, be appreciative, and have more focus for the day ahead. Gratitude journaling can be done at the end of the day or the beginning of the next day, depending on what works best for you. I am still experimenting with incorporating this habit, but so far, I am finding it to be most beneficial in the morning – before I start work. The key there is to do my gratitude journaling before I turn my computer on…or at least before I start checking e-mails. I think part of the beauty of gratitude journaling is simply setting aside the time for you to be intentional about focusing on … yep, YOU!

There are actual journals and notebooks out there you can purchase. Simply Google “gratitude journal,” and you’ll find a number of different ones offered. If I can be totally ridiculous for a second, when I was originally searching, I started at my favorite place…Amazon!  There wasn’t a gratitude journal (that I was looking for) on Amazon, meaning I’d have to pay shipping to order it off of another site. I know this is totally ludicrous, but why does paying shipping annoy me so much??  Anyways, I digress. So rather than buying an actual gratitude journal, I decided to use one of the 50 million notebooks I already have. I actually look at this as a success to use something I have previously purchased just sitting in a basket on my desk. Let’s call that a win!  Roll with it…

Ok, crisis averted. Basically, that side bar was to say, you don’t need anything special to do some gratitude journaling. A piece of paper, a notebook, your phone, a doc on your computer…it is totally up to you. All you need is 5 minutes (or less) to answer 4 simple questions.

  1. What are you thankful for?
  2. What did you do well yesterday?
  3. What do you need to do better with today? Whether something you didn’t accomplish yesterday or something you want to more efficient with…
  4. What is on your to-do list for today?

That’s it. 4 questions. Now yes, these questions may take some time to ponder, but that’s the beauty of it. I doesn’t need to be an exhaustive list! Truthfully, there are TONS of things I am thankful for. There is a quote floating around that says something to the effect of, “If you only had the things you thanked God for yesterday, what would you be left with?” In thinking like that, LOTS of things I’m thankful for…but we don’t have to list them out. You can go for a high-level overview or maybe acknowledge something new you’re thankful for. It doesn’t matter…whatever you’re feeling in the moment that day. Same thing for what you did well and what you need to do better with. These are likely going to be correlated to and helps drive your to-do list for today.  That’s how it’s designed. It’s designed to help you flow through an appreciation of your life in general, then focusing on what you did well. Celebrate successes both BIG and small to build your confidence and set the tone for the day. Next, we are highlighting what you want to do better with today…not what you “failed at” yesterday but what you want to improve upon today. This helps you to find the biggest areas of opportunity for the coming day. Finally, craft a to-do list for today.

I do want to take a second to highlight the to-do list section. There is a ton of information out there about having a carefully crafted to-do list. Chalene Johnson actually talks about this quite frequently in her podcasts for being efficient and effective. I am taking some information she talked about to mention here. How you craft your to-do list is totally up to you. Remember, this is your gratitude journal, your to-do list. It’s all about what is effective for YOU!  That being said, I think you need to finish this exercise with 3-5 things that are most important that day. This gives you focus and clarity for how you should spend your time.  The way I like to do #4: make a list of everything that comes to mind for that day. What are all of the things I need or would like to accomplish today. Then, once I’ve done a “brain dump” of everything swirling around in my head, then I can look at my list and prioritize the most important pieces. I take the top 3-5 and put them in my to-do app I use, which my current favorite is Swipes.  It is simple, streamlined, and so easy to use.  It is, by far, one of my favorite apps on my phone. I love it so much that is actually has a home in the bottom “main bar” of my iPhone. Yes, it actually booted my internet off of the bar. #totallyserious

Once I have those items on my to-do list, it’s time to get to work. I start going through my workflow and checking off (aka swiping) my tasks, as I complete them. Then, the beautiful thing here…if you complete all of your high-priority tasks, then you can open up your gratitude journal and find the other pieces you want to accomplish. It keeps you feeling productive and organized all day. I just love this! For someone like me, who is very OCD and can’t focus with clutter…this method has really helped me “declutter” and organize all of the thoughts swirling in my head. Like, I am the person who can’t focus on work, knowing the bed isn’t made in the next room. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there. For the record, I always make my bed…for that reason.

Ok, so this is a little life hack habit I am trying to implement on a consistent basis. It has worked really well for me thus far. I encourage you to give this a try, and let me know how it goes. Also, I do love my Swipes app, but I am always looking to hear about what else is out there. What is your favorite productivity app??

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