While a journal makes for a great life record, it also makes for a great productivity tool. Major weight loss programs recognize this, including a journal as part of their program because it helps users analyze their efforts and make the changes necessary to be successful. Really, any time you’re trying to develop a new habit or reach a goal, a journal is one of the best tools you can employ.
Using a journal to help build or break a habit isn’t much different from using it as a life record. The main difference is that you’re only tracking things important to the habit. The weight loss journals often track calories and nutrients, minutes spent exercising, stress level, and mood or thoughts for a given day. A journal used to break a smoking habit might record the number of cigarettes smoked (or not smoked), the number of times the urge was ignored, and what was done instead. A journal intended to help you build a journaling habit might contain…well…the journal entries themselves. Once you have a few days recorded, you can start reviewing how things are going and make adjustments as necessary (or treat yourself to that new book you’ve been eyeing).
Journals are also great tools when you’re working toward a goal. I’ve known a number of people training for marathons who kept a journal. They recorded workouts, practice runs, training meals. They made lists of running paths they wanted to try out and playlists they wanted to build to keep them company on their training. They even recorded how they did in each marathon (because not a single one of those overachievers settled for one marathon). By having that record of what they were doing, they were able to see what works for them and continue doing it until they have a finely honed method of reaching their goal.
You can do the same thing. Pick a goal and write it down. Then write down the steps you’re going to take to reach that goal. Then, record what you’re actually doing. You’ll be amazed when you realize you’ve actually accomplished the goal (or when you realize you weren’t chasing the goal you really wanted and can see instead where you wanted to go. Journals really are amazing creatures.)
Whether you want to build a habit, break a habit, or reach a goal, a well-utilized journal can help you be even more successful.