At its heart, a journal is just a record of the events that occurred during your day. I personally believe that journal writing should not just be an exercise in recalling events and writing them down. When written deliberately, a journal can be a highly valuable tool for self-improvement and enlightenment into your own intentions. I have shared some advice below on what I think is the most useful format for journal writing.

Guide Your Life With A Journal

Be Action-Oriented

The base goal of this type of journal is to record actions and reactions. I seldom use my journal to write a pointless rant about people or events, and I generally keep my writing brief and concise. The first phase of the journal entry is the action recall phase.

The action recall phase is almost self-explanatory. Recall any specific actions that you took during the day. When you begin to write, you will begin to remember plenty of things that you did that day. However, keep self-improvement in mind. Do not write about trivial matters, like how you mowed the lawn or what you ate for lunch.

You need to write about habits that you wish to change, or states-of-mind that weaken you. Write about the problems that you faced, the negative interactions you had with other people, and the uncontrolled emotions that you felt. You might also write about the positive things in your life. Whatever you write about, make it based upon actions and reactions. Only when it becomes action oriented does it compel you to change, and it is essential for the next phase of the journal entry.

Write Your Self-Prescription

This is the most important aspect of the self-improvement journal…the self-prescription phase. After you have finished the main journal entry, scan over the whole thing and pick out the most relevant details. Look for patterns and relationships between actions. Once you have picked out a few key sentences, write one or two self-prescription statements.

A self-prescription statement should be a clear instruction to yourself. It should not be overly complicated or involve a lot of effort. Make it a step that you can take in the short term. The more complicated and/or time-consuming a step is, the less likely that you will do it. For example, “I will join a gym and lose fifty pounds” is much less effective than “I will go on a ten minute walk at lunch tomorrow”.  That doesn't mean that you should not try to pursue large goals. However, several small steps are more manageable than one large goal.

When you go through the next day, keep your journal entry in mind. When you return to write a new entry, take a moment to reflect on the prescription from the day before.  Did you achieve what you set out to do? If not, think about why. Constantly setting goals and reflecting upon them after completion will lead to self-improvement. 

Spend Time Alone & Write Regularly

Make sure that you have sufficient time in your day to spend some time alone and write. A typical journal writing for me will take less than twenty minutes. Make writing in your journal a priority! If you cannot find twenty minutes to be alone per day, then you must revise your schedule to allow it.  Being alone allows you to focus on reflecting on your actions properly. Solitude also gives you the time to write in private, which allows you to be freer with your statements. For the benefits it brings, try to write alone whenever possible.

Writing in an irregular fashion will undermine the whole point of the self-improvement journal. if daily writing is not feasible, then the concept could easily be translated to a weekly journal, or even a monthly journal.  Just be sure to find a regular interval that you will actually stick with.

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Final Summary

A typical daily journal entry will have the following format: action, results of action, self-prescription.

Using a self-improvement journal is a powerful and simple way to enhance your daily life. Keep your writing brief and concise. Make sure that the entries are action oriented. Do not write about trivial matters. Remember, the journal is not a report. The writing does not have to be chronological.

If you follow the general layout of the action-oriented journal, you will improve your life.