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A Journaling Framework to Improve Your Daily Life

What follows below is the framework I use for my personal journaling. Its origins stem from the framework I used when I was 12 years old and started to keep a training log for my development as a canoeing athlete.


A little over ten years ago, I transitioned into this basic theme you see below, although the practice is still evolving!


There is no obligation to use these exact questions, but I hope that this will help you to get started and ultimately find a rhythm and format that best serves you.


In this practice, I am guided mainly by a few questions in which I write for a few minutes in the morning and then a few minutes in the evening. But as there are no set rules to this, you can choose to write one time per day, mix the questions up, or do something more free-flowing like, "Today I feel..."


Here are the basic questions and framework that I use to guide my own writing:



Morning Journaling


Daily Practice

Two areas - purpose and guideposts, guide the first section of the practice.


I write my purpose (the same purpose each day) first thing at the top of the page. Finding and identifying purpose is a more profound topic, but journaling is a great place to experiment and see what feels good to you.


Just below purpose, I choose a few key elements of my day and pursuits that support my purpose - I call these guideposts as, when practiced, they help establish my daily path. Beside each guidepost, I write out a short series of five-six values that are like a word map for each guidepost.


The Daily Practice part of my journal writes like this:


Purpose

Enjoy the process of deep connection, creativity, health, and wealth as a framework to bring focus to what matters most.


Guideposts

Outlook: attentive, curious, simple, love, equilibrium

Energy: set, move, nature, flow, replenish, whole

Coaching: listen, ask, connect, trust, collaborate, evolve

Create: reflect, develop, align, sharpen, patience, share


Morning Questions

Unlike the Daily Practice section above, which remains the same each day, the following questions tap more into where I am and how I am feeling at this moment in time.


What is my outlook for the day?

This is not a task list but more like overarching themes and high-level aspirations. Think about what kind of attributes this day is asking you to bring forward.


I tend to stick pretty close to the same values each day that corresponds with the most elements of my day (actions and/or roles) - sort of like a daily reinforcement.


T.O.M? (short of "Top Of Mind")

This can be one of the more challenging spaces in my journaling practice but one of the essential additions to the practice. Simply said, this is the space to move my current feelings, thoughts (and thought loops,) or mood onto paper and reflectively expand on them via a few sentences (or more if desired.) No judging or changing - just noticing and accepting.


Naturally, this space varies a lot every day. But, over time, being able to see that gap between aspirational values and the current state every day has been immensely helpful in making daily decisions.


Relationship Focus

This is placing a little bit of intention and attention towards the people of most importance and people with whom you might interact that day.


For what am I grateful?


Just a simple gratitude prompt.


Typically, my morning journaling practice takes about 5-10 minutes.


Evening Questions


What went well today?


What could have gone better?


What's a reinforcing choice I made today? (an action that reinforces the bigger picture and the right direction)


Who did I serve today?


The evening practice usually takes no more than 5 minutes. One interesting note about evening journaling - back in September of 2021, I started to do this in a notebook that allows me to journal about the calendar day in the same space for a few years. So now, in mid-2023, my evening journaling takes place directly under the same entry I wrote on the same day a year earlier - something I'm enjoying a lot!


*****


You can use all or some, but ultimately, if you try journaling like this, evolve the practice into making it your own. I believe that using a framework like this one can be an excellent start.


I also find that writing with a pencil (or pen) on actual paper feels good for me. The act of moving the pencil across paper has a nice flow to it and is something different than tapping characters on a phone or keyboard.


If you begin, I'd encourage you to start small but do a little daily. No judging what you write - observe, notice and give the exercise a few weeks to develop some feel.




 

About Joe Jacobi

Joe Jacobi is an Olympic Gold Medalist, Performance Coach, and author who guides high-performance leaders to ignite their second wind to confront challenging midlife transitions with meaning and adventure.


He practices and refines the core principles and strategies of Midlife Peak Performance in his own life and pursuits at his Pyrenees mountains home beside the 1992 Olympic Canoeing venue in La Seu d’Urgell in the Spanish state of Catalunya - the same canoeing venue where he and his canoeing partner, Scott Strausbaugh, won America’s first-ever Olympic Gold Medal in the sport of Whitewater Canoe Slalom at the 1992 Olympic Games.


In 2022, and eight years into writing his popular weekly essays, Sunday Morning Joe, Joe published his first book, Slalom: 6 River Classes About How To Confront Obstacles, Advance Amid Uncertainty, & Bring Focus To What Matters Most - Joe's reflections, experiences, relationships, and strategies from more than 40 years on the river transferred to navigating your river of the life.


Joe can be reached at: jacobi.joe@gmail.com


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