Writing in a journal isn't just a creative way to document our daily activities or manifest our destiny—it's also been proven as an effective tool for getting rid of negative thoughts, relieving stress, and improving leadership skills. On a related note, when it comes to building a successful career, journaling "should be part of any leader's toolkit," according to Harvard Business Review.
The seemingly simple act of carving out time to self-reflect is key for newly appointed leaders to succeed, writes Dan Ciempa, who explains how journaling was his secret to succeeding as a chairman and CEO for over 12 years. Indeed, getting promoted to a managerial role comes with great responsibilities, such as making major decisions on the spot and devoting time to mentor others. In short, life as the new boss can be fast-paced, stressful, and intense: the perfect storm for making a mistake both big and small, he explains.
"The best thinking comes from structured reflection—and the best way to do that is keeping a personal journal," he says. "There's strong evidence that replaying events in our brain is essential to learning," which in turn allows us to step back, fully examine a situation, and solve problems better and more efficiently.
In order to reap the most benefits from this daily practice, Ciempra points out that it's important to write down your thoughts by hand rather than typing them into your smartphone or computer. Experts agree that putting pen to paper allows us to remember things more easily, and the ultimate goal is to "reflect and slow things down so that learning is maximized,” he explains.
The best tactic for unlocking the power of journaling? Start your entry by writing down the main outcome, or "the headline that best captures the result," Ciempa suggests. Next, list the number one cause for that end result; he explains that "asking 'Why?' five times to peel back each layer [can help in] revealing what came before." Then, document every emotion that played a role in how and why the decision was made. Finally, identify the key lessons that you learned from the entire experience and how you can react differently the next time around.
Still curious about how keeping a journal leads to being a more successful manager? Head over to Harvard Business Review to find out more.