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Want more high-performance days as a leader? Keep a journal

A woman writing in a journalCan keeping a journal boost your leadership skills?

In our last blog, we took a close look at the most common daily habits that highly successful leaders tend to practice every morning. One of those habits—and one that you’ll find countless CEOs, executives, managers, and leaders extoling across the board—is journaling.

In fact, in Hal Elrod’s bestselling book, The Miracle Morning, journaling (or ‘scribing,’ as Elrod calls it) is described as one of the foundational pillars of more productive and high-performance days.

So what does the research say? Does a regular journaling practice really make for better leaders?


The science behind keeping a journal


Did you know that some of the most famous figures in history all kept a journal? Among them are well-known names like Winston Churchill, John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, and Mark Twain—just to name a few. What might’ve drawn individuals in positions of power and/or with astoundingly creative minds to the humble practice of journaling? What might they have gained from it?

We don’t have to be left to wonder any longer. In fact, a team of researchers at the Harvard Business School set out to better understand what benefits, if any, a daily journaling routine could offer individuals.

Take a look at what happened:

“[The team] wanted to explore which of the following learning sources was beneficial to individual performance: was it the accumulation of experiences, or the articulation of reflection? They hypothesized the latter, guided by the Confucian quote, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.”

The researchers sought out to prove this by testing a call-center team in India, made up of qualified, college-educated professionals who had received extensive onboarding training. Their test subjects were divided in two groups: the first as experience-based, and focused on training, automation, and intuitive processes; the other was the reflective group which mixed experience and subsequent reflections in a slow and methodical way.

Participants who recorded their day’s events with regularity were recorded to have improved performances. By journaling in 15 minute windows each day, researchers observed an improvement of confidence among the diarists: motivation was stronger, and actions deliberate towards learning. Turning [journaling] into a part of life expanded a cognitive understanding of the effects of learning opportunities between actions and outcomes. Participants sought more challenging tasks, exerted greater effort, and were observed to face professional adversities with greater stability. The diarists improved their learning curves for faster and visible growth spurts.” –From Journaling for Leaders, THNK


How keeping a daily journal makes you a better leader


Let’s hone in on those findings from the Harvard research team’s experiment. Essentially, journaling for as little as 15 minutes a day improved a person’s confidence and motivation. It also improved the individual’s self-awareness, allowing them to harvest lessons from their actions and those actions’ outcomes.

Indeed, self-awareness can very well be considered the biggest benefit of journaling. And what makes an effective leader if not a self-aware one? How much more effective and productive would your days be if you knew exactly what energized you, what drained you, what challenged you, what brought out your best and your worst, where you excelled and where you needed to improve.

When journaling, Author Henna Inam writes, “Effective leaders are able to see what’s happening with a clearer perspective…They lead effectively because they see effectively.”

Author and keynote speaker Skip Prichard is of the same mind. He writes that journaling helped improve his leadership skills in the following ways: better organisation, improved decision making, improved attitude, enhanced intention, and positive reinforcement.

How much more effective would your days be if you started every morning with crystal-clear clarity and better organisation? Imagine being able to distill all the countless thoughts in your mind to just a few key priorities, and then being able to start your day with a clear framework in mind.

Or what about being able to work through stressful issues? Or generating new solutions now that you’ve created a forum in which to do so? Or examining feelings and venting emotions? What about discovering hidden things on your mind that may be affecting your behaviour, developing a positive perspective of what’s going right in your life so that you can build upon it, and reflecting on how each work day went so that you can make improvements where necessary and repeat whatever’s driving the best results?

All of this is possible with journaling, with regular reflection that helps you examine your thoughts and put those thoughts on paper for the sole purpose of creating powerful insights that will make you a more effective leader.



So can keeping a journal truly improve your leadership skills and make for more productive and high-performance days? The answer seems to be a resounding yes. Journaling can not only improve your confidence and motivation, but it sharpens your self-awareness, which is one of the most valuable skills a leader can possess in the workplace.

In our next blog, we’ll discuss how you can begin implementing a daily journaling practice into your routine and what kind of questions you can ask yourself and reflect on to make the most of your journaling.

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