The Basics of Journaling

The eight categories can be great for organizing one’s life, and just as good for keeping a record and keeping one’s life in balance.

To review, the categories:

  • Physical
  • Professional
  • Social
  • Solitary (or Recreational, Hobbies)
  • Maintenance
  • Mental
  • Emotional
  • Financial

Keeping a daily record (journal, diary) can be an excellent feedback loop.

To do so, write out each of the categories and add to each section a description of the related activities for each. It can also be beneficial to simply record one’s overall self-assessment, as a number, thus quantifying the process.

The scale can be like that of the (US) school system, A, B, C, D, F, or a number from 1 to 3, or 1 to 5.

My preference is to use a modified 1 through 10 scale, where the lowest rating is actually a 6, meaning essentially no activity, and 10 is an absolutely perfect episode, perhaps when reaching a long-term goal. For some reason, it feels less “negative” to give something a rating of, say, 2, whereas 6 doesn’t seem so self-critical.

For example, a day of no exercise, bad diet, and poor sleep would be a 6 in the physical category. A day (night) of good sleep and a decent diet would be a 7 (or average). A moderate amount of exercise could bring that to an 8, and reaching a monthly goal (such as running a 10K) would be a 9. A life goal, such as running a marathon, would be a 10.

Similarly for the professional category: a complete day off, a 6. A moderate amount of work, a 7. A productive day: 8. Very productive day: 9. Starting one’s own company or being promoted: 10.

I actually have rated a category a 5 at times, for what is a counter-productive day, such as overeating with no positive physical efforts. But that is rare.

I prefer to write these in the morning, after my coffee and reading time, and before starting any other activities for the day. That is the time where I find that my mind is shifting from reflecting on the day before to gearing me up for the day ahead.

One of the best effects of this system is that knowing that the feedback loop exist can make a person “tip” from bad to good decisions. For example, if a day is winding down and the current level of their physical category is a 7, that person might decide to go for a walk or to forgo that second helping at dinner, in order to bring them up to an 8.

It comes down to the maxim: What gets measured gets managed.

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