Writing makes your life better. Fast Company’s Drake Baer has his reasons for why writing cultivates knowledge, wisdom and a powerful personal narrative. For me, writing is the thing that slows down my thinking, sorts out my ideas and goals, and sets clear context for people when I share my words. If you are investing in your professional potential then you should be keeping a journal (also, Oprah does and Andy Warhol did, too). Here are three ways to write your professional journal.

Free-writing

You might hear this method described as “stream of consciousness” and you might have experienced this method through 900 brutal pages of James Joyce or 200 wonderfully weird pages of Tom Robbins. Basically, after you experience something – a meeting, an interview, feedback on a memo – you take five minutes or less and write down everything in your head. Speed is your friend here. Don’t over think it. Just write. Let the words flow. When you’re done, review your masterpiece and highlight or underline key themes or phrases. Capturing these insights will help you focus on the next project with heightened self-awareness and probably some innovative thinking, too. Journaling fosters focus, personal growth, and focus on personal growth.

Mind-mapping

Once you have themes, ideas and/or insights from a few free-writing sessions, start connecting your thoughts with mind-maps. I like this process because it’s non-linear: life doesn’t unfold one step at a time; humanity is wonderfully chaotic and how we organize our ideas should reflect reality. Mind-mapping usually starts with an idea in the middle of a blank page, such as “2016 Goal: Be Happier!”. Using pictures and words you add and connect other ideas – health, love, work – to the central theme. One outcome of a mind-map should be clarity for how seemingly unrelated parts of your life connect with each other, such as cycling to work as being an easy way to foster physical health. Another outcome is that creativity flourishes, which is a positive benefit of this style of brainstorming or journaling.

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Evaluative reflection

By following the guidelines of my Passion Planner I spend the end of each month reflecting on how I am spending my time, how I am (or not) achieving my goals, and how I’m different. My monthly reflection is structured because of the tool I’ve chosen and there’s a lot of power to this method. However you choose to reflect be sure to ask yourself some consistent and powerful questions every month (or week if you’re ambitious).

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