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[00:00:00] Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Testing Psychologist podcast, the podcast where we talk all about the business and practice of psychological and neuropsychological assessment. I’m your host, Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach.

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All right, folks. Welcome back to another episode of The Testing Psychologist podcast.

Hey, glad to have you. Hope you’re all doing well. I’m excited to talk about our topic for today. This is something that I’ve been looking into and studying in various ways over the last year or so. I’ve really been on a little bit of a deep dive around productivity and focus and time management. And this is just [00:01:00] one piece to come out of that research, which is ongoing.

Today, I’m going to be talking about journaling for productivity. I’m going to leave it at that. I’m not going to give you too much information here before we get started because I want to save most of the important information for the episode. But suffice it to say, I’m going to talk about why journaling is important for productivity. I’m going to talk about the specific journaling system that I use, how I implement it in my daily life, and ways that I have used it to really supercharge my business. So, if that sounds interesting to you, please stick around. This will be a good one, I think.

Before we get to the episode, I want to invite any of you advanced practice owners to consider joining the Advanced Practice Mastermind. This will be starting in June, I think June 10th as the next cohort. And it’s a group coaching experience for those advanced practice owners who are looking to level up their practice, looking [00:02:00] to hire, or maybe you have a group practice and want to streamline things, stop trading time for money, that sort of thing. If that sounds interesting to you, you can get more information at thetestingpsychologist.com/advanced and you can schedule a pre-group call there to check out the fit.

All right, let’s get to it and talk about journaling for productivity.

Okay, everybody. Let’s just dive right into it here. Like I said, I have really been loving the idea of productivity and focus and harnessing our cognitive energy. I’ve been looking into this pretty deeply over the last year or so, and have read so many books on [00:03:00] different topics. So it is fascinating to dive into productivity and motivation and so forth. But one aspect of productivity that I’ve really gotten into over the last few months is journaling for productivity.

So, let me start at the beginning and tell you what this is all about. So here’s the thing. I, I think like a lot of us had a completely insane 2020. It felt like it was survival mode for much of the year. And at the end of the year coming into January, I was just feeling honestly overwhelmed and aimless in my businesses. And I just knew that I needed more deliberate reflection that exceeded what I typically do with my quarterly retreats, which I’ve talked about here on the podcast. So I do the quarterly retreats where I [00:04:00] get away for a few days. And those are amazing, but I recognize that I need a little bit more.

And what I found myself looking into was journaling or some form of deliberate reflection that would happen basically on a daily basis. Now, you might be saying, well, Jeremy, why don’t you just do coaching or use a coach to clarify some of these ideas. And I did do that as well. I’m kind of always in coaching in some form or another. And that was happening concurrently, but I was just feeling this deep need to be more deliberate in my businesses and my life as well. But this is about business, right?

So I was feeling this need to be more deliberate in my businesses. And so I took a pretty extensive look at the world of planners, journals, [00:05:00] all those sorts of products to see if that might be able to fill the need. And the good news is that it does. And I’m going to talk with you about that today. So if any of those feelings resonate with you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, lost, like you’re juggling too many things, like you’re just putting out fires, those are the feelings I was experiencing and the feelings that I was looking to deal with through journaling.

So here’s what I did. I looked into so many journals and planners. And right off the bat, let me just…

I want to talk a little bit about why journaling and what that even means. So, journaling takes many forms. There are so many ways to do it ranging from just sitting down and writing just freehand-stream of [00:06:00] consciousness kind of writing, there is more structured journaling, there’s something called Morning Pages, there are 5-year journals where you just write two or three lines each day, there are planners, there are productivity products. So there are a lot of pieces out there. A lot of options out there that would all fall under the umbrella of journaling. But generally speaking, however you do it…

And I know there’s good research out there on journaling and like what specific types will help you in which ways. So, just know I’m acknowledging that. I’m not saying that like any journaling is going to be amazing. There are definitely ways to structure it that are more helpful for certain outcomes.

But generally speaking, journaling has good research behind improving your mental health, your physical health. It helps give you a sense of [00:07:00] control over your life when you write things down. It helps you remember important things. It increases the likelihood that you’ll achieve your goals. It’s kind of similar to the research saying that if you just put something on your calendar, you’re 40% more likely to do it just because it’s on your schedule. So this idea that if you write something down it’s more likely that you’re going to accomplish it. And it also just helps you feel less overwhelmed. It kind of clears out all the things that are running around your mind, which for me has been super helpful just as a business owner with multiple businesses. It feels like there’s always something running around and that’s not to say anything about family, right?

So journaling in general is a helpful thing. It has a lot of positive benefits and can make a big difference in your life. [00:08:00] So one thing though that I found is that a lot of the research that I was reading says that handwriting is more effective. I don’t know if effective is the right word, but handwriting versus typing is a better way to journal. It’s going to help you a little bit more in terms of accessing and processing some of the information. Not to say that typing is not okay. I’d say just do what works for you. But there is something about handwriting that at least for me generates a little bit more deliberate processing and thinking through what I’m writing.

So journaling is good. Now, the way that I chose to implement it or what I knew I was looking for is, I wasn’t looking for a journal like a diary, like sit down and write about [00:09:00] your feelings, fill up the page or two pages each day. I was not looking for something like that. I was looking for more of a productivity product that really had some focused components that would point me in the right direction when I was journaling. So, as I dove into this world, I found that there is such a thing as a productivity planner. So I found that that was the term that I ended up Googling most often, the one that got closest to what I was looking for.

I was looking for something that definitely pointed me more in what I would call the life coaching kind of direction. I’ve done a lot of coaching and I enjoy self-reflection and questions that make me think about important things. So I knew that I was looking for something [00:10:00] like that. Not just a blank open page where I could write whatever I wanted without any direction.

And the good news is that there are a lot of products out there that have that element, that kind of life coaching element. So I knew that I wanted, here are some things that I wanted. And when I say this, know that it took me a lot of research and comparing different planners to really figure out which pieces were important to me. So, you can do your own research, of course, and figure out if these things are important to you or not. But these are the things that I knew I was looking for. And after I share these components, I will tell you which journal I ended up settling on. And there’s a link to it in the show notes as well if you want to check it out.

But here are the things [00:11:00] that I knew I wanted. So I wanted something that would kind of marry the emotional reflection with more business-oriented planning and big picture visioning. So as I looked around, I found that there are a number of products out there that offer pages in the journal that take you through kind of a quarterly planning process at the beginning of the journal. So, just as an aside, I will say it was really hard to find a year-long journal that would capture all these elements. Most of the ones that I ended up considering as a final option are based quarterly. And it’s still a pretty thick book.

I knew that I wanted one that would offer quarterly planning where at the beginning of the journal, it forces me to [00:12:00] sit and really think about what I would like to accomplish and what directions, what goals, what ideas are important at the beginning of the quarter and really set that intention to accomplish those things or work on those things over the next three months. So I knew I wanted one with quarterly planning.

I also knew that I wanted one that offered a weekly review. So, many of these journals that are out there or productivity planners give you the opportunity both at the beginning and end of the week to do a weekly planning session and weekly review respectively. And I knew that I wanted that. So again, this is all in the name of being deliberate because that’s what I was missing. I was not being deliberate with my planning. I was just running from thing to thing. So I wanted as much deliberate reflection as possible. And so, the weekly review was helpful in that process.

At the beginning of the week, [00:13:00] I sit down, I write out the goals that I have for that week, the projects that I want to accomplish or get done or work on, it also forces me to think through what I would like to improve on and how I would like to change my mindset in one particular area or a couple of areas. So that’s super helpful. And then on the back end, the weekly review forces you to look back and say, did you accomplish your goals? If not, why not? What would you like to change going forward? And a series of questions that again, just forces you to check-in and kind of be honest with yourself about how you structured your time over the week.

Now I also knew that I wanted something that offered daily reflection. And this was super important. So this was [00:14:00] probably the component that took me the longest to really nail down in terms of features because what I found is that a lot of journals or planners dedicate a lot of space for a schedule. You’ve seen these like in Day-Timer or other planners. There’s like a daily schedule with 8:00 AM, 9:00 AM, all the way down to the evening time where you’re supposed to write out your appointments. I don’t need that at all. That’s not important to me whatsoever. I have an electronic calendar and that’s not helpful. So it took me a long time to find a journal that did not dedicate a huge portion of the page to the daily schedule. I knew that’s something I did not want.

Now, what did I want? I wanted a daily reflection that:

1) Included gratitude. There’s some good research out there linking gratitude with [00:15:00] happiness and being grateful just being good for your wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. So I knew I wanted a gratitude reflection.

2) I knew I wanted some open space to be able to write my to-do list for that day or random thoughts or ideas.

3) I knew that I wanted to be able to track certain habits or develop certain habits. So, a checkbox or a dot system or something that would allow me to track habits.

So those were the important things that I was looking for. And again, if you dig in and do your own research, you’ll find there are all sorts of things that these planners offer. But these were the components that were important to me.

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All right, let’s get back to the podcast.

Now, after doing all the research, the one that I finally settled on is something called the Dailygreatness journal. So, the Dailygreatness journal fit all of these criteria and it had [00:17:00] a couple of bonus features that I really enjoyed. One of those is that it makes you define your daily priorities. And the way that it does that is interesting. It gives space for you to write a to-do list, but it separates your to do list from what I call an inspiration list. That to me was really important. And as I got into this process, I realized that I’m really, really good at making to-do lists, not so good at tapping into what I’m inspired to do. And in fact, as I got started, that was a really interesting concept for me to wrap my mind around like being inspired to do activities on a daily basis. So I’ve really enjoyed that. 

But then the Dailygreatness journal also provides I think really [00:18:00] nice prompts just as bonus questions each day in it. And it kind of switches up the phrasing. It’s the same idea each day but it changes the phrasing just a bit to where you know that you are writing about something slightly differently. So those questions might be something like, what was interesting about today or what habit would I like to develop after today? What beliefs would I like to upgrade? What was today’s lesson? What strengths did I use today? What did I succeed at? What was fun about today? What new behavior can I adopt into my life?

So these are, like I said, just random questions that occur each day. There’s like one or two of each of those on each daily page. And I found that I really liked this. It was [00:19:00] surprisingly powerful for me to reflect on questions like how did I show leadership today? What was I most proud of today? What did I do well today? I think, maybe like a lot of us, those are questions that I tend to avoid or brush off or kind of ignore in favor of all the things that I could have done better or went wrong or anything in that realm. So those questions were quite powerful for me and have really helped me, I think reflect on strengths and challenges.

So I don’t want to give the impression that it’s all Rose-colored glasses. I mean, it definitely asks you to reflect on the things that could be better as well and places you can grow.

So, like I said, I ended up settling on the Dailygreatness journal. There’s a link in the [00:20:00] show notes if you want to go check it out. But I love it. It’s a quarterly journal. It forces me to reflect quarterly, weekly, and daily and has these nice kind of bonus questions. I just liked the way that it lays everything out.

So the way that I use journaling is, and this is very practical. The way that the journal is set up is that there questions that you’re meant to reflect on at the beginning of the day, and then questions that you are meant to reflect on at the end of the day. You don’t have to do it that way but I’ve just found that that system works well for me. And that sort of naturally breaks down into those two time periods. So I do it in the morning and in the evening.

I use some of the principles from atomic habits. If you’ve read that book, he talks a lot about [00:21:00] chaining behaviors together to create habits. And so, I have sort of created the habit of, first thing when I get to the office, I sit down, I meditate for a bit, and then I write in my journal. So those three actions are linked. Arriving at the office, meditating, journaling. And then I jump into my day. And what I like about that is I get to do the morning portion and do some of that deliberate reflection and really define two or three tasks that I know I want to get done that day.

And this is just one more weapon in your arsenal against email, chat, other people’s to-do lists, voicemails, stuff like that. So it creates just a little bit more of a barrier where you get to say, “Hey, this is what’s important to me.” And the idea then is that you go straight from that list to your work that day without [00:22:00] getting interrupted with some of these other activities.

So I do that in the morning. I found that it helps me be much more focused. It forces me to think again about what I’m truly inspired to do. And what’s been interesting is I find that what I’m inspired to do often does not match my to-do list. So it has led me to be kind of constantly evaluating my priorities in the business and the work that I’m doing and helped with delegating and offloading tasks or eliminating tasks that just are not inspiring.

It’s also helped me engage in more downtime and just enjoyable time. I found that more often than not one of the inspired action items is to do something fun. And I don’t know about y’all, but I [00:23:00] don’t do a lot of fun things just on my own day-to-day. I don’t think to like build-in fun. I mean, life is fun, right? Like it’s fun to laugh with coworkers and joke around with my kids and kind of be silly and that sort of thing, but in terms of deliberate fun time or self-care time or whatever you want to call it, that has been really interesting that finding that I’m inspired to take more downtime has been really nice and has helped me create some of that.

So then at the end of the day, like I said, I’ll again chain these behaviors. So my trigger is putting the kids to bed and walking down the stairs. So, when I get home in the evening, I take the journal out of my backpack [00:24:00] and I put it at the specific spot in our living room where I know that I will see it right when I come down downstairs from putting the kids to bed. And that’s just the first thing that I do when I’ve got a little time at night. And all told, journaling each day maybe takes 10 minutes total. So we’re not talking about a lot of time. So then like I said, I circle back in the evening and reflect on the day. That’s when I usually do my gratitude and reflect on what went well or what I could improve on and just revisit the list and see how I did.

So, yeah, it’s been really, really nice for me just to be more deliberate. I’ve also enjoyed it. I’m about to finish the first quarter. So I started this in January.

So, I’m getting geared up to do kind of my retroactive quarterly review. [00:25:00] Generally speaking, I can say that it has really helped me focus on goals, be more deliberate about big picture projects, not get lost in the day-to-day minutiae, have a little bit more fun, and recognize things that I’m grateful for.

And it’s nice because it prompts you to do gratitude every single day. So, I get bored. I don’t want to write the same thing every day. So it’s a nice exercise to make me really think about what are the little things that I’m grateful for and think about the nuances of life that bring me joy and gratitude.

So that is my experience thus far with journaling for productivity. Now, like I said, there are a lot of options out there. But if you want to try out the Dailygreatness journal, you can search for it or just click on the show [00:26:00] notes. It’ll take you to the one that I use. And you can check it out. There’s a lot of information on the internet about this, but that was just one kind of habit that I’ve really enjoyed building over the last few months. And one that has seen a noticeable impact on my life and my business.

And like I said at the beginning, speaking about being more deliberate. If you’re a group practice owner or advanced practice owner rather, you’ve gotten past that beginning stage and maybe you’ve hired, maybe you want to hire more, maybe you find yourself overwhelmed and need a little bit more direction. I’d invite you to check out the Advanced Practice Mastermind. So you can learn more at thetestingpsychologist.com/advanced and just see what it’s all about. It’s a group coaching experience. We work a lot on streamlining and efficiency and being a good leader and [00:27:00] making sure that you’re spending your time the way that you want to spend it, and being deliberate as you grow your practice. So you can again go to thetesting psychologist.com/advanced and schedule a pre-group call to see if it’d be a good fit. It starts on June 10th. Two spots are filled already. So, make sure to jump in if you think that would be interesting for you.

As always, thank you all for listening. Let me know via email or really any feedback. You can find me in the Facebook group or on the blog, anywhere. Let me know how you’re enjoying these episodes, if you want to hear anything new or different. And in the meantime, take care. And I will see you next week.

[00:28:00] The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologists website is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here. And similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with expertise that fits your needs.

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