Why Journaling Makes Better Leaders

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

Why Journal?

There is much written about journaling, most of it on how to keep a journal, covering mechanics, tools and discipline.  It is more difficult to find information on the benefits of journaling from real-life experiences, especially pertaining to leaders.  Most of what is written on the benefits of journaling is about self-discovery, but I believe it can help make better leaders, too.

Many famous people kept journals or diaries.  These people came from all walks of life:  business (John D. Rockefeller); military (George Patton); inventors (Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison); presidents and prime ministers (John Adams, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill) and many authors (Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway).  These journals left a chronicle of thoughts, events and critical decisions as well as documenting their legacy.  But what about the rest of us?  Why write in a journal?

Years ago, I became interested in journaling.  At the time, I was very stressed and overloaded with responsibilities.  I needed something to help me stay focused.  I read several books, but one by Julia Cameron, The Right to Write, was the most helpful.  After reading her book, I began to journal and found it very beneficial.

Eventually, as I found myself in more prominent leadership positions, I found journaling helped improve my leadership in the following ways:

  • Better Organization
  • Improved Decision Making
  • Improved Demeanor, Attitude and Judgment
  • Enhanced Intention
  • Positive Reinforcement

Here is why writing in a journal makes better leaders.

 

Better Organization

One recommendation from The Right to Write is to write “Morning Pages” before the start of the workday.  I have found that to be the best time for maximum benefit.  Writing early in the morning gets the juices flowing before your mind has its normal defenses and filters in place.  There is something about writing early in the morning before engaging in the day’s activities that is very helpful — sort of like how your best ideas often occur in the shower.  Here are the main reasons:

  • Helps to reduce all the things in your head to key priorities
  • Allows you to ramble, then organize your thoughts for the day
  • Provides a way to better formulate tasks and frame issues
  • Gets mere ideas formed into concrete terms
  • Starts the day with a clear framework in mind
  • Improves the quality of your To-Do list

Writing in a journal in the morning will help you be more organized during the day.

“Write in a journal in the morning to be more organized during the day.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Improved Decision Making

Writing in a journal is a great way to facilitate problem solving and decision making.  Here is how:

  • Provides a private, non-judgmental forum to work through issues; no one is watching and pressure is off
  • Helps facilitate idea generation and new perspectives
  • Facilitates better problem definition to make sure you are working on the right issue
  • Helps to develop alternatives and examine their positive and negative implications, resulting in better choices
  • Gives you the chance to formulate tasks and frame issues properly before “real time” in meetings
  • Provides a way to examine causes rather than symptoms for issues and problems
  • Provides a forum to ask “So What?” about problems, issues and directions
  • Makes your decisions and explanations more crisp
  • Turns thoughts, decisions and ideas into actions

If you are skeptical, just try it on some decision that you are contemplating.  Write and refine the problem definition; quickly list alternatives; structure the list; examine implications of each alternative; choose an alternative and list the actions that need to happen.  I predict it will help.

Leadership Tip: try journaling to improve decision-making.

 

Improved Demeanor, Attitude and Judgment