“The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.” – Lau Tzu
Before you can improve anything, you must have awareness of where you are. Awareness is the first essential step in any kind of development, and you could break it down into various types. But there are three particular types of awareness which relate to productivity, and journaling can help you achieve these.
Many of us do things on auto-pilot. If you are always driving on the same route, at the same time, you probably don’t even think about where you are going. You sit in your car, get lost in your thoughts, and arrive at your destination. That applies to how you spend your time. You have to do certain things during the day, and most of the time, you do them the way you know how.
That is the problem.
By being on auto-pilot, you are not looking at how you can improve. You may think, after the fact, that your day was unproductive and that you could’ve done better. It’s too late by then, because the day is already gone.
Keeping a journal, by regularly and consistently tracking what you do with your day, gives you an awareness of where you unintentionally end up wasting time.
Unintentionally is the key word here.
By productivity, I don’t mean just work. If you choose to spend an hour playing video games with your child, that is not unproductive. If you choose to sit down and watch a movie with your partner, that is not unproductive. Unproductive moments are the ones where you spend your time doing things you did not intend, and regret it afterwards.
How aware are you of the things you do daily? You might have a big to-do list, and you are diligently crossing things off it, but are they the right things?
Are those things taking you closer to the things you really want to achieve, values you want to nurture, and the life you want to live? Are you applying the 80/20 rule?
In your journal, don’t just record what you are doing. Write, why you are doing it. It doesn’t have to be an essay or a great philosophical reasoning. Just jot down a line or two on why you think you have to perform this task. Don’t worry about analysing it. For a couple of weeks, simply create a habit of writing it. Once you have recorded two or three weeks worth of reasons, then sit down and look at them.
Be honest, and be brutal. Do those reasons make sense? Or are they pathetic whines of submitting under peer pressure or societal pressure? Are those the reasons that are giving you positive motivation? Are they increasing the quality of your life? Are they taking you closer to your goals?
You are filling your days doing tons of things. You are always busy, and your schedule feels like it’s unending. But what are you achieving? What are the tangible end results you can claim? Most good things take time to achieve, but if we are always in transit, working towards something but never quite getting there, then there is something wrong. For example, if you want to write a book, maybe it will take you 6 months to a year to write 90K words novel. But by the end of that year, you should at least have a finished first draft. That is your end result.
Make it a weekly or monthly habit to journal about your achievements. If you are working on big projects, include milestones. If we are to use example of writing a book, your first milestone could be writing 5000 words a week. Your big milestone could be having a finished first draft by end of the year. The next milestone could be second draft, and then submission to agents etc.
Enjoy the process, and focus on details, but don’t forget the big picture. It’s a good idea to live in the present, but if you have things you want to achieve, you must also stay aware of your vision and where you are headed. Focusing on and consistently analysing your results will give you that awareness.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:
Keep a journal for two weeks as per above steps, and at the end of those two weeks, analyse your data, and see what you learn about your state of awareness.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.