What do you write down? For most of us, writing consists of emails, task lists, and perhaps the odd work project. However, making time to write down certain things, such as our daily experiences, our goals, and our mental clutter can change the way we live our lives.
Here are six different ways that writing things down can change your life, and what you can do to get the most out of each.
1. It clears your mind for higher-level thinking.
You can clear your mind by writing things down in two different ways.
David Allen, productivity speaker and author of Getting Things Done, recommends doing what he calls a “core dump”. This involves writing down every task, activity, and project you need to address. This could range from picking up milk on the way home, to a multi-person project at work. Writing down every “to-do” item you can think of clears space in your head for more important topics.
You can also use a technique called “morning pages”, which was pioneered by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. Morning pages involves completing three pages (around 750 words) of stream-of-consciousness writing. Through doing this first thing each morning, you clear your head in preparation for the day’s most important thinking.
2. It helps you process your emotions.
Writing down what’s on our mind is a great way to work through inner conflict or process your feelings around a particular situation. It’s similar to talking a situation through with a friend, except it’s a useful way of strengthening your self-soothing abilities and enhancing your self-knowledge.
3. It gives you a record of the past.
If you keep a journal and regularly write down your thoughts and feelings, you’ll soon have a record of your experiences that you might otherwise have forgotten.
Reading back through this record is not just fascinating—it also provides a valuable insight into your thought process and emotional life. You can savor moments that you could have potentially forgotten and increase your levels of gratitude.
Keeping a journal can also enhance your levels of self-trust. When you can look back and see how successfully you’ve traversed and dealt with important decisions and tricky situations in the past, you’ll feel more confident in your ability to do so in the future.
4. You gain a sense of achievement.
Writing things down can foster a sense of achievement and progress, expanding our possibilities and increasing our productivity.
If we journal, it’s incredibly satisfying to fill up one or more journals with our thoughts and feelings. Many people harbor dreams of writing a book, but balk at the reality of how long it takes. When you finish a journal, you’ll realize that you have written a book. This opens up a new sense of possibilities, not just in writing but in other areas of our lives, too.
Equally, if we write down everything we need to do in a particular day or week, we gain an additional sense of satisfaction when, having completed the task, we can cross the item off our list. Feeling productive enhances our productivity, creating a virtuous cycle.
5. It helps you think big.
Writing things down gives you space to think big and aim high. No matter what’s going on in our outside world, when we write things down, we enter a world of possibility.
Doing this helps us stay motivated, and it reduces the chance that we fall prey to self-limiting beliefs. (Even if we do, we can keep writing things down to process our feelings!)
When we write things down, we have a chance to explore dreams and ambitions that we might not feel safe revealing to anyone else yet. We also have a space to keep track of all our ideas and desires so we can return to them later.
6. It makes you more committed.
As well as offering a space for exploring possibilities, writing our goals and ambitions down makes it more likely that we’ll achieve them.
As with any goals, they are most effective if they are SMART: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timed. These are all variables we can work out and commit to through writing.
Writing down our goals is the first step towards making them a reality. It can also help us stay accountable. When you’ve outlined your SMART goal in writing, display it somewhere you can see for an extra shot of motivation.