leadership habit

The one leadership habit you can’t live without

You’ve probably heard it before – maybe even from your Padraig coach. Perhaps you’ve read it online or in a leadership book – keeping a journal helps you be a better leader.

I know, for many of us, that falls into the “yah, but” category. “Yah, I’m sure it’s useful for some but I can’t find time,” or “I forget to do it,” or “it seems unhelpful,” or the classic, “I don’t know what to write.”

We’ve been there; we struggle with it too.

But, we also know it works – we see it with our clients all the time.

So, what’s all the hype about? What can you achieve with journaling?

1. Process previous events.


What happens to you is not as important as the meaning you assign to what happens to you. As you write about things you’ve experienced, you have an opportunity to see them in a different light and choose the position that they remain in your permanent memory.

2. Clarify your thinking.

Writing helps us sort out our thoughts. Because your journal is private, you can really wrestle through the issues. When we wrestle entirely in our minds, we tend to often go in circles but when we’ve written something down, there’s a record of where we’ve been – and that often gets us to clarity, more easily.

3. Understand the context.


Leaders need to see the forest and the trees. Life is darned busy, few of us have opportunity to notice the forest. Journalling will slow you down, if even for a few moments and will let you reflect. With a few moments of journaling, you give yourself permission to think bigger and explore new topics.

4. Notice your feelings.

You’ve heard us talk about it a lot- good leaders are self aware, great leaders are emotionally intelligent. They recognize their reactions to things and they know what prompted that reaction – and they do all that in the moment. How? By learning to be aware by looking back on the day, each day, and noting how they were feeling and why.

5. Record progress.

Sometimes we don’t realize the overall progress we’re making because we’re so focused on the day-to-day challenges, obstacles and small wins. Journaling can help you see how it all fits into a bigger picture and lets you choose your direction.It also helps you build momentum as you reflect on all the things you have accomplished as opposed to what could be better (often, our default position)

6. Learn the important lessons.

Writing things down helps us learn. Especially writing long hand on paper. I write down what I learn, so I don’t have to keep relearning it, and I write down what I want to learn.  That link between learning, and writing is summed up nicely in this article on MentalFloss.

7. Ask yourself important questions.

If you’ve worked with one of our coaches, you know they ask insightful, provocative questions that start you thinking in new ways and that leads to spectacular gains. Simply put — a journal can help you self-coach.

So how do you start?

  • Get a great journal
  • Choose a consistent place and time of day to write
  • Aim for 15 minutes, but start with whatever you can muster – 3 minutes is great. Just do it and it will become a welcome habit.
  • Until it becomes a habit, put it in your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, put a post-it note on the bathroom mirror – remind yourself as often as it takes.
  • Don’t censor, don’t edit. You’re not going to show this to anyone – it doesn’t have to be neat and tidy, it doesn’t have to well written or grammatically correct. It doesn’t have to make sense right away.
  • Be present – I know, that sounds “coach-y” — it just means when you’re sitting there to write, be aware of your thoughts and jot them down.  Try not to focus on what you have to do next — if your mind is going there, don’t beat yourself up, just let it go and come back to the journal in front of you.
  • Ask yourself questions like:
    • How was I feeling today? Why did I feel that way?
    • What were the great moments — how was I feeling?  What were the lousy moments — how was I feeling?
    • How am I spending my time? How do I want to be spending my time? What’s stopping me?
    • What’s getting my attention? What needs my attention? What should get my highest quality attention?
    • What did I achieve today?
    • What am I grateful for?

You’ve got this.

Coach’s Questions

What might you finally achieve with a daily few moments of journaling? Would that success be worth a few moments a day?