What did you do different today? I think this is one of the most relevant things you can write down daily. And it’s an awesome indicator of progress. It narrows down your daily activities to the delta of the day. The differences, the incremental stuff that you’ve tried out and can now actually apply to your old habits.
Now, you might want to ask yourself – why write at all? But I mean, you’re already doing it. You’re sending emails, texts and chat messages all day long. Why would you write more stuff? My answer: to improve your life exponentially.
Trying out new things every day, or simply doing the same thing in a different way will have a huge impact over the years. But we’re creatures of the Internet, we don’t have years. We want instant gratification. Even though studies show that the most successful people are the ones that are able to delay gratification, I feel we’re both on the same boat, the other boat. The can’t-delay boat. I didn’t only eat the first cookie right away, I also threw a fit when I was told that there was going to be a second cookie and I didn’t get to have it right away, metaphorically speaking. I’m definitely not the guy to judge.
Writing down the differences between the things we try out in order to better understand them is enabling and enforcing instant gratification. How? By giving us a quick overview of our actions. But it’s also helping us postpone our analytical endeavours. It’s the tool we felt we needed to use but didn’t exactly know why. And it’s the tool that bridges the two types of gratification – instant and delayed. You can check out anytime the progress you’ve made. Tomorrow, next week, next year. That’s delayed gratification. You don’t have to do it naturally, as long as you do it.
Journaling your ideas is a wonderful habit, and is indeed one of those good shortcuts. If you’re trying new things and not learning from them, you’re most likely an infatuation junkie. A person that’s too hungry for the high to care about the low. I know I was. Journaling helped me put things into perspective. The twelve-step program… Just kidding. But yeah, I’ve been journaling for over twenty years now, ever since I learned how to type on a computer. I didn’t realize what I was doing and why I was doing it, but it helped me add a hint of order into my life. I didn’t write much, and I didn’t keep a journal. I wrote down ideas, thoughts, I drew. That helped me visualize what was going on in my head. The feedback loop I had created helped me shape my thoughts into something other people might understand and relate to.
You might not realize, but you’re wasting a lot of your brain power by multitasking, a.k.a. keeping your RAM3 full. How do I know your RAM is full? I don’t, but you do. Please read on, as this is as fundamental as breathing.
Think of those times when you’re trying to multitask. You start by doing one thing, picking up on another, then suddenly a new idea pops up in your beautiful mind. Meanwhile, your phone vibrates and you realize you simply have to reply right away to that message. Having tapped “send” you take a few seconds to go back to your beautiful thought, only to realize that it kinda went away. And so did two to twenty minutes of your time. So you go back to your multitasking, hoping that it’ll come back. It seldom does. But you’re not doing this multitasking crap every few minutes, jumping from one idea to another. You’re doing it several times a minute!
The overhead of keeping track of what you’re doing actually takes you longer than taking things one at a time. Think of the time and energy you’re wasting, simply to allow yourself to multitask. Or rather, to allow your ego to think you do. Multitasking allows you to do only one thing actively at any given moment in time. The other things you do are done passively, taken care of by
computer is the short-term memory area. It has fast access times, but it goes away when switched off.
The 1% habits and the ol’ mighty subconscious. In the background. Sure, you can talk, you can walk, you can sing, eat, read, and (of course) drive like a pro. But can you, though? Barely.
Imagine that… No, don’t imagine. Remember. Remember that time when you were having a conversation with somebody while you were driving. Everything was going smoothly until someone decided to cut you off. Signaling left and turning right. Or not signaling at all. Or whatever. There goes your 4 conversation. Full stop, right then and there. What actually happened was that you were actively speaking while passively driving. But because your brain is so freaking awesome, it decided that avoiding a car crash was a bit more important than getting you that imaginary car-conversation Oscar. So it directed all of its attention to the traffic situation in front of you.
Studies show that listening to somebody speak (while you only nod) takes far less brain power than talking yourself while driving. A quick proof and a very healthy practice: if you’re feeling tired or sleepy while driving, just talk. Put a friend on speakerphone if you’re driving alone. This will light up your brain like a Christmas tree. Be safe, try that. Get to live another day.
You know you were multitasking, because once the threat went away, the amazing conversation that you were having resumed from its previous state. That’s why you couldn’t participate in a conversation during the first few months after you got your license and/or started driving. Driving wasn’t a habit yet.
Now, I’m not telling you not to multitask. I’m simply asking you to be honest with yourself about the level of attention you can give to what you’re doing. If you’re not giving it much thought, don’t do it at all. One way or another, random things happen. Accidents happen. And I don’t mean your boss’ tie. I mean real accidents. People do die. Don’t become a statistic. Don’t text and drive, don’t talk on the phone while crossing the street. Keep yourself focused on one thing at a time. Doing one thing very well is better than doing many things poorly.
So what does multitasking have to do with journaling? It’s simple: people multitask because they don’t trust their own short-term memory. And why would they? Studies show that unless it’s a habit or a direct result of one, you’re not going to remember item #8 on that shopping list you keep in your head. That’s why you should take notes.
But taking notes takes time, and you don’t have that, right? Wrong. What’s your assumption when you’re thinking that? What could you possibly think that you’re saving by not taking notes? Paper? I agree that, if you add this on your list, you’re going to do 21 things today instead of the 20 you wanted to do. But were you actually going to go through all of those 20 things, or just thinking about doing them? Without a list, I’m going to safely assume the latter. All the evidence suggests that unless you know exactly what you’re doing, you’re going to find a way to do something else, more or less important. That feels urgent at the time, but actually isn’t. You’ll rarely be doing what you initially had in mind. And I have yet to be proven wrong about this.
Journaling can have many forms and can provide you with various shortcuts in the walk of life. As you might have guessed, one of the best uses of journaling is to free your mind. Imagine what would happen if you’d solely rely on your memory. You’d have no place for new thoughts. You wouldn’t be able to carry out complex tasks. Your active brain just can’t be in two places at once.
A pen and paper are the most basic tools and are “good enough” in most scenarios. They’ll help you sort things and work out routes of where you’ll go the next day. The same pen and paper will help you jot down thoughts that spark off in your head while watching somebody give a speech. Or watching some random guy do some random stuff in some random place. You might identify a global problem. That’s how the most innovative inventions are born.
If you think that carrying a notepad and an eraser-head pencil with you everywhere you go is silly, just remember those bullies in grade school that now take your orders at Mickey D’s.