Journaling

I have recently been considering what the best way to measure personal growth is. One such solution was to evaluate my shareholder questions — the decisions I have allowed people to vote on — every few months, and reflect on the success of the decisions after they have been implemented (or not implemented, for that matter). Although long-term retrospectives of your life are important — they allow to you see your rate of change, and how habits compound — I think that evaluating day-over-day growth is also very important. The best way to keep track of this is through a journal.

Every evening, before I read a few dozen pages of a book and fall asleep, I take some time to journal. The goal of my journal is to reflect on what I have accomplished throughout the past day, and evaluate what tasks I may need to complete tomorrow. Further, I also take some time to reflect on whether I acted in accordance with my personal principles, and how I can become a better person tomorrow. In order to effectively capture my day, I ask myself three questions. These questions were designed to help me track my day-over-day growth, and provide a starting point to help me when I don’t know what to write about.

The first question I ask myself is “What good did I do today?”. This question is based on Benjamin Franklin’s journaling habits, where he would ask himself this question during the final hours of his day. This question is not asking me what I accomplished — although my accomplishments are important — but rather what I did to have an impact on the world, however small. In this section, I often write about interviews I have hosted, calls I have had with friends, blog posts and research I have written, and more. These are all activities which allow me to have a positive impact on society, and are things which I value highly. By writing them down at the end of the day, I am able to measure whether I did a lot of good that day — my overarching goal is to have a good answer to this question by the end of the day.

I also ask myself “What could I do better?”. This question is asking me what I perhaps did which I shouldn’t have, and what I could do to be the best version of myself. For example, if I watched an hour of television more than I should have, I would write down that I could watch less television in the next day. One recurring trend I have noticed is that my answers to this question are often based on my doing too much of something — watching television, using social media, worrying about things outside of my control — which I know is already bad for me. The goal of this question is to help me analyze in more depth the impact that these things are having on my life, and measure how they influenced my success for the past day.

Finally, I ask myself the question “How could I be the best version of myself?”. This question integrates well with the previous question — it asks me to set actionable points about how I can improve. In the previous question, I was focused on what I did wrong in my day, and what I could do better. This question, however, is about reflecting on those and setting goals for the next day which will allow me to be the best version of myself. If I watched too much television that day, I may write “In order to be the best version of myself, I shall watch less television tomorrow and report back”. This is a simple statement, and I will often think more about how to implement this in more depth after writing my overall goal. In this case, perhaps restricting my television usage for one hour a day would be a good way to reach the set goal. In this section, I write about ways in which I can improve myself, what habits I can and should adopt, and what feedback I have received from others about how to be a better person. This question is all about personal growth — what can I do to be a better person.

I find that these questions are optimal because they are simple, and expect very little in terms of mental energy. Because I journal at the end of the day, making these questions simple is critical in ensuring that I continue with the habit. Although I have been journaling for a few months consistently, perhaps I would not have even started if the questions were too complex. Further, these questions allow me to compare my growth on a smaller level. When I am analyzing my decisions and shareholder questions, I am often comparing my current life to where I was a few months ago — before I made a decision. However, journaling gives me the opportunity to compare my progress over days, which will make it easier for me to make positive changes to make better decisions, and implement them more effectively.

Evaluating my life day-over-day has made me adopt a new way of thinking: I am not competing with others; I am competing with who I was yesterday. If I answer the question “What could I do better?” with the same answer as the previous day, then I know that I have either not set the right goals, or have not worked hard enough to reach those goals. Journaling daily helps me realize when there are problems in my life and routines and immediately make changes to ensure that I stay on track toward my goals. Further, journaling helps me stay accountable to the decisions I have made with the goal of becoming a better person. I want to be able to say that today was a better day than yesterday. I don’t care if one of my friends wrote a long-form essay that day; I care that I am a better person. As I become a better person, I will be able to have a more positive impact on the lives of others, and society as a whole. This sounds like a more effective goal than beating other people.

Journal daily. Reflect on what good you have done, what you could do better, and how you can be the best version of yourself.