One of the pitfalls of keeping a daily journal, I find, is that it can become a tool for procrastination. Meaning, it can become all too easy to write thousands of words into a journal space rather than doing any “real” writing. Even if you are not a writer, a journaling habit can become one where the feel-good factor of being able to unburden or vent grows to the extent that other necessary life habits fall by the wayside.
So, for this month’s theme, let’s explore “productivity” through our daily journal prompts. As I’ve said before, the use of prompts is simply to provide some structure to our thinking process as we write in our journals. My journaling is, often, a meditative practice for me these days because I use the space to focus on and explore a particular topic at length. Just staring into space does not do it for me as well as putting actual words to thoughts does.
Productivity, of course, means different things to all of us. For some, it is about achieving plans and goals. For others, it is about doing things that align with their values and ethics. One thing almost everyone will agree is that it is never about getting “a lot of stuff” done. Rather, when activities are driven by some kind of purpose and focus, those accomplishments feel like time that has been well-spent, time that has been productive.
With that, let’s get straight to the prompts. [I’ve also shared three books at the end that greatly influenced my own productivity habits, so check them out too.]
1/ Write out your own definition of productivity. What does it mean to you? Where does this definition come from?
2/ Write about the last time you felt you were at your most productive. What were you doing, how, where, why?
3/ Write about the last time you felt you were at your least productive. What were you doing, how, where, why?
4/ Describe someone you consider the most productive person you know personally. Why?
5/ Describe someone you consider the least productive person you know personally. Why?
6/ Describe your productivity role model. This does not have to be the same person as in the prompt for Day 4 as this can be someone you do not know personally.
7/ List out the main distractions that typically stop you from being productive. Describe why.
8/ Describe your go-to methods for filtering out distractions. If you do not have any, now would be a time to think about what you might like to employ as these go-to methods.
9/ Have you taken on any productivity tools or hacks? Describe them and how they have worked for you. [For example, I use the Pomodoro technique when I have to do something I do not particularly enjoy.]
10/ Is there a productivity method that entirely changed how you work? If yes, describe it. If no, brainstorm what such a method would need to be like to have a meaningful impact on how you work.
11/ Describe how you prioritize your tasks/activities. What methods work best for you here and why?
12/ Some people have certain routines or rituals to start certain tasks/activities to help boost their productivity. If you have any such routines or rituals — maybe in how you start or end your day or a particular activity — describe them here.
13/ Think of a particular short-term (<1 year) life/work goal that you are either behind on or in danger of falling behind. Describe what it is, why it is in danger, what you could do about getting it back on track.
14/ Think of a particular medium-term (>1 year and <5 years) life/work goal that you are either behind on or in danger of falling behind. Describe what it is, why it is in danger, what you could do about getting it back on track.
15/ If you could only work two hours a day on your to-dos and goals, what would you work on and why?
16/ to 20/ Halfway there. Today, go browse in google-land and find some productivity quotes that strike you as inspiring. Get at least five so you can write about each one until Day 20.
21/ What are some goals/activities that you think you could do without to improve your chances of being more productive and achieving the more important goals/activities?
22/ Productivity is important but your brain and body also need downtime and playtime to recover. Describe how you ensure there is sufficient and regular downtime or playtime that rejuvenates and refreshes your mind and body.
23/ What is your major weakness that hampers your productivity? How can it be turned into a strength?
24/ Stress, worry, or anxiety is often a root cause that leads to unproductivity. And, often, Pareto’s Law prevails here. What are the 20% things in your life that are driving 80% of your stress/worry/anxiety?
25/ From Day 25, brainstorm how you might eliminate these 20% problems driving 80% of your stress/worry/anxiety. It’s okay if you cannot come up with effective approaches right away. Keep chipping away at how you can either get rid of the issue or find a way around making it less of a thing that hinders you.
26/ Have you ever used a time tracker app? Go research some apps that you will be comfortable with because you are going to try one out as a way to observe yourself. [Note: My favorite for both iOS and Android is aTimeLogger.]
27/ to 31/ Use the app of your choice to track your day by the hour for how you are truly spending your time. Use the journal space to explore where you are doing well and where you might need to make changes. Just like tracking what you eat or tracking your money usage, tracking your time usage will give clarity and insights into your habits like nothing else.
Let’s end with a quote from my favorite productivity guru, David Allen, who wrote Getting Things Done, and pretty much founded an entire movement around it. I used to give copies of this book to my team members at work during my corporate career.
You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it “done.”
― David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
There are two other books that hugely influenced my productivity habits. I wrote about them, so check them out too: