How I Take Notes and Journal for Focus and Gratitude

Writing is one of the best habits you can acquire for a mindful and productive life. Through journaling and note-taking, I’m able to keep track of everything that matters in my life. Whether it’s my own thoughts and ideas, tasks that need completed, or goals I’ve set for myself, I’ve got a journal for it all!

If you want to be more focused, more grateful, and more mindful in your habits, these are 6 ways to keep notes and journal!

6 Writing Habits to Level Up Your Mindset

1.Morning Pages

A non-negotiable in my morning routine is writing my morning pages. Julia Cameron created the concept of morning pages in her book The Artist’s Way. Basically, you sit down with a journal and write 3 full pages of stream-of-consciousness writing to get the distractions out of your mind. Once it’s all on the page, you can move through your day without it weighing you down.

Some people get intimidated by the thought of writing 3 pages. They think they might run out of things to say or ideas to explore. But once you start writing, it’s surprisingly easy to keep a steady flow of thoughts going. Pro tip: try writing in a smaller journal (I use a 5×7) so you don’t get overwhelmed by filling giant pages! Grab a pack of my fav pens and get started πŸ’ͺ

2. Bullet Journal

I can often be found carrying my BuJo around the house because of how much I rely on it throughout my day! My bullet journal is where I make note of any tasks, pop-up ideas, or reminders. Basically, anything I need to remember and follow up on goes in my bullet journal.

Bullet journals are a great space for designated brain-dumping. Don’t rely on your mind to hold onto the tiny details, only to be frustrated when you forget them later. Use your journal as a catch-all that you can reflect on later! Reflection is the most important part of the bullet journal β€” a journal full of ideas isn’t worth much if you never take action on those ideas.

3. Weekly Reflection

Every Sunday I sit down with my journal and my calendar for my weekly reflection. I use this time to check in with myself and ask the real questions: β€˜What went well?’, ‘What needs adjusting?’, β€˜What can I do to prepare for the week ahead?’

Each week, I look back on my calendar and go through a few checkpoints:

  • Goals check-in β€” I check up on my goals and note any progress I’ve made.
  • Reflect on appointments β€” If I had any meetings or appointments the previous week, I look back on the notes I took from them and see if any follow-up tasks need completed.
  • Call out wins β€” I keep a list of wins from the week so I can look back and acknowledge my work. Celebrating with yourself is a crucial source of motivation to work towards your goals!
  • Write down reflection tasks β€” Based on what happened and what I achieved last week, what do I need to do now? I note these tasks and block them into my schedule for the week.
  • Notice what’s not working β€” Now that I’ve celebrated my wins, I also take a moment to notice what needs improved. I reflect on my week and commit to any changes that need to be made.
  • Watch your wish list β€” I check in with my list of things I wish I could be doing. What is keeping me from them, and what can I change?
  • Turn a wish into a reality β€” Take something from your wish list and make time for it in your week. If I want to spend more time reading, I block out an hour or two committed to reading only. Not multitasking!
  • Prepare for upcoming appointments β€” I look ahead on my calendar and prepare for any upcoming meetings or appointments. If errands need to be run or a task requires more time, I make sure to plot it on my calendar.
  • Define tomorrow’s priorities β€” Finally, I create a list of the most important tasks to prioritize tomorrow and block them into my schedule!

4. Happiness Journal

Something I recently started doing was keeping a Happiness Journal. When I notice myself feeling happy, like really truly happy, I like to make a note of what made me feel that joy and write it in my Happiness Journal. It acts as a running list of little things that have brought me joy.

When I start feeling low, I can return to reflect on that list. Maybe I can seek out a specific thing, like lighting my favorite scented candle or taking a sip of my favorite kind of coffee. Other times I can simply reflect on the feeling something gave me, like a conversation I had or a message I received from someone.

If you find yourself stuck in low moods or bouts of anxiety, I recommend keeping a Happiness Journal. Not only is it a great place to go when you start feeling down β€” you’ll start to be more mindful of the happy moments as they happen.

5. Book notes

Taking notes while I read is a super important part of applying the lessons from a book to my life. I read in phases, aka the Reading stage, the Download stage, and the Execution stage. While I’m reading, I make notes either digitally or in a notebook of quotes that strike me, info to remember, or ideas I had while reading. I attach page numbers to everything I write down for easy reference.

Once I’ve finished reading, I enter the Download stage. Here, I look back on all my notes and make sense of them. Why did I write those things down, and what do they mean for my life? With this info I can move on to the Execution stage where I make a plan for taking action.

Once you begin the Execution stage, choose one thing from your notes that you will take action on ASAP. Make a plan for it and stick it out! Keeping notes on the books you read will make it so much easier to pull that actionable advice out and use it in your life instead of leaving it on the page.

6. Digital notekeeping

When I need to keep notes digitally on my phone or my tablet, there are a couple note-taking options I look to:

  • Evernote β€” Evernote is fab for keeping track of the little details. It make it super easy to stay organized between all my notes and lists, and it’s searchable! One of the things I love about Evernote is you can scan in files or handwritten notes to keep track of them all in one digital space. Click to sign up!
  • Notion β€” While I love Evernote, Notion is so much more aesthetically pleasing! It blends all of your apps into one digital homebase, for example β€” if you need to connect your notes to your calendar, Notion is the perfect tool for you. Check it out!

While I’m definitely an analog note kinda girl, digital notekeeping is sometimes necessary when I’m on the go or need to find something quickly. I can access all of these notes from my phone, my tablet, and my laptop!


QOTD: How do you keep track of important info?

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  1. Donna Selwood says:

    Do you keep both a gratitude journal and a happiness journal? What would you say were the key differences? As part of my morning routine I write three things I am grateful for as well as my morning pages but I like the idea of a journal of things that have filled me with genuine happiness.

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