How to Journal for Personal Professional Development

The Keynes CentreHow We Think

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Increasingly, people are discovering the value of journaling for Personal Professional Development. Some have still to discover its power.

As we observed in our previous post about Journaling, using a Journal is long recognised a most helpful tool for reflection – it is a powerful way for getting to know oneself more deeply – and creatively – ideas will come which otherwise would not surface in the hurly-burly of daily life. Writing will help focus your thoughts and clarify your thinking. A Journal can be used as a record of your thinking, ideas, insights, questions, and concerns and will also show your developmental journey.



1. The first, and most important, point to make about Journaling is that it is about setting aside a time and space to attend to yourself – something we all too often do not give ourselves in the modern world. It is a difficult but worthwhile habit or discipline to develop the attentiveness to our inner self. And it is essential to commit to it – we will have little enough time to be with ourselves when all is said and done.

2. Solitude is not easy to bear or to achieve. Nowadays we have to arrange for it. We can be apprehensive of being alone with ourselves, in a place and time without noise, traffic, television, phones …… Being busy is not only habitual but enticing – it can be used to protect ourselves from our inner selves. Solitude is not loneliness or aloneness: I am with myself – and who better company than myself?

3. Your goal in journaling is to be with yourself in dialogue so as to surface the thoughts from ‘the back or your mind’ which are blocked by the immediate preoccupations of the everyday. Journaling is an aid to help you listen to yourself. Do not give in to the temptation to run away by daydreaming or snoozing or other escape. Instead learn to enjoy having some time and space to be in good company – your own. Over time we will learn to listen to ourselves, appreciate its values and many benefits, and come to look forward to it.

4. Therefore write easily, happily and freely. It is not about being judgmental about yourself (or others) in any way – silence that ‘inner critic’. Do not limit your explorations. Flow. The practice is to hear your inner self – the wise one of you – by removing yourself from the prison of your daily preoccupations and thoughts. It is a healing and growing process.

5. Some ‘journalists’ find it a good practice to create a space– both mental and physical – apart from hustle and bustle in which to engage in their journaling without intrusions. This can even be outdoors in a pleasant setting. Keep it a simple, uncluttered, non-distractive place. You may find it helpful to decorate it simply with an abstract object of beauty, a nice candle, a piece of text – to help focus early on – use a pleasing notebook and pen and whatever works for you.

6. Because it is so easy today for this space to be taken, or given, away planning for this and scheduling it regularly is recommended. It is a sacred place for you to dwell for a while with yourself. There is no need to be apologetic in any way or to anyone: protect that opportunity to attend to yourself – you need it.

7. Simplicity and regularity – even for a short period (15 minutes, rather than an hour sporadically) – is the key.


8. You may find it helpful to start and, perhaps, end with a ‘prayer’ (not necessarily religious) – some words spoken (quietly; even addressed only to self) – to settle and orient oneself to your forthcoming exploration. Because we go into a private area does not mean it is quiet – you are there and you bring your baggage – anxieties, worries, fears, memories, angers and so much more – there are internal distractions as well as external distractions to be left behind.

9. Use visualisation to put all the baggage in a box and then leave them at the door as you go in. Do not worry! The box will still be there when you come out – you can trust it won’t run away. You can collect the baggage afterwards to take with you, if you choose, or leave there – indeed take it to the garbage bin and throw it in it. Feel the freedom. In the room give yourself just that space for yourself: you deserve it.

10. Set aside all restraints of writing style, literacy, grammar, spelling and so on. Your journal is only for you, do not be judgmental – it is a tool, a good tool and it works: trust it.

11. Use questions if you are unclear for the moment. Note your doubts, uncertainties and matters not sure about (but remember 2 above). Questions are also effective prompts.

12. Write what is truthful for you. Journaling is about honesty, not saying what you think you should say or what you think other people would expect. No one is going to know. Any other use of a journal will corrupt the process and only you will be fooled.

13. Many find it beneficial to start their days with their journaling ritual. The experience created doesn’t cease when you close your journal – it will accompany you through your day and orient your thoughts for the better; it will enable you to live actively and mindfully in the world.

14. Some also find it of benefit to carry their journal with them during their day so as to engage with it as thoughts surface, as they unexpectedly do.

Dialogue with Others:


1. The ‘power of two’ is a power to be used for development and creativity.

2. Pairs can read or watch something together or individually. Then, after each has done their reflective journaling on the experience in private, they can come together to share insights surfaced in their journaling.

3. It is not necessary to share what has been written in the journals, although that too can be done if people are sufficiently close. There is no need to share what you have written for this to work. Initially, it may be better to identify a set of questions arising from the experience and reflections.

4. The important thing is that this is an aid to practice listening to another (see 1 above), for moving towards a shared understanding of how you both think.

5. Avoid any elements of competitiveness, one-upmanship, rowing, adversarial and winning style: a dialogue is not about proving yourself right and your partner wrong. Those needs should be addressed elsewhere.

6. Sharing your ideas on a common experience is a way of living which supports, encourages ans guides each party to the dialogue.


There is no end to the barriers we put up to being in our own company

  • don’t trust it’s private
  • a dog to walk
  • not experience value so think waste of time
  • fear of knowing oneself
  • feel foolish writing to oneself

and so on : list your own here

The Keynes CentreHow to Journal for Personal Professional Development