I love this article by Jane Lee about the benefits of journaling. This article specifically addresses journaling and entrepreneurship, but the same principles apply to writing. And, writers are entrepreneurs too, right? Enjoy!
How Writing Stuff Down Boosts Productivity
Public Domain from pixabay
A few months ago, I was tasked with starting Shopify’s own e-commerce store and the idea for The Stockroom was born: a place where ambitious entrepreneurs can buy products designed to help them succeed.
With a million tasks and a hundred deadlines flying by, I was once again getting a feel for what it’s like to run my own business.
When you’re at the center of all the chaos, every little thing feels like a top priority.
So I was lucky that, in the process of speaking to successful Shopify store owners to figure out what products I should add to my store, I came across a new strategy that would not only change the way I work, but inspire a new original product for The Stockroom.
It turns out that many Shopify merchants referred to their journals and workbooks as an important part of their daily routine, helping them stay organized and on track from day to day.
Up until then, the closest I’d come to keeping a journal was jotting down ideas wherever I could: sticky notes, a regular notebook, and even my hand.
I tried switching over to a real journal, not expecting that it would change everything about the way I work.
Journaling the Old Fashioned Way
At first, I started journaling with a blank notebook, writing out my tasks for the day.
I was a bit more focused, but there was still something missing. The to-do list format just didn’t get me thinking in terms of strategic direction.
I started posting high-level goals above my computer that I would update every two weeks.
Each morning I wrote out my tasks for the day based on the bigger picture strategy I had outlined on the wall.
As my tasks started to align with my goals, I felt more organized—more focused—on what I was doing and why I was doing it. But the task checklist format was still less than inspiring.
After reframing my thinking a few times, I finally came up with a winner that actually worked:
To make today successful, I need to…
It was a new way for me to think about my tasks that motivated me to get them done and feel way more accomplished at the end of each day.
If this notebook strategy was helping me build my own business, I figured it can help others too (my aha! moment!💡 ).
I decided to create a journal designed specifically for people like me who were building businesses.
Finding The Best Journaling Method For Entrepreneurs
I got back on the phone with the Shopify merchants who first told me about their journaling habits, and started asking about their workflow, their day-to-day project management, what kept them motivated and, most importantly, how journaling fit into it all.
Then I did some of my own research.
Journalling has actually been studied intensely over the years. Psychologists have looked at everything from daily creative writing exercises to a structured, standardized question-and-answer format to expressive writing as a means of therapy.
The act of journaling actually activates the left-side of your brain, leading to a wide range of benefits including:
- Improved memory.
- Better comprehension of concepts.
- Improved physical health.
There was also an optimal way to approach journaling.
According to Dr. James Pennebaker, an expert in the field of expressive writing, to get the best results from journaling, it was recommended that you:
- Forget about grammar/spelling when you write.
- Be honest and authentic (write like no one else is going to read it).
- Write by hand for better memory recall.
- Adopt cursive writing to get your thoughts out faster.
This was more than enough to push me to produce my own journal: a journal specifically designed for entrepreneurs, whether they’re starting out or scaling up, to help them focus on systematically executing the right tasks every day.
But to make this new product really unique, I needed to dive deeper. What is it about journalling that makes it so effective? How can a journal have such a positive influence on the writer?
A friend of mine in the neuroscience community pointed me towards behavior change theory and some related fields of study.
It turns out that journaling involves a form of what’s called motivational interviewing. This is a technique used to help people find internal, or intrinsic motivation.
Rather than finding motivation through external means, such as a praise from a boss or a high salary, intrinsic motivation is about being driven by the satisfaction of achieving one’s goals.
And that makes it doubly important for entrepreneurs striking out on their own.
Suddenly the journals I had written in, the systems I had put together, were no longer random attempts to keep focused. They were scientifically proven methods for building productive habits.
Journaling alone won’t magically boost anyone’s productivity. But when you combine action with reflection you’ll take better actions over time.
I’d gradually developed my own sense of intrinsic motivation by writing in my templated notebooks, repeating my goals and reviewing my efforts (i.e. “To make today successful, I need to…”)
All of this was starting to remind me of the 10x philosophy (pronounced ten ex, not ten times), a concept that comes up a lot in the business world.
What Does “10x” Mean for Entrepreneurs?
Depending on who you ask and what they do, you’ll get different answers as to what 10x really means.
Some will say it’s about becoming 10 times better than the average person in your field (at programming, for example). Others will say it’s about setting the bar 10 times higher than you can reach. And in some parts of the world, “10x” is just an abbreviation you use when texting someone, “Thanks.”
But to me, and I think to most entrepreneurs, 10x means doing more of the right stuff—to grow your venture each day instead of falling into the trap of working for the sake of working because “busy” and “productive” are not the same thing.
The Pareto Principle or 80-20 Rule states that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts—10x is what happens when you focus on the 20% that creates the biggest impact.
That’s why I decided to call this journal 10x: The Entrepreneur’s Journal (or The 10x Journal for short)—a tool for forming productive habits to help entrepreneurs on the journey of starting and growing a business.
Developing a Journal for the 10x Entrepreneur
I knew I had a journaling routine that worked: writing my goals in the morning and reviewing them in the evening. That would become the basis for how The 10x Journal would be used.
But to properly reflect on your day, you can’t just focus on success.
One thing that encouraged me to learn something from each day was writing down the biggest challenge I faced. It encouraged me to confront that challenge rather than put it off for another day. I knew that was something I had to incorporate into The 10x Journal to make it effective.
To be honest, there were a lot of ideas I wanted to work into this new product. But they wouldn’t all fit on one page or contribute to developing a 10x mindset for whoever was using it.
I sketched out every idea—approximately 50—and showed them to some colleagues around Shopify. They were definitely intrigued by the project and agreed to help out with design and layout.
Now, I’m lucky in that I have access to a bunch of really smart and talented people at Shopify. Not everyone has that luxury. If you need design help, you have a variety of resources like Fiverr, Creative Market, and 99designs.
Testing The 10x Journal With Real Entrepreneurs
After a few days working out the layout and adding some new elements, I made a prototype and gave it to a few entrepreneurs I knew. It wasn’t the complete journal, but it was just enough to give us a good idea of what it would look like and how it would work.
Two weeks later, I received amazing feedback. And by that, I mean not everyone loved it.
Some parts of the journal were a hit, others… not so much.
Some questions were totally misinterpreted but ended up revealing a whole new mindset I hadn’t considered. I can’t tell you how valuable the testing process was. I strongly recommend it before making any sort of major investment in production.
After a few more tweaks and tests, incorporating all the feedback I got, I found a local manufacturer that my friend had referred to me and finally shipped my first original product for The Stockroom.
Here’s a sneak peek:
How The 10x Journal Works
When you use The 10x Journal, each morning starts with you identifying the most important objectives you want to achieve that day and highlighting your biggest challenge.
Each evening, you’ll reflect on what you got done and what you want to pursue tomorrow. There’s also a scale from 1 to 10 for you to rate how confident you feel about the direction you’re going in. I’m hoping this tool helps you reflect and recognize your emotional state throughout your business-building journey.
Every ten days, there’s a new set of pages that push you to take a step back and review your strategy.
Are your day-to-day tasks in line with your business goals? Have you discovered something over the past ten days that is forcing you to refocus or change direction?
At first, I had this reflection take place at weekly intervals; then I tried every two weeks. Through testing and feedback, I found a sweet spot at ten days that seemed to work well for all the merchants that used it. It turned out that they were all hustling 7 days a week and even on weekends.
Today I’m excited to offer 10x: The Entrepreneur’s Journal in The Stockroom.
You can buy 10x: The Entrepreneur Journal today in The Stockroom.
There’s a limited number available right now, but I’ll be sure to print more if demand increases!
10x: Doing More of the Right Things
No one launches themselves into success in a single leap. It takes a million tiny steps to get there.
At the end of the day, it takes consistency, commitment and an attitude that defaults to action to be successful.
It’s the small things you do every day that will help you build towards something big. But journaling can help you focus on doing more of those things right.
About The Author
Jane Lee is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Shopify currently running The Stockroom.