Journaling Techniques: 3 Helpful Journaling Methods


I believe journaling to be one of the most helpful methods for organizing our thoughts.

And sorting through all that’s happening in our minds can be a more daunting task than you might expect.

As humans, we form thoughts at 1,000 – 3,000 words per minute. Nor surprisingly, that ends up being an exceptional amount of noise to process.

For me, I’ve found journaling to be incredibly helpful in enabling me me to slow down, effectively organize my thinking, and gain clarity on whatever I’m writing about.

So this post is going to share three helpful journaling methods.

And given that this is a website about discovering and thriving in your best fit work, I’ll be presenting journaling methods aimed at helping you to accomplish that goal.

Let’s get started.

Journaling Techniques

The Jim Collins Method

Jim Collins is a famous business thinker best known as the author of the book Good to Great.

On an episode of The Tim Ferris Show, Jim discusses his own unique approach to journaling that, after trying it out, quickly became one of my favorites.

The use-case for Jim’s method is to track how you feel at the end of each day. The idea is that by rating and evaluating each day, you can establish patterns as to what is happening when you’re enjoying your day vs. when you’re not so you can try to build a life that maximizes time on the things that you enjoy.

Basically, the method works like this:

  • At the end of each day, log in a spreadsheet one of the following ratings for the day:
    • -2: A particularly negative day
    • -1: A moderately negative day
    • +1: A moderately positive day
    • +2 A particularly positive day
  • In a corresponding journal, write about what happened that day and the reason you gave it that score

There are a couple of things that I find particularly valuable about that process. First, you’ll be able to easily spot patterns. So if you find most all of your days are either moderately positive or moderately negative, you can evaluate how you feel about that. For me in that scenario, I would want more awesome days than days that were just pretty good so that would tell me I need to make some sort of change.

The second thing I find particularly valuable about this process is that any outlier good or bad days are easily visible.

So for every day that you rated a +2, you can go in and see what it was about that day that made it so positive. You can look for things like what did you do, what was your rhythm, and what did you work on. And from there, you can try and find consistent elements as to what was happening on those good and bad days.

As you gather more information about what is happening on your good and bad days over time, you can try to build a life and work context that maximizes the things that feel good, and minimizes those that don’t.

Topic-based Journaling

The next method is fairly simple, and it’s just focused journaling on a particular topic.

For me, I rely on this method when I’m spending a lot of thinking about or struggling with a particular issue.

So if I’m having a hard time determining if I’m on the right path in life, facing a bit life decision like a job offer, or feeling down about something, journaling is a great way to help me work through it.

There are no specific guidelines as to how many words you should write or how to format your writing. I basically just journal on whatever topic I’m struggling with for as long as it takes me to work through it.

My only advice here is to make sure you have at least fifteen uninterrupted minutes so you can concentrate on your writing and fully work through it.

Free-form Journaling

The final form of journaling that I’m recommending is simply free-form journaling.

This type of journaling has limited structure and basically involves just writing about whatever is on your mind at the time that you sit down to journal.

Free-form journaling is a great general starting point for journaling and can help you process nascent thoughts or issues that may come up as your free-form writing.

Similar to topic-based journaling, there are no guidelines as to length or time that you’re journaling, it’s just a brain dump of what you’re thinking and feeling at the time of writing.

My big recommendations here would if you’re going to start this form of journaling, do it at a consistent time and on a consistent cadence. I find daily in the morning is a good starting point. As you dive into this form of journaling, make sure to give yourself at least five minutes of uninterrupted writing time each time you do it.

One other note here is that some people struggle with the unstructured nature of this format, so here is a link to a good set of journaling prompts to help get you started.


I find journaling to be one of the best methods to process your thoughts about topics big and small.

There are a variety of different ways to get started with journaling and each can serve different purposes.

The Jim Collins method is great for helping you to optimize your time. Topic-based journaling helps you to process big decisions and things you may be struggling in life. And, finally, free-form journaling can be a great way to start the process.

Whichever one works best for you, I would encourage you to get started with journaling and wish you the best on your journey!

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and is a business professional with over 10 years of experience. He has been a hiring and people manager on multiple occasions, and has also gone through the hiring process himself at a variety of different companies. Dan writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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