in Productivity

Benefits of Keeping an Evening Journal

One of the best ways of becoming better at something is to simply do it and reflect on it afterwards, to iteratively become better for every attempt. This is true for everything from software development, meditation and even developing yourself. To become better at reflecting on my day, I started asking myself a couple of questions each night, as part of my evening ritual before going to sleep.

What you will gain from doing something like this is a deeper understanding of how you work, and where you can improve. The key is to be consistent and try writing every day, even if you seemingly don’t have anything to write about. When faced with these questions, things usually just start to flow and words are being put to paper.

I simply use a template in my evening ritual checklist which I keep in OmniFocus, so I can just copy/paste it into Day One, which is where I keep everything I only write for myself.

The template itself is quite simple and looks like this:

Evening Journal
(a summary of the day)

– the top three highlights of the day

I am thankful for …

What could have made today better is …

What I need help with is …

These questions are quite straight-forward, but I find them indispensable for drawing out the important facts of the day and highlighting the highs and lows. The best part is that this only takes a few minutes to jot down, and I usually do this just before going to bed.

Another benefit that comes with doing this is that closing the day becomes a conscious decision, meaning that this is the perfect place to write about unfinished thoughts that may be swirling around in my head. More often than not, this will generate a couple of inbox items in OmniFocus which I will deal with the day after1.

I have been doing this for a while as part of my evening ritual, and while it may still be too early to see drastic improvement, the true change lies in the small incremental changes you discover when writing, but also looking back at previous entries months later to see the progress, or lack thereof.

Keeping a journal to reflect on the day been done by many of the major thinkers and philosophers, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that this can provide great benefits everyone. The key is, with everything involving creativity, is to start simple to become persistent so you will develop a habit of doing this continuously by showing up each and every day.

  1. While it’s easy to add things to the inbox, I find that if I don’t write down the proper context surrounding the note, it can be hard to reassemble the idea the next day.