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How writing by hand can help you succeed

Ten reasons to give journaling another chance

Women holding a pen and writing

I love books, and I am crazy about them, and the advent of Kindle and ebooks, as well as audible books, means I no longer have to lug a large number of books with me when travelling! The eBook has opened up a world of train rides and travels with a library in my hand at all times—a revelation, to be sure.

Now that all my books are in the Kindle, that means I have space to add my journals back into the backpack! If you love books, maybe it is time to embrace the journal again.

The journey of journaling

To me, journals count as books. They have the same weight, beauty, and inspire the same feeling of cosiness in a library. They can be shared with others, they can be kept for ourselves, and they can inspire us in a number of ways.

The main difference between books and journals is, of course, that they are our own writings and musings, our own ideas and innovations, our own method to structure or think through our topics, or merely a release of thoughts and feelings from our heads.

Da Vinci and Marx agreed on one thing: it’s a good idea to write things down. We can forget things or distort our recollections of things, but writing them down keeps a record and helps us to evaluate things. Journals have come a long way since the “Dear Diary” days; they can help us build habits, develop ideas, release emotions, and clear our heads, they are creative outlets, they can inspire. This however can only be achieved through writing by hand.

While I type stories for medium and my scripts for courses on my laptop, I am a diligent advocate of writing by hand. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that my handwriting is awful — my hand can never keep up with my brain! — however, that doesn’t stop me from writing by hand every single day because of the incredible benefits of the practice.

The benefits of writing by hand

Handwriting is similar to meditation in so much as it increases the activity in our brains in the same way that meditation does. This, to me, seems to be the most brilliant analogy, as meditation is often referred to in popular media and is still referred to by leaders as one of their many tools for success. There are so many benefits to writing by hand, but here are the ten main reasons, the core of why I believe in it.

Writing by hand:

  1. Helps us to remember things — this is the reason why so many people take notes during meetings, it helps our brains stay strong and active

  2. Improves comprehension — by writing it increases understanding of a topic because we can filter the knowledge and put it in our own words

  3. Sharpens the brain — it increases grey matter in the brain and influences how we think, our processing of language, healing, and memory

  4. Forces us to slow down — it forces us to sit and slowly process our words and thoughts, thereby increasing our vocabulary and our use of it

  5. Helps us practice gratitude — just writing a few positive thoughts before bed can lead to improved sleep and improved well-being!

  6. Reduces stress — getting feelings out on paper can help reduce the focus on worries and anxiety, and gets the stress out of our system

  7. Gives us space — in a world where everything is public and shared on every social media channel, this is our personal space, a space to breathe and to express ourselves, something that is just for us and there is no judgment in our journal!

  8. Creates focus — while a thought can repeat and repeat in our head, that doesn’t happen when you write it down, you are unlikely to keep repeating a phrase on paper, and therefore writing pushes us to come to new conclusions and new perspectives!

  9. Increases creativity — by clearing the mind through writing, it enables space in the brain to be used for more creative endeavors!

  10. Creates efficient use of language— it is so easy to type something or text something in shorthand, but writing something longhand forces you to think through what you want to say and to do it in as little words as possible so you are more effective in transmitting your message.

Journals that inspire me daily

A journal, flowers and coffee on the table

I use three journals almost daily to write in, and they are the reason I can increase my productivity and creativity simultaneously. Use one or all three and I promise you will begin to see the results within a week!

1. Clear the path for your day with the MORNING PAGES

You can use any journal you love for the Morning Pages, which is three pages of freehand writing. This is the only one that does not require a specific journal.

This is the first order of the day and taken from The Artists Way; it is about clearing obstacles for the day. Akin to meditation, this is a great tool first thing in the morning for releasing nonsense thoughts from the night before and thereby clearing the mind for more ideas and innovative thoughts.

“Psychologists have long understood that personal, emotion-focused writing can help people recognize and come to terms with their feelings.” — Medium article

Research shows that expressive writing, writing about thoughts and feelings, is a type of intervention and can help your physical and mental health. It’s like a reset or detox for the mind. It is a stress relief that enables you to let go of your negative feelings, validate positive feelings, and positively improve your mood and well-being.

I am more focused and prepared for my day after I complete my morning pages. This process helps me deals with the emotional impact of the day in a balanced and calm manner. It really is cleansing and also helps to create focus and attention to the topic at hand. Which brings me to the next journal…

2. Increase your productivity with the SELF JOURNAL

Organizing my day is a great benefit for me as an entrepreneur. I often experience the feeling of going days putting out fires and doing admin work and not really taking care of the top three things that will move my business forward.

The Self Journal is by Best Self and they have incorporated habit-building benefits into the journal itself. Using the common methodology that 13 weeks is the optimal time to build a habit or to achieve a goal, they break the journal down into 13 weeks. You can enter your own date and add your meetings to each day, and they give space for adding your top three things for the day, incorporating areas to record gratitude and lessons learned.

They aim to “fill the gap between goal setting and goal achieving”, each journal is designed to promote healthy, productive habits to attain your goals. I find it incredibly useful in breaking a goal down into actionable steps, a good reminder that everything you achieve is done so step by step.

3. Increase your creativity with THE INNOVATOR’S JOURNAL

Handwriting trains our brain, and forming letters is the key to learning, memory, and IDEAS! The Innovator’s journal is a great place to record those new ideas and innovations.

“Only Three Fingers Write, but the Whole Brain Works” — Frontiers in Psychology

The main thing I really like about The Innovators Journal and why I have now incorporated it into my day — is the different challenges it gives to remind me where I have created barriers to creativity! Barriers that hinder my ability to create new ideas, challenges that ask me to reduce my time on emails, to think about drawing new ideas, to think Elon Musk big, and so on.

I also love the idea of sharing ideas and growing them with my community and network. Just by adding a trigger at the end of each challenge to record who I want to share each challenge with, triggers me to share it with colleagues, clients, and friends. It also encourages me record my ideas in one place. When I record ideas in a million other places or other journals I often can’t find them again. All my ideas and new concepts go into The Innovators Journal so I can find them again!

These are the three journals I stand by and live by. They are the ones that help me achieve emotional and mental balance but also to unleash my own creativity for ideas and innovations!

Happy handwriting!

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