So, we’ve gone over the benefits of journaling. The ones we dove into are only a handful of the many psychological and therapeutic benefits of journaling for men.
All of this great info on the benefits of journaling mean nothing if you don’t know how to properly start and maintain a journal. Luckily, we are here to help!
There are several different ways you can go about keeping up a daily journal. Everybody is different, so you may find certain journaling methods to be more impactful than others.
Personally, my journaling method varies day to day depending on my mood and how much time I have on hand to journal. No matter what, I make sure I take time to journal daily.
Here are some journaling methods for men I’ve done and recommend:
Bad and Good Journaling Method
The Bad and Good Method is one I developed whenever I found myself with a lot of distress from mental health issues. For years, depression had a hold on my life and one of the ways I found helped the most with coping was the Bad and Good Method of journaling (coined by yours truly).
The Bad and Good Method goes like this:
- Use two pages of your journal.
- Date the top of the left page
- On the Left Page, write: Bad
- On the Right Page, write: Good
- When something bad happens, write a bullet briefly describing it under “Bad.”
- When you write something Bad, immediately write something good under “Good.”
- For example:
- Had a headache
- Finished work project late
- Got yelled at by a client
- Drank more water and alleviated headache
- Work project was of superior quality and my best work
- Helped angry client vent his/her frustrations
- Got a haircut
- When something good happens, write a bullet briefly describing it under “Good.”
Do not mirror something bad when you write something good, however.
One of the core principles at play here is taking negative thinking and transforming it into positive thinking. By immediately taking a negative thought such as “got yelled at by an asshole client,” and restructuring it into a positive outcome such as “helped angry client vent their frustrations,” you’re able to start rewiring your mind’s processes and outlook.
You’ll notice it will become easier and easier to do this. After even a week, my Bad column started going from an average of 15 bad items to 2-3 bad items daily. This also came with a dramatic increase of “Good” things I was writing in my “Good” column. As my perspectives shifted, I started noticing my days were more positive and I had a better attitude. Things affected me less and anything that could be perceived as negative was generally brushed off easily. My self-image also dramatically improved as well.
Plan, Update, Finalize Journaling Method
The Plan, Update, Finalize journaling method for men is the one I used the most. I’m sure many people have done this themselves, but I just like to give these things a name. This method is the one I use as a foundation to my entire journaling practice.
You can use this method in conjunction with any other journaling method as well, such as the Bad and Good Method, the As I Go Method (below), and 3×3 Method (below). I personally tend to combine the As I Go Method and 3×3 Method into the Plan, Update, Finalize Method.
View the Plan, Update, Finalize journaling method as a powerful journaling framework you can utilize to stay on track with your journaling practice and remain disciplined.
Basically, you crack open your journal a minimum of three times a day with this method. Morning, lunch, and right before bed.
In the mornings, I start the first step of this method: Plan.
Plan is one of the most important steps. This step is done in the morning before work and before you begin to use your mind creatively. Typically, I will do this after I get back from the gym, shower, and have breakfast.
The Plan step is where you decide what you want to accomplish for the day. What things do you want to do? How do you want the day to go? What ways do you want to be better than you were yesterday? What are your priority tasks?
This is where I include the 3×3 Method. I get back from the gym, write myself a “good morning,” jot down how I’m currently feeling physically and mentally, then I create my 3×3 Priority List (you’ll see what I mean by the Priority List a little later). You can also use the Plan step as a way to get a lot of your thought clutter out and onto paper first thing in the morning, leaving only the things that truly matter for the rest of the day on your mind.
Update is the second step of my Plan, Update, Finalize journaling method for men. I always perform my Update step on my lunch break. I’ll shut down everything for work, and spend the next hour prepping my lunch, eating, and working on this phase of my daily journaling routine.
The premise of Update is to jot down how you’re progressing with what you’ve set in your Plan phase earlier in the morning.
Write down what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve yet to accomplish, and what your holdups are in your Plan. If you haven’t written anything since you wrote your initial morning Plan phase, go ahead and jot down how you’re feeling at this point and what you’ve felt throughout the day. Write down challenges, wins, check off anything you completed on your 3×3 Priority List and any of your Bads and Goods if you’re using that method as well.
Also use Update to restructure your plan if need be and refine what you wish to accomplish and how you will accomplish it by the end of the day.
Finalize is the step I do right before bed. After I’ve finished my nighttime routine, I’ll sit in bed with my lamp on and write in my journal one last time before reading or heading to sleep.
In the Finalize step, you want to take time to reflect on the entire day. Go back through your 3×3 Priority List, Bads and Goods, look at your Plan phase and your Update phase. What went differently than you expected? Where did you fall short? Where did you exceed expectations? How are you feeling now? What do you want tomorrow to look like?
Finalize is great for shutting down all those thoughts that can start consuming our minds as we fall asleep. I tend to fall asleep quicker and sleep more restfully whenever I do my Finalize step. It let’s me tie up any loose ends I may be having from my day and prioritize them into “tomorrow morning’s Plans phase” things.
Also feel free to reflect on your emotions and how you handled them. Anything goes, just be honest with yourself.
3×3 Journaling Method
The 3×3 Method is one I created for myself to help me get moving along with my various goals and desires. Consistently, I found myself overwhelmed with everything I wanted to accomplish, leading me to analysis paralysis. Which resulted in me taking absolutely zero action on my goals.
With the 3×3 Method, I’ve been able to really focus on what things matter most in my day-to-day. This has also been a great way for me to consistently accomplish no-zero days. It’s helped me stay disciplined and focused.
In this method, we break down our life into three categories with three subitems per category. The subitems consist of tasks we wish to accomplish that day, no matter what. As long as we accomplish these three tasks, we’ve had a successful day in that category. I call these subitems Priority Lists.
To explain this further, let’s start with breaking down the three categories.
Category 1: Professional/Work
Category 1 encompasses the Professional/Work aspect of your life. All of the subitems under this category relate solely to your fulltime job.
Pick three tasks you absolutely must get done that day to be able to say you had a productive, successful day at work. Have a client who you need to call or follow up with? Write it down. Need to get a report to your boss that day? Write it down. Late on some high priority deliverables? Write it down.
The one rule to follow here is to limit your subitems to three. Do not go over three, do not go under three. We want these to be high-priority tasks that can definitely be accomplished during the day, that way you can near guarantee you complete them.
From right when you start work, you should aggressively work toward accomplishing these three tasks you have in your first category. Give them your all.
After you’ve absolutely demolished the three priority tasks you have listed, you can continue to work and knock out other duties you have for your job, but you’ll be able to do so knowing you’ve put in a good day’s work already. This doesn’t mean you should just stop working for the day and slack off. You still need to work for your paycheck.
Category 2: Home
Category 2 of the 3×3 Method is Home. The Home category encompasses anything relating to the care or upkeep of your home. Cleaning, organizing, meal prepping, laundry, etc.
We all have things we keep saying we’ll “get around to.” When you pick three priority things per day to do for your home, you’re able to keep yourself consistently working on improving your home and its livability.
A lot of my Home tasks involve things like dishes, laundry, and unpacking (still unpacking from my last move). I make sure to include things in Home’s Priority List that have a direct impact on the smell, vibe, and cleanliness of my home; these are the things that I know have an effect on my mood and I want to keep them in tip-top shape. My 3×3 Method with my journal helps me do that.
Again, only pick three priority tasks for home. No more, no less.
Category 3: Personal
The final category in the 3×3 Journaling Method is Personal. This category houses all of your personal goals and aspirations – anything outside of your Professional/Work duties and your Home duties.
Use the Personal category to fit in those things you always keep telling yourself you’re gonna do, but never actually end up doing. Things like meditation, exercise, hobbies, etc.
My Personal category’s Priority List usually includes a revolving list, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Writing for The Gentleman’s Playbook
- Learning Piano
- Exercise (no longer goes on my Priority List as this is now an engrained daily habit I do)
- Dungeons & Dragons
- YouTube Video Creation
The idea here is simple for me – include things you want to turn into habit in the Personal category. Whether it’s building a side hustle or learning an instrument, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s something you do for yourself and yourself only.
Many years, I’ve dreamed of learning the piano, but I’ve never done anything to get closer to that goal. I’d practice maybe one day every couple of months and then just keep delaying my next practice.
With the Personal category in the 3×3 Method, I make my Priority Tasks things I want to develop into permanent engrained habits. For example, Exercise used to be one of my daily Priority Tasks until eventually it became second nature. At that point, I started replacing Exercise with Practice Piano. Once practicing piano has become an engrained habit, I’ll be replacing that with YouTube Video Creation.
Also, try to make at least one of your Personal tasks something purely leisure. Some ideas are reading fiction, playing (in limited doses) a video game, listening to some music, or binging some concert videos for a little bit. Just something that doesn’t have a “productive” outcome and is truly leisurely.
As I Go Journaling Method
Lastly, another journaling method for men that is noteworthy is the “As I Go” method. With this method, you basically journal as you go through your day. Seriously, it’s that simple.
Get hyped about something? Jot it down real fast. Have an idea? Boom. Journal it. Getting irritated that your coffee machine won’t work suddenly, vent your frustrations in your journal. Basically just write down anything significant as it happens.
I use this method in conjunction with almost all of the other methods I’ve listed.
While there seems to be a lot of different methods, I would recommend beginning your journaling practice by focusing on the one that resonates with you the most.
Perhaps you even came up with your own while reading about our methods for journaling for men. If you did, let us know! We would love to share your method, as it could help other men like yourself reap the benefits of daily journaling.