How can your journal help you cross off to-do list items?

by Sara Marchessault

Do you ever have days where the to-do list is long, the time seems short, you are running around trying to get things done, and you just don’t feel like you’ve gotten anything accomplished?

Maybe the things on your list are sort of piddly. Laundry. Stopping by the grocery store to get cayenne pepper for a special recipe. Driving the kids from school to piano. And in the midst of all this you realize that you haven’t been to the gym, you haven’t worked on the book you started last summer, and you have a list of tasks to complete for your volunteer work that you know now you won’t be able to start until after the kids go to bed. Journaling for Focus

What the hell have you been doing with your day?

In the morning the dishes seemed more important during the fifteen extra minutes you had than writing. And once the dishes were done, that basket of laundry looked pretty tempting.

One thing leads to another and before you know it, you’re ten minutes late taking the kids to school because you decided to clean out the fridge with the six minutes you had left.

Just for the record, cleaning the fridge rarely takes only six minutes.

Before you know it, you’re best part of the day is gone. You have worn yourself out with the tidying up, running of errands, and taking care of transportation, and there is no energy left to work on the things that really matter to you.

Or if you work on them, you aren’t able to do your best work.

This is a problem.

There are tons of time management theories, prioritization strategies, and planning tools on the market for your disposal. They all have something to offer. Little gems and nuggets to learn from, apply to your life, and see if you can change some of your habits.

In my personal experience, learning an entire new philosophy or system for increasing your productivity can be just as time-consuming as trying to get your stuff done. There is one tool that has worked for me when nothing else has.

This one thing does not require that you have a huge lengthy plan. It does not require a slew of fancy office supplies or software for your computer. Those things are optional.

Nope, the technique is good old-fashioned journal writing. What I love about journal writing with the intention of gaining focus to stay on task is that you can start your day feeling overwhelmed with all you “have to do” and when you spend just five minutes with your journal to sort through all that, you get to a place where you can sigh with relief.

Writing in your journal for five minutes in the morning will help you to center your energy for the day. Connect with your goals, your higher purpose, or that which is most important to you. When you connect with that thing in your journal, and determine what small steps you can take in this one day to help reach your goals, you are more likely to do it. You are also more likely to get it done early in the day.

And how does it feel when you accomplish the most important thing you have to do early in the day? When you give yourself permission to focus on your purpose or the work of your heart and soul?

When that one thing is checked off, the rest of the day opens up to allow room for all the other stuff. Putting away the dishes feels less stressful and easy, because you’re not thinking about you “should” be doing.

And you are more calm, relaxed, and even able to sort out the tasks that really “have to be done” from those that can wait until you are sleepy or need a break. Laundry does not require all of your brain power.

Planning the construction of a new playground does. Or deciding on the learning outcomes for a new class. Or any other big project that requires many small steps and coordination of time and resources.

What would happen if you started today with five minutes in your journal and the intention to live your day from a place of productive peace?

Like this article? Please feel free to use it on your own blog or newsletter. I simply ask that you please include this blurb:Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, teacher, and mom who helps busy women use journaling to create more space in their life for being productive without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit or

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