Journaling. It’s being touted as the next best thing in personal development and all the cool kids are doing it. Are you doing it right? Should you be doing it if you’re not? Here’s why we’re tripping over our pens and making a mess of it…

JOURNALING. Honestly, if I hear one more ‘coach’ harping on about the power of scribing our innermost thoughts and feelings, I’ll stab someone with a biro.

You’d think someone had just come up with the cure for all ills. Journaling is NOT a new concept, people. It’s as old as the hills (well, as old as notebooks and pens, at least). The only thing new here is that a few savvy marketers have injected a bit of spin and rebranded their boring old notebooks by embossing the word ‘journal’ on the covers — plus a selection of positive quotes and zen sayings, just to capture the market.

I’m not anti journalling. In fact, I’m quite an advocate. What’s yanking my chain is that the personal development brigade are creating a scenario where we’re talking it up so much that people are missing out because they’re scared of getting it wrong.

Let’s Not Stuff It Up

It’s a bit like the way in which we stuffed up the whole ‘why’ concept by turning it into a status symbol. Those who wanted to be seen as one of the in kids, or a luminary in their own lunchtime, were banding ‘why’ around in much the same way that yuppies posed with their Filofaxes in the 80s.

“What’s your why? You do know your why, right? Of course you do — anyone worth knowing does. My why is soooo amazing, darling. Let me tell you about it…”

Honestly, the amount of people who’ve come to me for coaching, having lied about having a ‘why’ for years and ending up feeling totally stuck, is mindblowing. Nobody was feeling ‘less than’ for not knowing their ultimate purpose before Simon Sinek wrote that book, were they?

It’s the same with journaling.

In the past week alone, I’ve had two people come to me, heads down, virtual tails between their legs, saying they know they ‘should’ be journaling, but they don’t know where to start, they don’t know what to write and they’re afraid of getting it wrong.

‘Should’. Should should be banned!

I’ve had people thinking journaling is the same as keeping a diary, that they’re supposed to name and shame all the people who upset them or push their buttons and they’re afraid of the journal being found, that they want to journal, but they’re dyslexic so would be too ashamed to show it to people — pretty much every fear-based block you can think of.

It doesn’t matter what your pals are doing, what that coach on YouTube says or what it said on the back of that book in Waterstones.

Journaling is NOT about Jonesing. It doesn’t matter what your pals are doing, what that coach on YouTube says or what it said on the back of that book in Waterstones. It’s about helping you to sort out your shit — or, at least, clear away some of those brain cobwebs — in whatever way suits you best.

What’s the right way to journal?

The right way to journal? There is no right or wrong — you can do this however you choose.

Let’s clear up some of the myths and give you a few tips to get you started.

You ready?

  • Journaling is having one notebook that’s just for you to empty your head into.
  • Nobody else will EVER see it (unless you choose to share it).
  • It doesn’t need to be diary form, though it can be if that suits you.
  • It can include daily gratitudes — anything you can find in life that you appreciate, from the smell of freshly baked bread to the sun rising — this is one of those habits that helps our mindset to shift into a more positive gear.
  • You might want to include small wins — things you’ve achieved, lovely words others have said to you/about you, good deeds you’ve done. It’s good to include a bit of YOU, whether that’s patting yourself on the back for helping an old lady pack her shopping, delivering your introduction at a networking event without stuttering, getting the kids to school on time or going for a walk around the block — the *what* doesn’t really matter, it’s more about recording the feelgood vibe or giving yourself credit.
  • It doesn’t actually need to be words. It can be anything you need to empty out of your head, into a safe space. It can be doodles, art, shapes, word clouds, scribbles, random thoughts, anything at all.
  • You don’t need to think about what you’re going to put onto the page — just let it come. That’s kind of the point.
  • Of course, you can use your smartphone or tablet — there are plenty of apps for this. I’m a bit old-fashioned about this, though. For me, there’s something about the physical act of putting pen to paper that helps thoughts (or emotions or pictures or anything you like) to flow more easily.

Brain Dumping

Here’s what works for me: don’t think of it as ‘journaling’ at all — think of it as ‘brain dumping’.

Next to my bed sits a note book with a large sticker on the front, marked ‘TAZ’S BRAIN DUMP JOURNAL’ (journal still snook in there when I wasn’t looking!). There’s a pen next to it. It lives in that place and doesn’t move.

The rules are simple:

  1. If I wake up feeling overloaded or less than happy, I pick up the notebook and pen, touch the nib to the page and just let whatever needs to be emptied from my head flow out through the ink. I don’t think about it. I don’t edit. I don’t even read it back most of the time. I just keep the pen moving until it naturally stops. That’s it. Allow the pen to empty your stressy stuff into the book until nothing else needs to come.
  2. Do NOT use the book for anything else. It’s not for planning your week. It’s not for shopping lists, phone numbers, ideas for social media posts, business plans or reminders about school sports days or parents’ evenings. The Brain Dump Journal is a place to dump your overload and forget about. That’s it. It’s not a handy place for your ‘to do’ list or carry to Sainsbury’s!
  3. There are no more rules.

Make sense?

Journaling is not rocket science. There is no right and no wrong, so you cannot trip up. Keep it in a safe place, just for you, and stop overthinking things. Just let that pen flow and relax.

Hope it helps.

Until next time,




Taz Thornton is the author of Awesome Sauce — a free, weekly positive life and business round-up, with good news stories, positivity tips and visibility hacks for your brand. In a few minutes each week, you get a dose of optimism and some awesome advice to get seen and stay happy.

Taz is also a best-selling author, inspirational business speaker and consultant on confidence, personal brand and visibility, award-winning coach (UK’s Best Female Coach 2018 — Best Business Woman Awards), consultant and creator of the #UnleashYourAwesome and #BrandMastery personal and business development programmes, as well as #UNLEASHED — an affordable confidence, content and cashflow building programme for coaches, healers and therapists.

She has been featured on BBC, ITV, in HuffPost, Diva and countless other newspapers, magazines and podcasts. Taz is also a regular columnist for the America Out Loud talkshow network.

Find her on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and Insta.