14 Journaling Strategies

Here are 14 journaling strategies to help lead you to a huge increase in happiness and fulfillment!
person journaling in a field

The 14 Journaling Strategies of Highly Impactful Leaders

Why Journal?

The benefits of journaling are countless. People who journal every day experience better mental health, heightened productivity, lower stress, increased clarity and a greater sense of peace. Strategic journaling leads to substantial happiness and fulfillment – a frame of mind that is worth striving for daily!

As an Executive and Leadership Coach who has worked exclusively with entrepreneurs and professionals for well over a decade, I have used the process of journaling from the very beginning in order to help my clients realize personal and professional transformation and achieve dramatic improvement in their relationships, their career, their health, and their overall well being. I have outlined 14 of the best journaling strategies below to make your journaling efforts more effective.

Keep in mind, however, that journaling has no boundaries, no requirements and no rules.

This is just a guideline to help point you in the right direction!


Kim Ades, President and Founder, Frame of Mind Coaching™

Journaling Strategy #1

Dump, Dump, and then Dump the Dump

Maybe you’ve just gotten into a fight with someone important. Maybe something bad has happened at work. Or maybe you’re just stressed out over a bunch of things. Something is going on in your life and you’re feeling it on an emotional level.

This journaling assignment invites you to write about the event, what happened and how you feel about it

Dump #1– Express all of your thoughts and opinions.

Dump #2– When you think you’re done, keep going.

Get it all out of your system and write even the stuff that you would never, ever share with another soul. Then, when you are completely done, write the following words: “It’s time to turn myself around” and start to think about releasing yourself from the bad, rotten, frustrated, feelings you are having. (Dumping the Dump).

To redirect yourself ask, “What do I want to do about this problem?” or “How do I want to view the world differently from this point forward?” Once you generate some answers to these questions, you’ll feel much clearer, more powerful and more at peace.

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

We ALL have so many incredible things we want to do with our lives. We seek to improve our businesses, our health, and our relationships with loved ones and with ourselves. The bottle neck is that we carry a whole host of narratives that do not fit or equate with the lives we would LOVE to lead.

Use your journal to just unload, to dump it out and to write it down: “Here’s what’s going on, here’s why it creates this type of emotion, this is why I’m stressed or overwhelmed,” etc. Write down what’s happening. Then when you think you’re done, keep going. Keep dumping. Keep writing about it to make sure that it’s all out of your system.

And then when you’re completely done, unload it. Unload all your frustration, your anger, your fear, your anxiety, your pissed off-ness, whatever it is. When you’re done unloading, write the following line:  “It’s time to turn myself around.”

At that point, you want to stop dumping. You want to dump the dump. In other words: “I’m done dumping. I’m finished with that, and I’m ready to head in a new direction.”

To head in a new direction, we can start answering questions like, “What do I want to do about it? How do I want to view the world from this point forward? How can I move forward from here? What would I rather have?”

So that’s the moment that you turn yourself around. You begin your journal unloading and you end your journal refocused.

Journal Speak and Nicole Sachs

Nicole Sachs is one of the world’s foremost experts on the power of journaling and how it can be used to treat chronic pain. In episode 115 of Resilience Radio, she describes her experience in treating her own chronic pain through Journaling.

Her strategy? Dump, dump, and then dump the dump.

Nicole: Yeah. What I say often to my patients and when I speak all over the world is, if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? And my answer is, yes, it makes a sound. It thunders down every time, whether you’re listening or not.

So if you have these feelings inside you and you don’t have a vehicle to bring them to light, it’s going to make a sound in your migraines or in your back pain or in your irritable bowel or in your skin disorder. Whatever chronic pain you suffer with, if you’ll just listen to it, there’s no need for it to make that sound anymore all over your body.

So when I was doing my JournalSpeak, I said a lot of really ugly things. And then after I finished hating my kids, I started with I hate my parents. Now, this is all probably within 15 minutes. I hate my parents, they gave me such a difficult time when I was a kid, so of course I’m trying to heal my wounds with these kids, and then it morphed to I hate myself. Why was I such a naïve fool that I thought having babies was going to be this easy?

As soon as I was done with all that temper tantrum and screaming ugly, dark stuff, I felt my heart just spill out wide open and I realized I don’t hate my kids and I don’t hate my parents and I certainly don’t hate myself. I found compassion for everyone just by acceptance of what is. And that’s when I began to transform.

Journaling Strategy #2

Ask, “Why Not?”

What’s stopping you from achieving a particular goal or living the life you desire? Write down every single reason why you believe that you cannot have what you want. It could be that you don’t think you have enough time, money, energy, experience etc.

Then…write a challenge for every item on your list.

Look at each individual item and ask yourself, “Is that true?” For example, do you really not have the resources necessary to get what you want, or are you simply expending too much time, money and energy on other things? Asking yourself questions like this allows you to identify your limiting beliefs and build the muscle necessary to overcome them.

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

Whatever it is that you want to achieve or have, ask yourself, “why not?”. What is stopping you from achieving this goal? Why don’t you have the life of your dreams? What’s really getting in the way?  Write a list of the reasons why not.

What you’ll find is that underneath the ‘why nots’ are your beliefs, and those beliefs are fundamentally what you need to address.

Let’s say your why not is “I have no time”. Ask yourself, is that true? Can I really not find the time? Challenge your ‘why nots’.

Asking the question “why not?” is the starting point to really doing some personal work in identifying and addressing the beliefs that are standing in the way of massive success, peace or whatever it is that you’re looking for.

Journaling Strategy #3

Blue Sky Journaling

Allow yourself to daydream.

If anything were possible, what would you want your life to look like? Dream big and stretch the boundaries that you tend to place on yourself, or eliminate them altogether if possible. Create the wildest, most crazy vision that you possibility can.

When you take the time to visualize yourself in that big, wild, expansive place, you experience a massive mood shift and begin to believe it’s possible to get there. Your dream becomes something that you can actually contemplate instead of being something that is unattainable and/or designed for someone else more capable or deserving.

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

When you allow yourself to visualize that place, you experience a massive mood shift, because you’re literally putting yourself in a new state for longer than 20 seconds. And what happens is that your energy shifts and that possibility doesn’t feel so random anymore.  It doesn’t feel so far away.

And when you do that consistently, it becomes something that you actually contemplate instead of something that’s just up in the clouds.

We often find ourselves living with limiting beliefs about our abilities and visions. This is one of the exercises we explore in our coaching program. We ask clients to visualize an ideal vision. Many stop very short on what they find exciting. Use this strategy to REALLY REALLY explore your wildest dreams.

Journaling Strategy #4

List Journaling

Write down lists of things you want to do, people you want to network with, places you want to visit, characteristics you’d like in a partner, etc.

If you find yourself crunched for time, you can even make a list of things you would like to journal about later on. This is a GREAT way to capture your thoughts and ideas in the moment, and you can refer back to these lists later to help guide you.

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

One of the BIG STRUGGLES we find that leaders face is that they have so many ideas about how to proceed in a bunch of areas. They move at lightning speed from one idea to the next, and many miss some crucial steps in a strategy that may be otherwise super successful.

One strategy we love at Frame of Mind Coaching™ is creating a list. It will help you capture your thoughts on a very particular subject and what you need to be successful with it. When all of your thoughts about anything are up in the air, it becomes difficult to move in a way that is truly aligned with what you really really want.

Journaling Strategy #5

Gratitude Journaling

There was a time in my life when I was single and feeling down about the whole dating scene. I worked with someone who suggested that I write down a list of 10 things that I was grateful for 10 times a day for a week. That’s 100 things, per day. I thought that was mildly excessive, but I did it anyway.

This exercise changed my fundamental DNA. All of a sudden, I was only focusing on what was good and right in my world. I didn’t have any room left for what was getting me down − I flooded my system with gratitude. As a result, dating (and life) became fun again and led me to a blind date with…my husband!

So, what are you grateful for? Write what you’re grateful for each day, or write every single awesome thing that comes to mind right now.

If you’re stumped, consider this − do you have a place to sleep, clothes to wear and food to eat? Write it down!

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

To really understand how we approach gratitude in the Frame of Mind Coaching™ model, it is essential to understand how big a role journaling plays.

Here is a small snippet from the audio below entitled “Gratitude Journaling”.

Kim: After my divorce and before I met my current husband, I was dating a lot and it sucked. I had lots of hopes and just as many disappointments. Then, a man I was working with said “10 times a day, I want you to write a list of at least 10 things that you’re grateful for.”

I initially thought he was crazy, but I did that for a whole week. Focusing on what was good and right in my world changed my fundamental DNA. I almost didn’t have time for the other stuff. I flooded my system with gratitude. When you live life feeling grateful, you’re taking care of the essence of your mood.

Using journaling is an essential component to being able to focus on what is good and right in your world. It will change who you are and how you approach work and personal relationships and even how you see yourself.

It is one thing to simply write a few lines of items we’re grateful for. We want your life to be ABUNDANT with gratitude and love. Take time with this one and dig deep.

Journaling Strategy #6

Pivot Journaling

Pivot journaling is also called “contrast journaling.” Whenever you experience a situation you dislike − a bad sales call, a bad date, a bad interaction − leverage the contrast. Instead of thinking “my life sucks,” journal about what you would rather have.

So that situation went south − what do you want now?

Let this negative experience increase your clarity about what you do want and then brainstorm and pivot in that direction.

For example, my first husband didn’t connect very well with my parents and siblings. When our marriage ended, I decided that having a good relationship with my family would be an important trait in my next partner. By focusing on this and journaling about it, I was able to find my current husband − a man who gets along super well with my family!

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

Whenever you have an experience that you don’t particularly enjoy, like having a sales call that went terribly, a date that went horribly wrong or a business partnership that erupted, leverage the contrast.

Instead of saying, “Man, my life sucks. Look what keeps happening to me,” say, “Okay, that happened. I really didn’t love that. What would I rather have?”

You’re leveraging a negative experience and you’re using it to increase your clarity about what you don’t want. But you don’t want to stay there − the minute you’re clear about what you don’t want, your clarity about what you do want increases. That’s when you pivot.

We’re building the muscle of turning ourselves around. With all of these exercises, we’re building a strong core. It’s like having strong abs so that when you get punched, you don’t crumble to the ground in agony. You can take it.  

Having a strong core allows you to turn in the right direction quickly. That’s what we’re building: a strong mental core.

Alyssa Clark and Pivoting

Alyssa Clark is Director of Recruiting and Talent of Eyemart Express. At only 27 years old, she is a C-Suite Human Resources Executive. But it was not always so easy for her, as she is a survivor of parents who were addicts.

Her strategy? Pivoting.

At a very young age, Alyssa was able to figure out what she would rather have and pivot towards the thing that she really really wanted. Not to mention that this ability to pivot is leading Alyssa to an incredible career!

Journaling Strategy #7

Problem/Solution Journaling

I learned this technique while doing my MBA. We were given case studies and we were asked to define the core problem that the case presented. This was challenging and we would often misdiagnose the issue.  With time and training, we learned to hone in on what was actually the problem – allowing us to offer relevant and impactful solutions.

You see, we often believe that our problems come from external circumstances or other people, but they do not!

Our problems really come from how we are thinking about the situation.

Outline a problem you’re experiencing and why it’s a problem. You may need to go through several iterations of asking yourself why it’s a problem before you can identify the core issue. (Hint: the problem usually starts with “I” as in “I feel terrible about this situation because I believe things need to be different from how they currently are.”)

Then, write down all of the potential solutions to this problem. When we look at all these solutions, we can decide which one feels the best and which one is aligned with our values.

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

As leaders, executives and entrepreneurs it is vitally important to spend time building on solution focused journaling. Journaling can often be seen as a tool that is not necessarily actionable. This strategy is absolutely crucial to understanding your patterns as leaders so that you can move forward and build your business.

“I learned this approach when I did my MBA. They would give us case studies and they’d ask us to define the problem. It was a challenge and sometimes, we’d misdiagnose. So they key here is to hone in on what the problem actually is”.– Kim Ades

Journaling Strategy #8

Developing a Plan Journaling

Do you have a great idea?

Journal about it! What’s the idea? What are the steps involved in bringing the idea to fruition? What do you need to do? Who do you need to talk to? What are the action items? This could be in regards to anything − a business project, a party theme, a move to a new city, a weight loss regimen, etc. This kind of journaling invites you to write out your plan in regards to a goal.

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

This journal strategy invites us to further be actionable and plan.  This journaling strategy invites you to write out a plan to get it done. While we love chance and risk at Frame of Mind Coaching™, we love this strategy as it can take our wildest dreams and make them actionable. It works really really well with list journaling, as you develop a plan that you need to create the world you want, and then build a list for each of those plan items… it is incredibly powerful.

Journaling Strategy #9

Brainstorm Journaling

“Brainstorm journaling” is about listing all of the possibilities for any subject. What are all the ways you could launch a business? What are all the different business ideas that you have? What are all the places you’d like to visit and why is each of them appealing? You get the idea.

This is essentially a brain dump that answers a specific question.

For example, if my son wanted to open a board game café, it would serve snacks, coffee, craft beer and wine, and would be filled with board games. Right now, he’s in the brainstorming stage. Some questions he could brainstorm would be, “What are all the snacks that this target market would enjoy?” or “What are all the different ways I could market this idea?” This would allow him to think about his business model in a way that is tangible, while opening up his range of options.

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

Those of us who are familiar with the creative process know that sometimes we have a tendency to shoot out of the gate with what we think is our best idea. It’s the only one we’ve had so far, and we fall in love with it too quickly. This form of journaling is sort of stopping yourself from falling in love with that one specific option, and instead falling in love with the process of getting all the options out.  

It’s not only about not falling in love with one thing, but it’s also about really expanding your options.

It’s about opening possibilities. So if we brainstorm decorating this space, it could be really hip and cool, grungy, Western, like a warehouse… there are many, many different options. And with those ideas come other options. So it allows you to think of things in a way that’s tangible and yet increases your options.

Journaling Strategy #10


I also call this concept Ideal Conversations.

Pick someone, anyone, from your past, present or future. They can be dead or alive, they can be someone famous − just pick someone and script out an ideal conversation with them.  Imagine the location, the time, and the context.  What do you want to say?  What would you like them to say in your ideal world?

Reread your script – is it really ideal?  Or do you show up playing small?

Taking the time to really stretch your mind to an ideal place is a powerful exercise that builds critical imagination muscle.

Nothing can happen if you cannot imagine it first.

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

This strategy seems super simple, but it is actually incredibly difficult for leaders to have an ideal conversation. When we ask our clients to journal in this way, some might say their ideal conversation with a company executive is to simply get a job at a company where they can be happy.

When we say ideal, we mean ideal.

An ideal conversation for me might look like getting a call from Oprah saying, “I’ve heard about your work and I think it’s incredible. I’m so impressed with your coaching approach and the fact that you use journaling with what you do. I’m really into journaling and I’d love to see if we can collaborate. I have this incredible idea and I know how this idea could reach millions of people.”

It’s time to think big.

Journaling Strategy #11

Capturing Important Moments

Did something important or AMAZING just happen? Perhaps you were offered a fantastic position at a great company. Maybe your fiancé proposed. Or maybe your daughter just won a prestigious award.

Write it down!

Capture these crucial moments, because you’re going to want to reread and relive these moments one day. Trust me.

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

As leaders we are constantly clouded by stress. Be it in our personal or our professional lives, we often find ourselves in the muck. This journal strategy is a chance to take a moment and really think about all of the amazing things that happen in your day. Capturing the important moments is a critical part of focusing in the amazing things that happen in your day to get yourself out of the muck. Remember…what you focus on grows.

Journaling Strategy #12

Letter Writing

Pick important people in your life and write a letter to them saying what they mean to you, why they’re important, why you value them and what you love about them. Imagine that you’re on your deathbed and you’re leaving behind your deepest, most intimate and kindest thoughts for this person. This may be a little morose, but it helps to envision the assignment. Don’t hold anything back!

This exercise will immediately make you feel great, and even if you never share this letter with them, writing it actually increases your intimacy with them. It turns your attention to all the amazing characteristics of the key people in your life and leaves you with a wonderful sense of gratitude and appreciation.

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

Think about the most important people in your life. You could break it down by your personal life, work life or even be wild and consider famous influencers and celebrities who have impacted you in a large way!

Write down all of the things that these people mean to you. Characteristics, experiences that you may have had with them or heard about from them and be deep. What is it that the experience was, what was it that you learned from the experience and how or why did it impact you in such a huge way?

Journaling Strategy #13

Ask, “What is My Priority Right Now?”

Sometimes we lose our way.

We get distracted.

We get pulled away from our goals, our desires and the things that are the most important to us. We fall off the wagon. Answering this question helps us get back on track.

It redirects our focus to what is most essential to us.

You can ask yourself this question in terms of your physical health, emotional health, relationships, business goals, etc., and with any given timeline. For example, you could ask yourself, “What do I want to do in terms of exercise today? What exercises would I like to do every day? How fit would I like to be in a year from now?” This journaling activity recalibrates us.

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

For Frame of Mind Coaching™ we understand that it may seem that different people have different priorities. But the truth is, our number one priority is the same, no matter who you are or where you are from.

We all prioritize happiness.

Take a second, or better yet 10 minutes with this strategy to take a step back and think, “What truly makes me happy”?

Jot it down.

And then consider the steps you need to take to start fulfilling these goals. You will be surprised at what you can achieve through this strategy by itself.

Journaling Strategy #14

Evaluating Options

Let’s say you have three potential job opportunities. Evaluate them! What is the appeal of each one of them? What is the downfall of each one of them?

A crucial component to evaluating options is to have criteria against which to measure them, because pros and cons don’t automatically provide guidance.

The criteria I use is called HEAL –

Is it Healthy?

Is it Engaging?

Is it Aligned with my values?

Will it Lead me to achieving my goal(s)?

If your response is not a resounding YES to each of these questions, then something needs to change for it to be a viable option.

How Can I Apply This Strategy?

We at Frame of Mind Coaching™ are passionate about being able to help you get to a place where you can make a choice that leads you to your ultimate goal…happiness. Here are some sample questions that you can use to begin to apply this strategy to those BIG life decisions.

Sample questions:

Should I take on this new job position?

Is it Healthy?

Is it Engaging?

Is it Aligned with my values?

Will it Lead me to achieving my goal(s)?

Should I take this relationship to the next level?

Is it Healthy?

Is it Engaging?

Is it Aligned with my values?

Will it Lead me to achieving my goal(s)?

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