How to Journal for Increased Productivity, Meaning and Motivation (#183)

Note: I’m assuming you’ve already heard “journaling is good for you”. And that you’ve somewhat been convinced. Carry on if that’s the case. If not, spend half an hour watching “journaling” videos on YouTube and come back here to add meaningful structure to the habit that’s going to change your life.

I’ve been using some journaling / reflection frameworks recently for increased productivity, meaning and motivation in my life. I want to share those same frameworks so you can get value from them too. Hope this helps!

The daily

Every day I ask myself two questions (one in the morning and the other in the evening) as American polymath Benjamin Franklin would ask himself.

From Franklin’s diary. Source: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The morning question: What good shall I do this day?
Evening question: What good have I done today?

I answer these in my physical notebook journal. You can do what suits you best. Pen and paper is good because it leaves aside all the distractions from your devices. If you can maintain a distance from the ease with which you click “new tab” on your laptop, you could use a digital note-taking system. Just FYI, a pen and paper also feels good.

The weekly

To track and reflect on the week I ask myself three questions (inspired by James Clear this time around)

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go so well?
  3. What did I learn?

I do this too in my physical notebook journal.

The monthly, quarterly and yearly

The same questions we asked for our weekly review can be duplicated into the monthly, the quarterly, and the yearly.

I don’t do monthly reviews. I think they’re too small a scale to really do something of sizeable quantity. They sort of overlap with the weekly ones. I do quarterly and yearly reviews. And I do these on my Notion database for easier access and organization even if I don’t open them for a while.

What I have to do vs. what I want to do

Productivity needn’t be cold. You can add intention to the things you do (and probably save your life) with the help of this framework.

Make a Venn diagram consisting of one circle with all the things you “have to” do. And the other circle will have all the things you “want to” do. The intersection part will be a combination of things you “want to” and “have to” do.

If there’s a lot of things in the “have to” do space and I figure I’m not doing many things I want to be doing, then I know there’s something wrong and I change my path accordingly.

Example diagram

There’s also another (more cold) framework called the Eisenhower Matrix that can be used to figure out perhaps in a simpler way what you need to get done. You essentially lay out things you have to do in terms of important / not important and urgent / not urgent. It’s a cool framework but I don’t use it because it doesn’t take the “want to” aspect into it; hence not making me think with a deeper layer of intentionality about what I’m doing.

I do the Venn diagram in my physical notebook journal. I carry my journal everywhere.


That’s all. These frameworks really help me. Feel free to duplicate them for your own use and make the best of the art of reflection.


  1. subtlyperfect says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. I have been struggling to make journaling a habit, these questions would certainly serve as nice prompts. Thank you, Arjun!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. arjunkhemani says:

      Glad you found it useful!


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