Write One Sentence Every Day...

One Thing Productive People Do Before Reaching for their Phones…

In a recent study reported in TIME magazine, people check their phone on average 110 times a day. Some people checked it as much as 900 times a day; that’s once every minute of every waking hour of the day. Given those extremes, I don’t believe it makes me a Luddite to suggest it may be more productive – and certainly more Essentialist – to reach for a pocket notebook or journal before your phone. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Checking your phone forces you to be reactive than pro-active; it creates pressure to respond to texts and emails when other people want you to, rather than when it’s convenient for you.

Writing in your notebook puts you back in control of your communication; it gives you the chance to craft your reply instead of shooting it off reactively, and respond on your schedule, not someone else’s

2. Checking your phone fills you with that frenetic, compulsive feeling that you might be missing out.

Writing in your notebook has a calming influence.

3. Checking your phone tricks you with the trivial; it fools you into thinking that news and updates from the virtual world are more important than what’s right in from of you in the actual world right now.

Writing in your notebook reminds you of what’s important right now.

4. Checking your phone fills every spare moment with noise.

Writing in your notebook provides you time to think and reflect.

Of course, the benefits of writing in a notebook or journal go beyond the realm of productivity. One of my grandfathers died a few years ago. Upon going through his things, I was struck by what I found, or rather what I didn’t find: not a single journal or notebook or any kind of written record about the life he had lived. Contrast this with my other Grandfather in England who wrote a single line in his journal every couple of days for some fifty years.

What I am saying is that if we want to leave a legacy to those who come after us one powerful way to do it is to write a journal. David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian has said if you want to become the voice of your generation, write a journal entry every day and then gift it to your local university library at the end of your life. Voice of your generation or not, I believe that a journal is one of the most precious gifts you can give to those you leave behind.

If journaling sounds too daunting a task for you, I suggest the following simple way to get started:

Write One Sentence Every Day. If you want to create this new Essentialist habit, use this counter- intuitive yet effective method: write less than you feel like writing. Typically, when people start to keep a journal they write pages the first day. Then by the second day the prospect of writing so much is daunting, and they procrastinate or abandon the exercise. So instead, even if you feel like writing more, force yourself to write no more than one sentence a day. Apply the disciplined pursuit of “less but better” to your journal.

In an article called, “If You Don’t Design Your Career, Someone Else Will” I suggest a step by step process for making sure you are using your life for what really matters. When you have a year’s worth of journal entries to look back on, it will broaden your perspective and greatly enhance your ability to more clearly see the difference between the many things in your life that are mere distractions and the few things that are truly vital. By Greg McKeown