How the Act of Writing Can Help You Discern Your Thoughts

Anyone who spends a short period of time with me knows that I write a lot of things down. At work, I am known to have a pen and notebook in-hand and at my leisure, I keep multiple notebooks. 

Some research shows that we have an average of 50,000 thoughts a day. The constant thoughts we have can be overwhelming. Imagine the energy that our brain uses to sort through each thought and process them, not to mention the ideas that other people give that may further clutter our minds. It is no wonder that making decisions can be so challenging for some people.

To help make decisions, here are three types of books I carry to jot down my thoughts. You may find these types of books helpful or you may create your own type of book. Either way, writing things down will likely help you to find comfort and strength, change small habits, unload your thoughts, and make better decisions.

To help you make decisions, I find writing helps us to:

  • Stay focused

  • Track themes

  • Learn and grow

  • Clear our minds

  • Gain awareness

  • Achieve our goals

  • Evaluate the content

  • Remember key insights

My practice is to use a notebook for all of my meetings. This helps me to stay organized and assess my thoughts. For example, the key things that I write down at meetings are:

  • Date

  • Attendee names

  • Purpose or theme

  • Keywords or bullet points that are salient

  • Questions that I need to ask before the meeting ends

  • My follow-up actions

I keep a separate notebook for professional development events. To this day, I still refer back to my notes that I have kept over my career as it allows me to revisit some of the insights I gleaned from each workshop or conference I attended. 

At a personal level, I always carry one particular notebook with me that I call my 'Book of Nothings.' I came up with this idea while I was in elementary school. The pages of my ‘Book of Nothings’ are not lined and I tend to write random thoughts. It can be a quote or an 'ah-ha' moment during a conversation. There are no rules in my 'Book of Nothings'. Writing in this book is a fast way for me to reflect on life, be creative and capture anything that inspires me throughout the day in one place.

Also, I have another notebook where I spill my guts on the page with no filter to dissect my thoughts and get to the heart of the matter. I write down:

  • What is bothering me

  • What are my successes

  • What is my inner critic saying

  • How I felt about an experience

  • What are my current challenges

  • How I can overcome my challenges

  • My interactions with others and how I feel about them

  • Actions that I can take to move towards my goals and be positive

Writing helps to discern your thoughts in two main ways:

  1. To unload your thoughts, let go, and move on. Sometimes there is no value in rehashing a topic that I needed to get off my chest. I'll rip out the page and shred it.

  2. To help evaluate your thoughts, make decisions, and take action. The contents of the books can be kept as a reminder to continue your momentum towards achieving your goals.

ACTION: With the end of the year coming to a close and the new year fast approaching this is a great time to write down what you want to achieve. Make these bite-sized goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.