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Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Many people have written to me saying they love all the research on bettering themselves but need that first step on how to shoehorn it in to their day-to-day life.

Incorporating a lot of the blog’s strategies can be as easy as buying a notebook.

(No, it doesn’t need to have glitter on it or say “MY SECRET DIARY” on the front.)

Others might think: “I don’t need to write stuff down. Reading is enough.”


A lot of research shows your brain sees writing differently than thinking or talking.

Writing forces you to organize and clarify your thoughts. You learn better when you write things down and are more likely to follow through.

So what should you be writing in this notebook?

1) Write down what you’re looking forward to

People who devote time to anticipating fun experiences are happier.

So at least once a week, make plans, write them down and when you need a boost, look at the great things you have coming up.

From Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage:

(For more activities that will make you happier, click here.)

2) Write down your progress

Want to know your strengths and weaknesses? Make predictions, write them down and compare against results.

This is an excellent way to see where your natural abilities are and if you’re improving.

From management guru Pete Drucker:

Making notes about your preferences and experiences can help you turn your notebook into a personal handbook.

You’ll know yourself better and be able to make better decisions if you record your feelings and expectations when things happen.

(For more on how to motivate yourself, click here.)

3) Write down your goals

You’re more likely to follow through on things that you write down. Writing down obstacles and how you’ll address them increases levels of hope — and success.

Writing about your goals can make you happier and even healthier:

Everybody knows they should write down goals and everyone has goals but no one does it. Why?

They take it too seriously and they’re afraid. Don’t sweat it. Just jot them down. Goals can change but in the meantime they will help guide decisions when you’re stuck.

(For more on how to stop being lazy and get more done, click here.)

4) Write down your ideas

Many of the great geniuses all kept notebooks. Why? Their ideas rarely, if ever, exploded out as one big EUREKA!

They developed over time and that evolution needed to be recorded and shaped.

Via Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity:

Got an idea? Good one? Mediocre one? Doesn’t matter. Write it down. Many times those mediocre ones become good ones with work.

(For more on how to be successful and happy, click here.)

5) Write down your anxieties

Research shows writing about your worries can calm you and even increase performance:

Projects at work bothering you long after you leave the office? Write down a plan for how to deal with them before you leave.

Research shows talking to someone after a traumatic event doesn’t help. But writing about it does.

Designating a time to worry can actually be a great strategy, funny as it sounds. And write those worries down to put them to rest.

(For more on how to stop worrying, click here.)

6) Write about your relationship

Writing about relationships improves relationships:

(For more on how to get people to like you, click here.)

7) Write down the good things that happen to you

Long time readers have heard me beat the drum on this one a million times. (Which makes me wonder: Have you guys ever actually tried it?)

Professor Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, who developed the technique, refers to it as 3 blessings. It’s been shown again and again to help people improve their outlook.

Seligman explains it in his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Give it a shot. Only takes a minute every night.

(For more secrets of the happiest people, click here.)

8) Write down your story

Reinterpreting your life events into a story, from a new perspective, can not only change how you see your life, but change how you behave going forward.

Timothy Wilson, author of Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, talks about how the process of “story-editing” can help us improve our lives:

Time to get a notebook.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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