Updated: Jul 24, 2021
Using simple journaling prompts to trigger information about the work lives of employees across seven companies, psychologists Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer successfully established a direct link between “inner work life” (emotions, thoughts, motivation) and work performance: creativity, problem solving, interpersonal relationships, perceptions about workplace and coworkers and engagement.
Their conclusion is quite simple: “People do better work when they are happy, have positive views of their organization and its people, and are motivated primarily by the work itself.”
What’s most interesting is that their pioneering study The Progress Principle is based on data retrieved from over 12,000 employee journaling entries, making it one of the most comprehensive studies in the last decade.
Creativity in the workplace is crucial, be it in our project teams, interpersonal relationships or level of engagement. The fact of the matter is that we are more creative when we feel good than when we feel bad. So if we want to be more creative - that is finding new ways to solve old problems – we need to clear the mental clutter from our headspace. Journaling prompts can help us be more creative.
Consistent journaling is one of the most effective ways to clear the nagging thoughts that crowd our heads. These thoughts are the ones telling us in one way or another that we aren’t good enough, that we just don’t measure up. Rather than muzzling those thoughts as we would a barking dog, we’re better off acknowledging them.
We do this through stream-of-consciousness journaling, a process through which we just start writing whatever’s at the top of our head. Here’s how:
1. Write long hand.
The act of writing triggers brain processes that calm the mind and body. In addition It is a moment of mindfulness, giving you space to focus on what’s important. Handwriting, especially cursive, “Like doodling puts the mind at ease and sparks creativity,” asserts neuroscientist Dr. Claudia Aguirre.
2. Write without stopping.
In this process we are not concerned with correct grammar or a catchy writing style. We do not stop to criticize, analyze or philosophize on what’s in our heads. We are writing to give all our thoughts equal due, even the ones we tend to judge as bad or negative.
3. Write without judgement.
There is no right or wrong way to journal. Any thought or feeling that comes up in your head has the right to appear in your right to appear journal. Your thoughts do not define you so you don’t have to beat yourself up for thinking “negative” thoughts. Just write them down and move on.
4. Write for 15 minutes.
This is probably the most difficult part of stream-of-consciousness journaling because most of us aren’t used writing for 15 minutes straight. Creating a new habit requires us to move out of our comfort zone.
For the first 7 minutes we’re going to write out all the ugly thoughts cluttering our headspace and blocking our creativity. When the timer goes off, we’ll spend the remaining 8 minutes focusing on the realizations that resulted from the first seven minutes.
After journaling consistently for a while, we’ll find we won’t need to separate our time. We will feel a shift from the dense, heavy thoughts that cause us to feel anger, anxiety and depression. We will feel lighter, more uplifting thoughts that come as insights and realizations.
5. Write these journaling prompts.
At the top of your paper write
“I’m doing this for the first time” ….
or “I don’t know what to write”…..
or “I feel a little anxiety coming up” …….
or include all three…….
If we follow this process this every day, preferably in the morning, for a few weeks we'll start noticing results in creativity especially in the different ways we approach problem solving. By paying attention we may also notice a change in our overall well being.