If you're anything like me, you like the idea of planning, getting organized, and setting goals.

But once you get out of dreaming mode and start doing?

There can be a big disconnect.

Earlier in my business, I wrote about how important it was for me to try to set goals that focus on action and values, not outcomes and expectations. At a basic level, I didn't know how to live with my goals in a way that felt humane.

So many of my clients and program members make the same mistake that I've made – they set income goals, and then when they're not exactly on track, they weaponize them against themselves and then drop them.

This year I've slowly added more structure into my daily work life.

I have a set “start-up” and “shut down” routine for my workday.

I've set goals that make me excited about the kind of person I'll need to be in order to accomplish them. And I'm trying to be reflective and intentional about how I do that, to make sure I don't fall into the trap of weaponizing my goals against myself again. (So far, so good!)

The most powerful part of my new routine has completely surprised me, so I've been sharing it with all of my friends and students.

Here's what's been changing the game for me: 

Using journal prompts for 15-minutes before and after work.

How I started my daily journaling practice

  • I dreamed up and gathered journal prompts before I started. Now I can keep them saved on my phone or tucked in the back of my journal so I can get started quickly.

  • I added it to my To-Do list every day. I treat this as a non-negotiable that I'm highly committed to, so it always gets done. Even if my son is snacking on cheerios under my desk, and my “journaling” is jot notes.

  • I got clear on my goals for journaling. I want to level up my mindset, practice visualization, and use journaling as a way to increase my self-trust as I do the often-uncomfortable work (in that “edge of my comfort zone!” way) of growing my business.

  • I chose journal prompts that would support those goals. I looked for prompts that would help me visualize success, and feel positive. I also looked for prompts that would help me see my blind spots as an online business owner who's in a season of growing her business.

  • I keep it short and sweet. As a mom to a toddler there are weeks when I literally have 15 minutes of personal time in a day where I'm not parenting or working. I focused on prompts that seemed juicy enough to be useful, even if I could only respond quickly.

  • I looked for prompts that remind me to take care of myself, as a business owner with depression, anxiety, and bipolar 2. I'm not neurotypical. Medication is one of the ways that I manage my symptoms… but if I don't get enough sleep, I literally lose executive function. That's what Harvard defines as “the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.” If my mood worsens for an extended period of time, I need to respond quickly, and with more care than someone else may. (Basically, if there was anything vaguely “wake up earlier and work harder!” or Gary Vee sounding, it didn't make the list!)

What I do at the start and end of my workday:

  • I start each work session by responding to journal prompts for about 15 minutes.

  • I don't do this in my normal workspace. I intentionally go to another place in my home or workspace that feels comfortable and relaxed – and that isn't directly in front of my computer.

  • I try not to judge myself about what comes up. I focus on looking at exactly where I am in the moment and considering what I can do to take care of myself.

After using this for a month, I'm freaking hooked.

This practice has dramatically increased my self-compassion. It's definitely changed how I feel about what I accomplish every day. It's created a hard stop to the end of my workday, which can be challenging to find as someone who is self-employed!

I've found that ending the day in self-reflection has helped me to feel significantly better. I don't race from work into parenting. I don't end the day in a rush anymore, or by telling myself I didn't get enough done, because I've created space to counter those automatic negative thoughts.

And when you work for yourself, and the work is literally never done? The pride and relief of finishing on a contemplative note – even if I didn't accomplish my whole list – feels incredible!

Want to join me? Here are the prompts that I'm using to coach myself daily:

19 powerful journal prompts for online business owners to start and end your workday

  • What do I need to hear today?
  • What does my body need today?
  • If my only job was to take care of my needs, what would I need right now? Physically? Emotionally? Energetically?
  • When did I feel most in your element today?
  • What am I most proud of yourself for doing, regardless of the outcome?
  • What can you do to make it easy to feel motivated today?
  • What are 15 things that you're grateful for in my life today?
  • What are 15 things that you're grateful for in my business today?
  • How do I want to feel? What thoughts would create that?
  • What did I avoid today?
  • Where am I indulging in confusion or overwhelm, instead of making a decision?
  • Am I really confused and overwhelmed, or am I tired? hungry?
  • When did I hear my intuition today?
  • What do I believe I need to do next?
    • Do my thoughts about what I need to do next support my needs? My health? Do they expand my choices? Do they make me feel empowered? If not, what else are my options?
  • If I was going to practice deeply believing myself today, what would I give myself permission to do?
  • What am I getting from this situation?
  • If I was my bravest self today, what would I be doing?
  • What's the first step in the right direction?
  • What could I do less of?

I hope that these prompts and this written self-coaching practice help you!

Do you have a daily journaling habit? 
Is it something you're willing to try out?