Creating a Productivity Journal: How to Track Your Progress and Achieve Your Goals

"Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself." - Robin Sharma

By Nicole McCray

April 7 2023

It doesn’t have to be the beginning of the year to create a new you! It’s always a good time to get organized and map out what you want to achieve both long term and in the near future.

But life gets busy, which can lead to days, weeks, and even months going by before we realize we never made that trip to Europe or didn’t meet our financial goals. 

The difference is taking time, sitting down, and creating a productivity journal.

This will help you stay on track which is half the battle!

Commitment is key, and we have the perfect tips and tricks for starting on the right foot with a well-structured productivity journal. 

Think Long-Term, Short-Term, and Something In Between

The first step is to take the time to set up your productivity journal.

This likely will feel like the biggest task, but once you have everything in place, all you have to do is fill it in.

For free space, you can buy a spiralled journaling notebook if you like clean lines or an artist’s sketchbook. 

The best way to set your journal up is to start backwards, thinking long-term first. Then make your way to the present day. 

Here is how to do it!

Make a Goals Page

  • The first goal should be your long-term goal. This can be a year to three years out.

    Let’s stick with a one-year example to break it down easier. This could be to have X amount of money in your savings by this specific date. 
  • Something in between is your next goal, which should be around the six-month mark or halfway to your long-term goal.

    It may be having half the amount of X money in your bank, but you also need to delegate some tasks that need to happen by six months to put you in a position for the one-year goal. 
  • Your one-month goal will change every month leading up to the something in-between goal.

    This short-term goal will be adjusted based on your reflection from the previous month and whether your tasks and strategy have you on track for your medium and long-term goal. 

To-Do Lists

Your to-do lists are incredibly important in order for you to be able to meet your one-month goals! You should have weekly to-do lists that assign certain tasks to certain days of the week where it makes the most sense. 

Your to-do lists aren’t limited to just your goals because we all have responsibilities and priorities that have nothing to do with things we want to do!

Make sure to write down even the most mundane tasks because not only do we not forget about them, but there is a psychology to checking things off your list. It makes us feel good! 

Keeping It Simple

Have a simple system. The easiest way to get off track is to spend too much time writing things down and planning. The most time you should spend with your journal is the initial setup.

Otherwise, more time will be dedicated to actually doing rather than thinking about doing. 

So, how do we keep it simple?

You should have a system in place for how you check things off your list. For example, some of the most common symbols in productive journals go as follows. 

  • : Task 

      X : Finished Task

     -> : Reassigned To Another Day

Levels of Priority is code for letting you know which tasks should be done first on a particular day or week. Simply use exclamation points as follows to indicate how important something is. 

! : Least Important

!! : Moderately Important

!!! : Top priority 

Using symbols like these help you understand where you are at with tasks and the best way to approach them. 

Tip: Schedule time to unwind and relax when your life is busy. It may seem counterproductive, but stressing and burning out won’t get you closer to your goals. 

Add Personal Motivators 

Just because we recommend keeping the journal simple doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

The more you can make it match your personality, the better. One of those things that we think should be added is personal motivators.

Not everyone is up to doing our daily tasks every day, no matter how much we want our goals and dreams to be achieved. 

Adding a quote that sets the mood for the beginning of the week at the top of the page is a great way to start. Ensure it is visible and sets itself apart from the rest of the journal.

Using colours is a great way to do this. You can also try writing in a fun way or making it bold. 

Tracking Your Progress

There are a few different ways to track your progress, so we recommend a combination. If you don’t stay on top of how you are doing, you may fall behind so much that it’s too late to recover.

But if you nag yourself every day with no wiggle room for error, you may burn out. Try this to avoid either of those situations. 

Weekly Charting

Your weekly charting can be a calendar, sticks, colour in the picture, or anything else that indicates whether you have achieved your tasks that day.

I like to give myself a smiley face at the end of the day if I have completed what was necessary. 

It’s simple, so you don’t feel like it’s another task, and you can use color to indicate it’s special.

By the end of the week, you will have a visual of how it went and how you need to adjust for the next week. 

Monthly Reflections

Monthly reflections take a little bit more time. This is a chance to see if you have met last month’s goal. You can use your weekly charting to indicate whether your plan has worked.

Build on the things that went well and write them down. But don’t forget to write down what you need to adjust to meet your next goal

Constantly Readjusting 

Productivity journals are far from perfect. If you feel like you need to keep readjusting your methods, that’s OK. Finding what works for you is the key to being productive.

Consider it to be your brain map for getting things done. 

The important thing is to write things down so you have concrete written evidence of where you are and where you need to go.

Then, with the above tips, you can find a system that will help you do just that.