Transformational Leaders: Developing a journaling habit

By Liz Nottingham

Daily writing supports wellbeing and clarity of thought in challenging times, writes Liz Nottingham, former executive HR director for EMEA at R/GA.

I don't know about you, but I seem to spend a lot of time in my head right now. These thoughts can weigh heavy as I carry them around on my daily walkMy emotions can change from fear to altruism, from sadness to optimism in a matter of moments. Free writing, without editing, judgement or the interference of my logical brain, is really supporting me. It has been keeping me stable during the coronavirus crisis, and helps me to pay attention to my mental health, as I allow my pen to roam freely on the page. 

I haven’t been a lifelong journaler. I think I was always secretly worried that someone might find my diary and read it (not that there was anything too scandalous in there). Over the years, I have accumulated numerous and incomplete notebooks. The pressure of keeping an accurate daily  journal was too much of a burden at the end of the day; there was too much detail to focus on.

Connecting with creativity

I was introduced to Julia Cameron’s The Artist's Way a few years ago. This creative journey invites you to write your “Morning Pages” – three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing every day to awaken and help you connect with your creativity. I started by writing what I could. 

I found the process helped me to discharge my ‘overnight mail’, capture my dreams, clear out my head for the day to come. It allowed me to write without censoring. The practice provided me with clarity and choice as I could decide whether to delve deeper into my thoughts or just let them ‘be’ what they were.

To start a writing habit of your own, you could start with:

  • a plain gift tag with a one word check-in. How are you arriving today? How are you leaving this evening? Keep it easy. Go gentle. 
  • a seven-minute free-writing practice, with no editing or censoring; keep you pen on the page once you start – let it flow!
  • Prompts, such as: 


I am grateful for...

I am seeking beauty in...

I am connecting with...

I am noticing…

Time to think, time to reflect, time to express is so key for all of us. Naming and processing our thoughts and feelings reveals our inner wisdom which we are often unable to hear.

Executive reflection

Executive reflection is also important for our leadership and often undervalued. We are living in a time of disruption and uncertainty, as no one has the roadmap or the answers. 

As leaders, we don’t know what is to come. Writing allows valuable space for whatever needs to emerge to emerge. It provides a quiet ‘space’ in the midst of noise as we pay attention to who we really are, what we truly value and our impact in, and on, the world around us. Your writing habit could prove to be the most valuable seven minutes of your day. 


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