Introduction to Flow Journaling

The Habit To Adopt If You’re Searching For Opportunity, Good Luck, and Adventure

What is flow journaling?

Flow journaling is a type of journaling that is messy, sporadic, intense, and brief. The practice is about getting all of your passing thoughts on paper, whether they seem like they immediately hold value or if they’ll hold value in the future. This documentation practice is used to help cultivate organic manifestations of adventure, success, and memorable experience.

Opportunity emerges when we have the right information at the right time, but if we catalog all of the information we need right when we need it, we maximize the opportunities that come our way.

I was first introduced the idea of flow journaling, when I was talking to one of my father’s friends. He’s a middle-aged man, who was set on a career in corporate, when one of his college professors suddenly convinced him to take a path in academic research. We were having dinner together, my father, myself, and him, and we were talking about what I wanted to do in the future. I shared my confused thoughts, and how I felt unsure about what I wanted to do. I asked him how he knew he wanted to take a path in academia, where he quite frankly opened up, “I really didn’t know. I don’t even know if I made the right choice right now. But I still have lots of time to do new things, and my path so far is preparing me for my future”.

I asked him how he can be so sure he’s prepared for his future, when he’s even unsure if he made the correct career choice right now. He paused for a minute before telling me, “You know what every person needs to do. Get a small notebook, and write down everything.”

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He explained, it just needs to be a small notebook, something you can fit in your bag, jacket pocket, or something you carry around with you everywhere. He told me to scribble down all of my interesting passing thoughts in it. My worries, cool stories I heard, different perspectives, new lessons, revelations, new foods, events I want to go to, pieces of advice I received, names of interesting people I met, and basically anything goes. By doing this, I would never lose a piece of valuable information again, as all my important thoughts, information, and ideas will be on paper. How people use a napkin to scribble things down, he makes sure that all of these important facts are in one place in his notebook.

He habitualized this practice, as he feels assured that everything he needs to know will be accumulated in his collection of small notebooks. This is how he effectively prepares for his future. For example, if he meets someone interesting, and they talk about his business in the entertainment industry over drinks, he makes sure to jot down the person’s name, bar location, and the company. If he ever finds himself in need of help in the industry, or needing a recommendation, he knows who exactly to reach out to and what he can say in his email. In another instance, if his friend chats with him about a new vitamin he’s been taking to help his headaches, he’ll jot it down. And if his wife begins to complain about new headaches she’s been getting, he may look up the vitamin he jotted down, and then maybe go out and buy the vitamin for her. He justified, opportunity emerges when we have the right information at the right time, but if we catalog all of the information we need right when we need it, we maximize the opportunities that come our way.

I explained to him that I already journal and keep a record of my day, but he shook his head and told me that by writing at the end of the day, it’s too late. Our minds and thoughts are working constantly, and do not recuperate at the end day to summarize. Too many times people make the same mistake over and over, by passively listening, nodding their head, and then forgetting exactly what they said. Not to say that people should be scribbling during a dinner conversation with a friend, but forgetfulness is costly. By just jotting information down in the moment, people can save themselves the cost, and take advantage of the opportunities that come their way.

Getting started with flow journaling

Flow journaling should not be structured in a place or time, but when we think of something we believe could be of value. Here are some starter tips:

  1. Choose a small notebook and pen which will fit in the pocket of something you always carry, whether that be a bag, jacket, or laptop case.

  2. Writing down everything may seem a bit chaotic, but I like to write three main details when I have a new thought to record:

    • The date

    • Whether it’s my own thought or someone else’s, in which case I write down a name

    • The valuable piece of information

  3. Choose a notebook you enjoy writing in. Something simple, aesthetically pleasing, and will make you want to write.

It’s important to remember that our perception of value in the present is subjective, so for starters it’s good practice to write down everything you find interesting or new, whether or not it seems to hold ‘value’. With practice, you may get a better understanding of what you should or don’t need to be writing, but the premise of the practice is to write down everything.

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Sakiko Ohashi