One Secret Habit of Successful People like Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson and Sheryl Sandberg

Journal writing has been historically mostly reserved for intellectuals or people who can read and write. Today everyone can keep a journal, which is a good habit that we can benefit from in so many different ways. Here are four ways how very successful people use journals to achieve their goals.

Gain clarity

Barack Obama, president of the United States of America, explained one reason for writing in a journal, “In my life, writing has been an important exercise to clarify what I believe, what I see, what I care about, what my deepest values are. The process of converting a jumble of thoughts into coherent sentences makes you ask tougher questions.”

Writing out what we think in our mind requires more logic and reasoning. Clarity naturally emerges from such writing process. It helps us see clearly what we want, why we want it and how we can get it. That’s why journal writing is an invaluable tool for reaching our goals.

The second brain

Successful people usually have to stay on top of many things on a day to day basis. It would be really a challenge if you try to keep all of those things in your head. A good journal or notebook can work as a second brain for storing and organizing everything we need to keep track of.

Sir Richard Branson, world famous business magnate, has been journaling for many years now. In one of his autobiographies he states that, “my most essential possession is a standard sized notebook… I carry this everywhere and write down comments that are made to me by Virgin staff and anyone else I meet. I make notes of all telephone conversations and all meetings… the discipline of writing everything down ensures that I have listened to people carefully.”

Aristotle Onassis, the famous Greek shipping tycoon,  advised on why he always carried a notebook, “Write everything down. When you have an idea, write it down. When you meet someone new, write down everything you know about them. That way you will know how much time they are worth. When you hear something interesting, write it down. Writing it down will make you act upon it. If you don’t write it down you will forget it. THAT is a million dollar lesson they don’t teach you in business school.”

Be more productive

Journals or notebooks can also help successful people stay insanely productive. Sheryl Sandberg,the chief operating officer of Facebook and the founder of, pretty much runs her billion dollar company off her notebook. Recalled by Michael Helft at Fortune: “[Sheryl’s] days are a flurry of meetings that she runs with the help of a decidedly undigital spiral-bound notebook. On it, she keeps lists of discussion points and action items. She crosses them off one by one, and once every item on a page is checked, she rips the page off and moves to the next. If every item is done 10 minutes into an hour-long meeting, the meeting is over.”

Express gratitude

Journal writing can also be an effective way to manage inner feelings and facilitate self-expression. Oprah Winfrey started her  journal writing habit in her teenage years.  Keeping a journal has always been part of her way to make sense of who she was and who she wanted become. Regarding journals, she once wrote, “It’s a wonder that I’ve managed to be a successful human being considering how pathetic I appeared in many of my daily musings. It’s a testament to growth and grace that I’ve come this far…In my 40s, I got wiser. I started using journals to express my gratitude — and watched my blessings multiply. What you focus on expands.”

Journal tool in GoalsOnTrack
(Click to view full screenshot of Journal tool in GoalsOnTrack)

Keeping a journal is a common habit shared by many successful people. Perhaps no one would deny the significance of how this habit has contributed to their success. So it can be a really helpful habit for reaching goals. That’s why an online journal tool is an integral part of GoalsOnTrack goal setting system. After you set up your goals, you can start keeping a journal for each of your goals, or for all of them. The daily journal prompt at the top is an easy way to prompt you to quickly jot down a few thoughts without even accessing the journal page.

Of course you can benefit from journal writing without using any digital tools. Whatever tool or notebook or journal you use, if you can make a habit of writing things down, you will become more successful in reaching your goals.



This post was written by Harry Che,  creator of GoalsOnTrack software.


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