Aug 16, 2022

What do I do with all this autonomy?

Using a combination of self-coaching and journaling to create forward movement

One of the biggest challenges of working from home is dealing with the increased autonomy. With so much flexibility in how you spend your time, it can be difficult to stay motivated and on track. There are so many things you could be doing, and often you aren’t in the mood to do any of them. One of the ways I deal with this is through journaling, specifically with the intention of coaching myself toward taking action.

The process

With an empty document in front of me, I begin with a question, for example: “What can I do today that I can flow into and that will make an impact?” Then, holding that question lightly, I begin writing stream of consciousness, starting with whatever is on my mind and just meandering. I might write about what I’ve been doing the past few days, even outside of my working life. From there I will go with whatever else comes up, pausing often to check in and ask myself “What comes to mind now?” That might lead me to think of a memory, a person, a to-do item I’d forgotten about, or something else entirely.

At some point I will start to list out things that I think need to be done, but not as a bulleted list. Instead I’ll continue writing in paragraph form, accompanying many of the items with what I think and feel about doing them. There’s something about being present for all the anxieties that come up that simultaneously lessens their hold on me and allows me to let go of them. I can’t understate how powerful this is!

I’ll go back and forth between these different modes of thinking, from loose stream of consciousness about whatever, to more linear thinking about the goals I want to accomplish.

I aim to write for at least 30 minutes, or until I get to 750 words, whichever comes first. Usually within 20 minutes or so, I find myself in a completely different state of mind from when I began, and with a clearer idea of actions I can take right now. From this creative state of mind, I find the motivation to take action.

How it works

This process works on a couple different levels: The first is as a brain dump, getting all your thoughts and concerns out of your head and on (digital) paper. The other way it works is in empowering you to claim your agency. Instead of your past self (or your manager or organization) imposing an agenda on you today, you’re taking charge and creating it organically. It’s effective even when there is overlap between the agenda you had set and the one you come up with.

It also involves a few fundamental coaching skills:

  • Having a mindset that is open, curious, and flexible
  • Using the power of inquiry by beginning with a question, and asking questions of yourself, your motivations, and your intentions as you reflect (e.g. Why is this important to me?)
  • Being present for yourself as you think and feel your way through the session
  • Evoking awareness through reflecting, pausing, and paying attention to your energy levels throughout the process
  • Promoting growth by surfacing insights and helping you transform those insights into action

It’s no panacea, but this kind of self-coaching process can be incredibly powerful, especially as you develop these skills and mindsets. I also like to follow a similar process while walking, and instead of journaling, talking out loud.

By the way, these are the same skills that I use with my clients one-on-one. If you find this process helpful, I welcome you to book a complimentary session and see for yourself how potent it can be to have a partner to hold space and facilitate your reflection.

A portrait of Jameal Ghaznawi

Jameal Ghaznawi

Hi, I’m Jameal and I'm on a mission to help people and organizations on their path toward mastery. As a teacher and certified coach I help people increase their awareness, tap into their innate wisdom, and find creative ways forward. Find yourself at a sticking point? Let's grow together.