How to Start Journaling (and keep doing it)

how to start journalingTwo weeks ago I wrote about all the convincing reasons why you should journal. As much as you might want to journal, if you’re like the rest of us, you figured you had enough going on with New Year’s Resolutions and a) have already quit journaling or b) didn’t start because you were focused on your other resolutions.

Which is exactly why I’ve decided to wait until now to write about how to start journaling and/or keep journaling. You don’t need a convenient time or place to start beneficial habits. In fact, you can start today.

Here’s how you can start journaling today. Grab something to write with and jot down brief answers to help yourself out (bonus: doing this counts as journaling!).

Decide how you’re going to journal

There are basically three mediums that people use to journal:

  1. Paper and pen. Grab a notebook, any ol’ notebook or piece of paper will do, and write/draw/doodle your thoughts and ideas down.
  2. App or website. Hop on your phone and keep a record in the annals of the Internet for future you. (Here’s a list of some options!)
  3. Blog. Whether you publish it publicly or privately, blogging is a free, quick, and easy way to gather your thoughts in one place.

I wrote about some of the pros and cons of each medium in my previous article, so I’ll just summarize the greater points here.

  • Your mind is more readily creative when you use a pen and paper.
  • Being able to doodle all across the page and not be limited to your word processor’s formatting can help you think through feelings/ideas/hopes.
  • You always have your phone with you anyways… so why not use it to keep a brief record of your life? You can journal by taking videos or pictures instead of words.
  • Most of us are faster typists than we are scribblers. (This can be a pro or a con).

The best way to decide how you want to journal long-term is to try each medium on a short-term trial. A week should be more than long enough to help you decide if it’s for you.

Decide why you’re going to journal

While the beautiful thing about journaling is that you can do pretty much anything with it, having goals and ideas for your journal can help keep you focused when you sit down to write.

So why are you wanting to journal?

  • To keep a record? Your kids and grandkids might find your reflections about life, death, and taxes helpful. You too may go back and be glad for the memories you saved in your journal.
  • To save ideas? The truth is, if you don’t write/draw an idea down, you will probably lose it. Writing down all of your loose ideas and resources as they come to you (whether on your phone or in a tiny notebook) will make sure you can actually do the things that matter to you.
  • To think about your life? Journal therapy is a real thing. Asking yourself questions, and answering them is a great way to learn more about yourself and to decide what you find important, and why. Plus, writing through your concerns and feelings helps you have more control over them once you get back to real life.
  • Just for kicks? Journaling is a great creative outlet. If you want to dump out all your excess happenings in your mind so you can focus, a journal is a great tool.

Knowing why you want to start a new habit—a meaningful why—will keep you interested in keeping your habit.

Decide when you’re going to journal

If you are one of the amazing people who can start a new habit without a rigid schedule, kudos. I find that unless I do the same thing at the same time, I lose momentum and fall off the bus, so to speak.

So will you, I bet. So when are you going to journal?

  • First thing in the morning! Because that’s when I have the most ideas and drive to actually follow through on my goals…
  • On my way to/from work! It’s 15 minutes on the metro. I don’t really have anything better to do. Why not?
  • Right before bed! I’m more creative when I’m tired. Plus, I have all day to reflect on in my writing/doodling.

Maybe there’s another 5-15 minute window in your day when you could naturally take a moment to reflect and relax by writing in your journal.

Find a time to journal. (Then commit to doing it.)

How often are you going to journal?

I try to write every day. But in the past month, I’ve regularly missed 1-2 days a week. This is fine. And you should make sure your ambition knows it’s fine.

In the past, I have experimented with journaling once a week. Sundays I sat down and summed up what had happened and what I was thinking through.

I also experimented with journaling twice a week. Sundays and Wednesdays I would sit with my notebook and scribble out ideas and hopes.

Decide how often you are going to journal, and how you are going to make sure you get back on the wagon if (when) you fall off.

Commit to journaling

If you don’t commit to doing something, it’s just not going to happen. Habits are like rivers: they follow the easiest route of water flow.

To change the route of the water takes work, time, and dedication. But eventually the new path you dig out will be easier for the water to flow. That’s when you have a new habit.

This article has helped you plan out where, when, and how you’re going to start journaling. Now, you have to actually do it.

If do, you’ll gain enough momentum to keep on journaling until/unless you decide it’s not for you.

How have you “kept up” with journaling? How did you get started? What are you going to do to start? Share with us in the comments!

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