Create a consistent journal habit so you can be more mindful and intentional about your goals. Follow these tips to finally learn to journal every day!
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What Are The Benefits of Journaling?
Planning and journaling are important in any strategy for self improvement.
There are several benefits of journaling. Here are a few:
- Journaling helps you to be mindful of your thoughts and to work through things
- It helps remind you to focus on things that are important in life.
- Journaling can help increase creativity by participating in writing activities daily
- It helps you to manage strong emotions and to make positive changes in your life
The benefits to your mental health and wellness are substantial. If you narrow the benefits down to just being mindful, that is enough.
Journaling Allows Time to Figure Out What Matters
Have you ever gone through the day and felt like even though you worked your butt off, you didn’t get anything done? Did you feel like you were trying to move toward something without a map?
When you go through the daily grind it’s easy to get stuck in just doing tasks, feeling like everything you have to do is of equal importance.
Stopping to take time to reflect on your goals through mindful journaling can make a huge difference in your overall productivity.
Without focusing on what is truly important, you’ll likely find that you’re focusing your energy on the emergencies of the moment rather than what will move the needle further for you in your goals.
Worse, you may find you focus on what’s convenient rather than what will bring you the most gain.
If you really want to move forward in business or in other goals in your life, you need to have a strategic plan. Part of that plan is to reflect on and measure the progress you’re making toward your goals.
Daily journaling is an excellent way to do this.
To track my goals, I use a combination of regular journaling and bullet journaling. I wrote this post for you on how to start a bullet journal even if you’re not artistic 🙂
Of course, if you don’t stick to your journal, you won’t get the benefit.
Stop Creating More Empty Notebooks!
How many times have you bought a notebook with great intentions of using it but then stopped after a few journal entries?
I used to buy a notebook with full intention of writing daily but then gave up.
I was consistent with journaling for a week or so but then I let it go.
I have a cabinet full of notebooks with just a few pages written on. I found that when I stopped writing day to day I gave up completely on that notebook. (I thought about going and counting these but decided it would be kind of a bummer…)
Journaling takes self-discipline and practice but the clarity it can bring to your life makes it so worth it. To me, journaling is a great way to talk to myself with no one else interfering! Priceless.
If you really want to change your life, you need to focus on what’s important to you. Taking time to talk to yourself in a journal helps you figure that stuff out.
My bullet journal or planner includes the tasks I need to complete while my regular journal is where I think through my strategy and reflect on how things are going (and what I need to improve).
If you are interested in constantly improving yourself, I recommend journaling as an important step!
How to Write a Journal Entry
Since you’re still with me, I bet you agree that journaling could be helpful to you! You may already be doing it.
I’ve heard many people worry about whether they were “doing it right” or wondering how to even start.
What supplies do you need? (You need paper and a pen, but if you’d like to get more fancy, I put together an Amazon store of my favorite stuff when you can see by clicking here)
What do you write?
There are several ways to write a journal entry.
You can do so electronically in a journaling app or word processing program or you can write by hand.
I strongly recommend writing by hand when doing your journal entries because it seems to help consolidate things better. It’s just a different experience than what we do on our computers every day.
I recently discovered Digital Planning, which is a pretty cool mixture of both worlds. Using the Goodnotes app on my iPad Pro (this is the one I have and that I am obsessed with) along with an Apple Pencil, I am able to write on my iPad just like I do on paper. I’m pretty excited about this. I started making digital planners! Check out this one in my Etsy shop.
There are many different ways to do this. Just grab a notebook and a pen, a digital journal word processing program, or a digital planner like I mentioned above. Whatever works for you.
Whichever you pick, since the journal is yours, you can write it in any way that seems to work well for you.
I personally like the concept of morning pages talked about in this book. Morning pages uses stream of consciousness journaling where you just write what comes to mind.
At times, my journaling consists of a bunch of lists. I like to make lists and created a post on collections and lists you can add to your journal.
However you decided to write a journal entry, consistency over time is important. You improve over time and you learn so much from going back and reading past journal entries.
How to Write a Journal Entry (Nearly) Every Day
While creating a new habit can be hard, I’ve come up with thirteen ideas for how you can write a journal entry (nearly) every day:
1. Have Some Structure in Your Journal
Using a journal with structure can help simplify the process, making it much more likely you will stick with it. You can create structure by creating a document template on your computer, by finding journal prompts online, or you could purchase one that is done for you. Really whatever works for you.
The level of structure that works for you will be something you figure out over time. If you have trouble with starting to write on a blank page, a structured journal may be for you!
I’ve created a structured journal page to help you reflect on your day and stay mindful of your goals. You can download it by clicking here.
2. Make Journaling Something You Enjoy
What would make journaling fun for you? When you look at what I’ve included in my Amazon store of favorite things, you’ll see a lot of it is fun stuff.
Part of the reason I like bullet journaling so much is because it allows me the flexibility to do it however I want, including using different color pens, stickers, or anything else I feel like using.
So while I like structure, I need the freedom to make a structure that works for me.
You can make your journal something you enjoy by using a favorite pen or by adding some other things like stickers.
I love using fountain pens so it’s important to me that the paper of my journal can handle the fountain pen ink without leaking through the page.
My current journal is a Scribbles That Matter. I really like the paper in this notebook and am able to use most of my pens without significant bleed or ghosting. It is a comfortable notebook to use and it has a pretty cover so I am more likely to want to write in it.
I also love flipping back through pages just to see the color I’ve added to my journal.
3. Keep Your Journal In a Place Where You'll Be Reminded To Use It!
I tend to forget about journaling if I don’t see my notebook or have some way to remind myself that it is a thing (dang ADHD).
If you plan to journal in the morning before work or in the evening before bed, it makes sense to have your journal and a pen near your bed. You want it to be super accessible.
It would not be effective to get in bed and be ready to journal and notice you don’t have a pen to do so with. Who wants to go back to their office to get a pen when already all ready for bed?
I recently also started using an app on my phone called “Streaks,” which is a habit tracking app. It reminds me to journal, and if I miss, I break my streak (how many days in a row I’ve journaled)!
4. Make Your Journal Part Of A Routine
Have you read the book “The Miracle Morning?” The book talks about creating a morning routine that helps you to have a great day (you can read it for free with Kindle Unlimited). Journaling is part of that routine and of course when you journal every day as part of a routine, it’s more likely you’ll do it.
Even without following The Miracle Morning, you can make journaling part of your regular routine.
Put your journal by your toothbrush and do it right after you brush your teeth. Hooking journaling up with something else in your routine can help you journal consistently. (This is called habit stacking)
5. Forgive Yourself And Move On
How do you react when you forget to write in your journal?
Does it make you want to quit or are you able to pick it up the next day?
So many of us are perfectionists who struggle with having missing days in our journals.
It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to be perfect. If you miss a day, allow yourself to just move on and do the next day. No one will even know.
I had to add this one because this is the number one reason I quit in the past. I would skip a day and then not know how to keep going.
The trick? Just keep going.
6. Be Flexible With Your Journal
I find it’s important to be really flexible about when or what I write. For example, I am working on something called “morning pages” from this book which help you to become more creative.
Although the words “morning pages” imply that they should be done in the morning, I don’t agree. Everyone’s life is different. Some people prefer to write in the mornings and others at night.
Just get them done when you have time.
I know if I set an expectation that I had to do them in the morning every day, there is NO WAY I would be consistent right now.
Instead, I find what works for me.
You might do them at night, or during your lunch break, or maybe at the end of the day when you are still at work but done for the day. Perhaps you do them right before bed.
The possibilities are endless.
You need to find a way for it to work for you…because… REAL LIFE.
Also be flexible in how you use your journal. What you need from your journal might change from day to day.
Sometimes the structure that works for me changes every week.
Can you relate?
Sometimes my journal looks more like a planner, while at other times it is full on narrative. Sometimes I use journal prompts and other times I just write whatever. Sometimes I just list some words!
With a bullet journal you can change your structure from week to week. You can do the same in any type of journal. There’s nothing wrong with changing the headings on a structured journal to meet your needs.
Heck, I’ve even slapped some sticker paper over an entire page to make it my own.
7. Set a Goal
One thing I really love (and hate) about the morning pages is you have to do three pages every day. Three pages feels like a lot when you have nothing to say, but having the goal of reaching a certain amount that needs to be written helps me to just do it.
Sometimes having to do that third page helps me to start writing about things I need to pay attention to.
8. Be Open to Whatever You Feel Like Writing About
The key to getting these three pages done is you can write about anything you want during that time.
You can write about how you have nothing to write if you really want to.
This helps to get your journaling done because it feels less overwhelming.
It doesn’t feel like a chore when you can fill the page with junk if you really want to.
Who knows, the junk might turn into gems in the future!
I recently heard this really cool way of journaling. The person called it Soul Journaling and stated she starts her journaling session by asking “What would you have me know?” Then she writes, trusting herself to let herself know what she needs to know. Pretty neat!
9. Be Creative
You may wish to add a little more creativity to your journal.
Along with writing whatever strikes you without any rules, you could also choose different mediums such as adding drawings, stickers, taping in pictures, or whatever you feel like doing.
It’s your journal and all of this stuff can help you to reach whatever goals you have with journaling.
One of my goals is to increase creativity and to be more mindful of life. Adding some creativity helps with both of these goals.
Recently I filled some pages in my journal with just hand lettered words that represented my day. It was super helpful to reflect in that way.
10. Tracking Habits in Your Journal
One thing that can be helpful is to track your journaling practice in your bullet journal using a habit tracker. As mentioned above, this can also be done using an app like Streaks on your phone.
Essentially think of it as a bunch of little boxes that you get to color in each day with pretty colors to show that you did what you intended to do each day.
If you’re interested in learning more about habit tracking a fellow blogger wrote a book on it that was published recently! This book is cute and has habit trackers drawn out for you that you can use.
Tracking helps you to be consistent because you won’t want to break the chain of all your colored boxes and have an empty box.
Not only that but when you’re creating a new habit, tracking can ensure that you’re consistently following that habit.
11. Stop Trying to Make Your Journal Sound Good!
This is a huge one. Your journal is not the place to write beautiful prose. Your journal is a place just to write whatever. If you want to make something sound or look good, you can make your bullet journal pretty, write blog posts, or just write something else.
Don’t check your grammar or edit your work. You need to try not to censor as you write.
Going forward, I’ve decided I’m not going to read my writing until a month has passed.
I like the idea of reflecting on my writing and seeing if there is growth, especially given my goals, but I don’t want to get caught up in reading what I wrote and then judging and correcting myself.
12. Make Sure Your Journal Is Private
You have to either trust others won’t read your journal or hide it.
You need a place to truly reflect on things without worrying what other people will think.
Maybe you’re angry with your spouse. You should be able to work through that in your journal if need be without the fear of hurting his feelings.
Your journal needs to be private. If you’re worrying about the judgments of others while you’re writing, then it probably won’t be that helpful. You’ll censor the heck out of it.
For my journal to be useful in getting me closer to my goals, I need to be able to use the journal time to talk to myself since I have a hard time focusing. I need to know no one will read it.
(So if my husband or mom is on my blog right now, please don’t read my journal no matter how tempting it is).
If you can’t trust prying eyes, you’re going to have to hide your journal. This will make it harder to remember to do it.
If this is your situation, I recommend putting some other thing in place that will be a reminder of your intention to journal. For example, you could tape a quote to the wall that serves as a signal for you to remember to journal, or maybe something like a pen on your pillow.
You could also set a reminder on your phone or use a habit tracker app with reminders.
13. Start Writing
I’ve seen this way too many times. People buy a new journal and then are scared to write in it because they don’t want to mess it up. You can’t mess it up. It’s your journal. (Here are some tips to start).
In fairness, I just started a new planner for next year and I had a bit of “what if I mess it up?” happening. There are like a million pages! I can just do better on the next page!
Seriously, the only way for your journal to help you is to start using it.
And To Sum It All Up
- Have some structure
- Make It Something You Enjoy
- Keep It In A Place That Will Remind You To Use It
- Make it a part of your routine
- Forgive yourself and move on
- Be flexible
- Set a goal
- Set a goal but allow flexibility
- Be creative
- Stop trying to make it sound good
- Make sure your journal is private
- Start Writing!
Marlena is the blogger behind apenandapurpose.com, where she writes about using journaling for self improvement and reaching goals in life and business. Using her experience as a Licensed Psychologist with a Master’s in Business, she teaches people how to break through negative thoughts and fear to do what matters. For more about me read my about page.