Many of you know that I am always on the look out for methods and routine that can improve my productivity, sharpen my mind and make me feel happier throughout the day. So it’s no wonder that I decided to give a journaling practice a try.
I’ve already written about 8 ways you can use your journal, in case you can’t think of anything apart for the dear diary format of writing, but I thought some people might be a little overwhelmed by the process of actually starting a journaling practice. Because journaling is it’s most powerful when you routinely practice it every day. So today I’d like to share how you can start your journaling practice!
Most of the routine of a journaling practice has nothing to do with the writing, but in developing the habit. Habits are all hard to keep, so I have developed a way to start a journal which will give you the most possibility of maintaining it.
Understanding what it’s all about
Journaling is not about writing something for publishing or to be looked back on by yourself or others. This needs to be absolutely clear from the start, so that you can feel free to write what you need and never be worried about judgement. It is about the process, not the actual writing.
Next, you need to understand why you should be journaling every day, and the benefits that you can get from journaling. Otherwise, other things come up and you will very quickly lose the habit to the busyness of life.
Journaling is a very powerful process that has the power to change your whole life and your whole outlook on life. It helps us to focus better on the things that we really want and remove the nonessentials from our life. It can help to unlock your creativity and bring powerful thoughts and emotions to the forefront of your mind, so that you can better understand yourself and the life you are leading.
Journaling is wonderful if you feel like you don’t get to work through all the thoughts going through your mind, you don’t get to clarify what it is that you want out of life or you just feel a little exhausted.
It also brings you closer to accessing your intuition which in turn makes you more likely to form decisions and choices based on what you really need and want in your life – not just what your ego thinks that you need!
In short, a journaling practice can make you happier, more balanced, achieve more of your goals and be more energetic in your life.
Finding the right time to journal
The next thing that you need to do to form this habit is choose when you are going to have time and get the most benefit from your practice. If you don’t set up the conditions of your routine, then it will fall away. So choose a time which you have available and can find a quiet space.
I truly recommend that you journal in the morning, so I am going to assume you are finding an extra 15 minutes in your morning for this. The reason that I think morning is the best time to journal, opposed to night time is because I feel it allows us to go into the day unburdened and feeling more centred and balanced than we would otherwise. If you can find the time to journal morning and night, great, go ahead but don’t put it in the evening only unless you absolutely have to. Journaling is, as I mentioned, a great way to clarify our goals (our big life goals and out smaller goals which may be holding us up or causing us stress), so it is appropriate that you spend some time journaling and letting your thoughts roam freely before you set down your schedule for the day. You might re-think your goals after you have had some time alone with your thoughts.
If you have a job or work creatively then journaling in the morning is even more beneficial, as it helps to improve your creativity, resourcefulness and problem-solving skills by forcing you into “output” mode rather than “input” mode (scrolling).
By unlocking this mode first thing in the morning you can create so much more throughout your day and get so much more accomplished with your time because you are ready to make ideas, challenge thoughts and tackle projects. It will really benefit all the work you do.
Plus, journaling at night can make us more inclined to rehash the day’s events and produce more of a diary-like entry, which is fine when you are starting out, but you really want to be using your journal to record and tackle the bigger ideas in your life, and the thoughts that you are having about life and the journey that you are on.
Having the right tools to journal
All you need to start a journaling practice is a book and a pen. Sounds simple yes? Well, it is. But sometimes we want to make things more complicated than they need to be and no matter what apps you see or productivity tools for journaling you hear about, always stick to paper and pen (of course you can jazz it up into an art journal or bullet journal, but this is just about writing).
You really need to journal on paper, not on your computer or tablet. Why? Writing by hand is slower and more deliberate than typing – and chances are you don’t do it very much anymore.
The time that it takes to write makes you think about everything for longer and deeper than normal. You will connect better with the emotions that you are feeling because you are paying attention to what you are doing – not just typing in “computer mode”.
You should number your journal so that you can keep track of them over your life – I hope that you are going to hang onto them forever!
I also recommend writing a little contract to yourself on the first page of your journal, or make it your first entry, where you write about why you want to journal, what you hope to get out of it and how often you are going to journal for. This will give you accountability to your practice and something for you to look back on if you start to skip your practice. It’s all about making this habit as easy and as beneficial as possible so if you have some goals for yourself, you will be more likely to continue.
Likewise, at the end of your journal, reflect on how it felt to you, whether it was beneficial and how you could improve. This reflection will build your momentum to keep journaling.
Getting started on your journaling practice
Now we finally get to the good stuff. Now you have your journal in hand, pen at the ready and you want to start writing.
You will develop your own routine over time with the length of time that feels comfortable and the little things that you do to get in the right mood, but just start like this in the beginning:
- Get your things together the night before so that you don’t have any excuses not to complete the practice.
- Have a time limit in place – 15 minutes is about enough time to start with, some people increase that to 30, but it’s up to you.
- If you haven’t done any other form of mindful practice before starting, take 5 deep breathes to centre yourself and bring your conscious forward. I think meditating or practicing yoga before starting will prime you for maximum results.
- Find a comfortable and quiet place. If your bed is more comfortable for you then you might decide to journal as soon as you wake up so that you don’t have to leave the comfort of your bed just yet…
- Now you need to limit your writing in that time allotment. By that I mean, write less than you would like to. A page is a good place to start but if that feels like a challenge then start with 5 sentences. Writing less helps you to avoid burnout and maintain your momentum.
- Now start to write about whatever enters your mind. You could use these suggestions if you are stuck.
It is a bit like meditation in that you should not be judging the thoughts that come through your mind and on to the pages. They are all there for a reason and all need to be addressed. So address them, explore them, write more, or move on to the next thought.
Importantly, take this practice one day at a time. Don’t stress about making sure you do it every single day, it is only writing after all, and once you feel and see the benefits you are getting you won’t want to break the chain of your habits.
There should be no limit to what you can write in your journal but the more you include in it from different areas of your life, the more those areas will start to meld together and your life will feel more in align with itself (the work you do with your goals, your relationships with the person you want to be).
I find journaling to be a very powerful personal development tool, and one that all busy young people should try.
I am planning on giving you some more resources on journaling in the future, as I found the practice a lot more difficult to start than expected, but even more beneficial once I started than expected too!
In the meantime, comment below and tell me what you think of a journaling practice and if you already find it useful!