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  • Writer's pictureLori Lee

How to Start and Keep A Journaling Practice Alive (7 tips to Stick With It)

Staring at a blank page can feel daunting, and with so many options out there, how do you know what to write onto that first page? From a gratitude journal to bullet journaling, to freewriting, you can start a journal in many ways. And not all are created equally.

That's why new journal writers find it hard to make a journaling habit stick.

Like any other habit, the journaling journey is a process, and starting and keeping a journaling practice can be easier than you think.

I'm not here to tell you exactly how you should journal. But I will teach you seven ways to make sure your writing habit is one that sticks.

Writing is proven to increase mental health and decrease stress, depression, and anxiety. With these benefits, you can't afford to fall out of the journaling habit again.

Find A Way For Writing To Fit Around Your Life - Not the Other Way Around

Most people view their tomorrow self idealistically. They say, " know what? Tomorrow is going to be the day I start writing, building the business of my dreams, and running a few miles each day. Tomorrow, I'm going to do it all."

We forget that when tomorrow comes that you'll be the same you, with the same energy levels and the same responsibilities. Start now and work with what you've got.

A study reveals that the further removed our present-day self is with our ideal tomorrow-self, the less likely we are to make the necessary sacrifices today that'll benefit us tomorrow. So, get real with yourself and create good habits while honoring the beautiful you that you are today.

Review Your Pockets of Free Time

When do you have free time available? It's time to do an audit of your life and discover how you'll start filling the blank pages staring at you.

Before you start writing, analyze your free time by noticing your "filler" habits. Your filler habits are what you do when you're waiting for something, bored, or needing to let off some steam. For most people, it's scrolling through your social feeds. But for many, it could be:

  • Procrastination cleaning;

  • Reading;

  • Watching TV or the news;

  • Constantly checking emails;

  • Or other productivity-killing busywork; or

  • Calling or texting family and friends.

There's nothing wrong with indulging in a little fun from time to time. But if you're telling yourself you don't have time to start a journal, then it's likely a matter of priorities instead of available time.

Observe the unconscious ways you're wasting time, and focus on just one five-minute pocket that you spend some time writing from now on.

Observe Your Peak Energy Levels

You do not have to join the 5 am club to be successful. Successful people wake up whenever they choose.

  1. Sara Blakely is out of bed at 6:30 am.

  2. Elon Musk arises at 7 am.

  3. Jeff Bezos gets started between 7 and 8 am.

  4. Jay-Z starts his day at 8 am.

Moguls like Oprah Winfrey and Jeff Bezos cite that they prioritize their eight hours of sleep. Oprah says she relies on her internal clock rather than multiple alarms.

Telling yourself that you'll wake up half an hour earlier to write down the morning pages is not going to happen on a consistent basis. Especially if you've been telling yourself that for a while. Stop breaking the promises that you make to yourself and honor your unique energy levels.

If you're looking for some guidance, there are four different sleep styles according to Dr Michael Brues.

  1. Lions love to get up early. Plan to get the hard things done in the morning.

  2. Bears are in sync with the solar rhythm. Plan to get the hard things done in the middle of the day.

  3. A wolf loves to hit snooze. Do the tough stuff during the evening.

  4. Dolphins are the rarest type and are very light sleepers. Try new habits mid-morning.

Feel free to take the quiz to see what sleep chronotype you are. Or simply observe your energy levels throughout the day and get honest with yourself.

Starting a new habit requires willpower and energy. Optimize your energy by journaling during the time you're naturally energetic rather than idealizing the "perfect time." In fact, use this technique when building any new habit.

Create Your Ideal Journal Writing Environment and Ritual

Improve your journaling experience by creating an environment that makes you actually look forward to it. After all, if you enjoy writing, you'll be more likely to continue the habit.

Optimize Your Journaling Environment

What environment inspires you? Now you've discovered when the ideal time to write is, it's time to transform it into a wonderful experience. For me, I know that it takes me half an hour to wake up at the best of times. And during that half-hour, I need a morning coffee by my side.

So, I find a comfy spot outside on the porch with my journal. I've swapped out scrolling through my social feeds for a morning writing habit. The sound of wind chimes, chirping birds, and the smell (and taste) of fresh coffee make me happy. What brings you joy?

It could be an aromatic candle, a comfortable chair in your home, a quiet room, or simply the thought of killing two birds with one stone by starting a digital journal during your commute. Create your ideal environment or ritual based on what gives you a kick.

Schedule It In

If you don't commit to a time, it'll be easier to forget you're supposed to be journaling. Now that you know your sleep style and the type of environment you'd like to create, fit it into your daily routine. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Write in your journal with a morning coffee (or if you're busy while waiting for your daily brew);

  2. Place your journal on your bedside table and start writing before bed;

  3. Set a timer for a couple of minutes and write at your desk before you start work; or

  4. Habit stack! Start writing immediately before or after an established habit.

You can't always depend on a writing mood. Sometimes you need to do it when you don't want to like any other new habit.

Don't Confine Your Journal Entry To Pen and Paper

Putting pen to paper isn't for everyone. If you're a commuter, you might find the daily subway to the office the best time to journal, and carrying a paper journal takes up too much weight and space.

Use Your Notes App

If you're not a physical journal kind of person, then your notes app can be a powerful writing tool. Here you can free write or create a bullet journal. You can even set a to-do list or daily intention with a checkbox tool.

To keep it in the forefront of your mind, create a widget on your home screen to remind you to journal first thing.

Try Out Notion or Another Productivity App

Personally, I use Notion for everything from personal finance, to business planning, to guessed it, journal entries. I love how you can create templates and database items with tags so I can streamline all of my ideas. Here's a tutorial about how to use Notion as your digital journal.

Consider Your Unique Personality and Journaling Style

We all have different personality styles and things that motivate us to succeed. Some are more spontaneous types, others thrive on a schedule.

Spontaneous Free-Spirits

You have so much in your head, free-spirit so it's time to spill it all out into an empty notebook. Spontaneous types typically work on emotion. Optimize your mental health by firstly taking a few deep breaths. It's okay to slow down, then free-write all of those spontaneous thoughts onto paper.

Writing accesses the left hemisphere of your brain. So when you get all of your thoughts and ideas out of your mind, you'll have more space for right-brained activities.

The right brain governs your creativity, intuition, and feelings. If you're feeling limited by logistics and pragmatic thinking, getting all that out onto paper will help you intuit what you actually need, edging you a step closer to the dream life you're creating.

Schedulers and Planners

If you love a schedule and you can stick to it, then any type of bullet or gratitude journal will work for you. Schedulers and planners love structure and you can have a perfectionist streak.

I recommend a structured journal or writing your own journal prompts. It's all about control for you. So use the same prompts each day to track areas where you can improve or celebrate your successes. Included in the evening section of the goal getting journal are these three questions:

  1. What excited me today?

  2. What drained my energy today?

  3. What did I learn today?

Prompts similar to this where you can write honestly about your daily experiences is excellent for perfectionist planners. It allows you to use journaling as a tool for growth and continuous development.

Get Some Journal Writing Accountability

Despite all of your efforts, there are some people that need a bit of an external push to start a journal. Typically extroverts, people who gain energy from being around people, are more prone to getting distracted from their daily habits. They work best with a coach, an accountability buddy, or a virtual fitness community.

If you've fully committed to using journal writing as a form of self-observation and meditation, get honest with yourself.

Have you typically been successful at creating a new habit alone?

Accountability does not need to mean financial investment, it could just be a daily text from a friend reminding you to get those goals!

Get some journal writing accountability if you're brave enough.

How To Start A Journal For Your Unique Situation

Buying a beautiful notebook is one thing. Filling the pages with your heart and soul is another. Writer's block is when you're staring at a blank page and have no idea where to start. But don't worry, I'm not going to let that happen to you.

You can start a journal in a few different ways depending on your need. Here are four methods to help anyone get started.

Organizing A Bullet Journal - Best for Busy Bees 🐝

If you're busy, you need written prompts with some quick-fire bullet points. You don't have time to mess around. You can do this by buying a journal that has ready-made journaling prompts or by creating your own prompts in a personal journal.

If you're on the go, consider a journal on your phone or habit stacking. Feel free to simply live your best busy life and spend just a few minutes typing out your thoughts. Journaling is a spare moment that you spend on yourself and a few minutes per day are better than none.

Journaling Styles for Mental Health - Best for Increasing Mood ✨

A journaling practice has many incredible benefits for improving mood, reducing anxiety, and controlling stress. When you're depressed or anxious, it quickly feels like your life is spiraling out of control, and there's nothing that you can do about it.

When meditation fails, journaling is the way forward.

Meditation is so incredible because it teaches us how to observe our thoughts. But the problem is that most of us do not have the time, energy, or discipline to meditate. There are just too many distractions.

As a yoga teacher and personal trainer, I hear many people respond to meditation with, "I just can't meditate. I can't sit still and focus. I just keep thinking."

That's where journaling comes in.

It's the gateway habit to meditation, yoga, or other beneficial practices. You don't need to start meditating straight away, start a journal instead!

Journaling for Anxiety

Feeling anxious? Then free writing or an art journal is for you. I recommend that you also read the journaling for depression section to try to frame your thoughts in a positive light. But what's most important is that you write naturally and freely.

Anxiety can have you feeling jittery for no reason and a lot of anxiety is because of thoughts floating around that don't have a logical place to stay in your mind.

As you start a personal journal, you'll likely write quickly and it'll seem jumbled but trust me, it's working in mysterious ways. You spend a lot of time in your analytical brain and writing it all out helps you tap into your creativity and intuition.

Journaling for Depression

All prompts for depression should be positively framed. A gratitude or positivity journal is ideal for depression. Don't write on a blank page because it's possible that you could use journaling as another tool to self-sabotage. Here are some guidelines:

  • Focus on positive framing;

  • Use "I am" statements;

  • Avoid "I wish" statements; and

  • Remember there is no right or wrong writing process.

Depression leaves you feeling guilty for simply existing and it's especially hard to get out of bed and face the day, let alone start a new habit. Be kind to yourself and use this as a great tool to teach yourself how to frame experiences differently.

Journaling for Stress Management

Finding an ideal writing time can be stressful for those who are stressed, but writing is an incredible tool for stress management. It can help you take control of your own life. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Avoid to do lists or productivity planners and consider a to done list instead. We all have a bunch of things to do in a day, but if you're already stressed, reminding yourself of all the things there are left to do isn't a helpful way forward.

Instead, remind yourself of how much you've done. Keep a journal that reminds you of how far you've come rather than how much there is left to go.

Journal Entries for Overthinkers - Best for Creatives and Entrepreneurs 🧠

Overthinkers and entrepreneurial types need to start freewriting to get those creative juices flows. All you need is a pen, paper, and a timer. Time 5, 10, or 15 minutes and get pen to paper. It's as simple as that.

Overthinkers tend to research more than they do, so what's most important for you is to simply start journaling and write to your heart's content.

There is no right or wrong way to free write. Simply let your words flow onto paper and keep writing daily. Ideally at the same time each day.

Overthinking will overwhelm you. There's a bunch of knowledge out there telling you the right and wrong ways to do it. The trick is to take more action than you spend thinking.

Organizing A Goal Getting Journal - Best for Specific Outcomes 💪

The ideal journal entry for goal-getters are the journaling prompts that keep the end goal in mind and encourage self-reflection. There are a few layers to goal-getting.

  1. Setting SMART goals.

  2. Reminding yourself of the goal constantly.

  3. Reviewing the goal frequently.

  4. Adjusting your plan of action when required.

You need a journal that encourages self-observation and reflection because this is how you'll be able to discover what's working and what's not. A goal without a plan is just a dream. A structured Goal Getting Journal is perfect for you.

And, Well...Start Writing

Learning is the easy part. Doing the work is more challenging. But don't let all the hours of research on the perfect journaling method overwhelm you.

It doesn't matter if you're a pen and paper or phone person. I've got you covered. Included is an electronic and printable version. Included is:

  • Gratitude journal

  • A to-do list

  • A daily inspirational quote

  • Journal prompts

  • Daily planner

You'll need 5 minutes in the morning and evening to make the most of it. If you don't act on your goals, your goals will remain just dreams.

The choice to create your ideal life is yours. You got this!


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