I started journaling every day towards the end of last year. I don’t even remember what pushed me to start, but I’m so glad I did. Here’s why.
My journal contains the best, most authentic writing I’ve done in my entire life.
I’ve never been good at talking about my day. My parents would ask me every day how school was, and I would just say “it was good”. I come off as unemotional because I honestly don’t know how to express my emotions properly around other humans.
My journal has become a safe space for me to vent my raw emotions. I fear no judgement. Some days my thoughts flow easily onto the page. Other days they’re just a trickle. But my thoughts are there anytime I want to go back and reflect what I did or how I was feeling on a certain day.
The actual content of my journal isn’t the point though. It’s the commitment to doing it everyday that has helped me the most.
It took me a while to find my groove. My initial entries are pretty weak. I wrote my best journal entry a few days ago, almost 3 months after I started.
Here’s 3 things that helped this unemotional robot build a daily journaling habit.
Ask Yourself Why
Why do you want to start journaling? Is it because you’ve seen it recommended across Medium and the rest of the internet over and over again?
Think about the why, then write it down. I want to start journaling because…
- I suck at talking about my feelings with other people but I think I’d be comfortable writing them down.
- I’m afraid of being vulnerable with the people I care about the most, but I still want to express those thoughts in a private way.
- 5 years from now I want to look back and remember the details of my life to see how far I’ve come.
Those were some of my reasons. Yours may be similar or completely different. Write them down first so you have something to go back to.
The written word has power. Translating your thoughts into real words forces you to grapple with them. Confront them head on. See what it feels like to move them back and forth between your hands.
Any time you get discouraged, go back to your reasons for starting. Are those reasons still valid? If not, why?
After time your why might change.
But first understand why you want to start in the first place.
Ok, time to go buy a Moleskine right?
Now that you have the why figured out, you need to understand where you’ll keep your journal.
This is finally your chance to buy that $15 Moleskine journal from Barnes & Noble, right? No self respecting journaler would write in a $1 notebook from the dollar store.
Resist the urge to buy a fancy notebook or research “best journaling software”.
If you were to sit down right now and write something, how would you do it?
Start journaling there.
The best way to journal is the one that works. If buying a $20 journal motivates you to use it every day, then do it. But maybe start in a cheap notebook you have lying around first to gauge your commitment.
I journal on the computer because I can type really fast and my handwriting is terrible. My mind moves faster than my hand can write, so I end up flying across the page with barely legible words that even a 10 year old would be ashamed of.
I keep my journal in Notion, a flexible productivity tool that has an app that works across all my devices. I can start a journal entry on my phone at the gym and then finish it on my laptop at home. I do this more often than I thought I would.
You don’t need a fancy notebook, or new fancy software to get started. Grab a notebook you have lying around and just write.
Get a few entries under your belt. Don’t worry about how they look or how long they are. You can optimize later.
What triggers you?
My first journal entries are pretty pathetic. They look more like shopping lists — bulletpointed fragments of 4 to 5 words each. They contained such meaningful entries as “took a nap” and “got coffee”.
After a few days of terrible, awful, low effort entries I started getting series about journaling. I needed to understand my triggers. What causes me to just unload on the page?
My secret is having a template.
In Notion, each new journal entry is preloaded with a template to help kickstart my thoughts. It used to be very structured with these 3 questions:
- What were your intentions today?
- What are you grateful for?
- What did you accomplish today?
This was a great start to journaling, but it lead to repetitive and meaningless entries for me. I found myself just filling out the boring details of my day and calling it good. There was no substance.
But you don’t need software to do this.
Grab a sticky note and slap it on the front of your journal. Write a single question on it, like “How are you doing?”.
I read those words every single time I start a new journal entry now.
Imagine your significant other or a loved one asking you that question. Someone to whom your immediate response isn’t “i’m good, how are you?”.
Your template will evolve over time, so if you feel like what you have now isn’t working then change it up.
No one is watching. Do what works best for you.
So, how are you doing?
Start right now.
Put Medium away, grab a notebook or fire open your preferred writing app, and start your journal.
Use a prompt like the one I provided. Or don’t.
Just do it.
Check back in a month, then 3 months, then 6 months. See how far you’ve come.
You’ll be amazed, trust me.