Starting a Journal-5 Steps to Journaling

Starting a journal is a great way to organize your thoughts. Have you been thinking about starting a journal? Have you heard of the benefits that writing daily can provide? Do you know someone who has overcome anxiety or stress due to journaling? Do you think journaling would help you? No matter your reason, it’s always a good time to start writing down your thoughts every day.

If you are wondering, starting a journal is not a difficult task. You don’t need a fancy diary or special pens to start. Of course, if it would make things more fun for you, grab those colored pens and a special notebook and get started! If you prefer a plain notebook that's fine too! Journaling is all-inclusive and is all about your preference and comfort. I gave some reasons for journaling in this post. Those reasons are just a few reasons for starting a journal.

The following tips will help you as you're starting a journal and will make it easier for you to continue the task every day!

Starting a journal. Image shows a pink fluffy background with three journals and a pen placed in the middle.
Starting a Journal
Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

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Determine Your WHY

It’s a good idea to have a reason for journaling before you begin. This way, you will stay motivated to write every day. It is common for people to decide to journal, then give up after the first few days. However if you have determined WHY you want to journal, you are more likely to keep up with it. I highly recommend you write down your WHY on the first page of your journal. That way if you start feeling overwhelmed you can easily remind yourself why you are keeping a journal.

Decide How You Want to Journal

Traditionally, a journal is a paper notebook, however, we live in a tech-filled world nowadays. You can journal by writing in a document on your computer. You can even use a mobile app! Choose a method of journaling that best fits your lifestyle. This will help you stay with your new journaling habit.

One of the most popular web-based journals is Penzu, the basic version is free, and there is a pro version that allows multiple journals and different fonts, for a monthly fee. There are a couple of plans to choose from. If you upgrade or not both free and pro versions are 100% private so your thoughts and feelings are for your eyes only.

If you enjoy writing lists or letters, you may find it easy to keep up with handwriting in your journal. However, if you have a busy schedule, are constantly on the go, or rely on your mobile device more than pen and paper, an app, google document, or even just your phone’s notes may be the way to go for you.

Set Realistic Expectations

Starting a journal can be scary, it's a very personal thing, and it can make you feel vulnerable, even though it's for your eyes only! It is essential that you're not too hard on yourself when you start journaling. Burnout is easy and often occurs, even if you enjoy writing. If you aren’t used to getting your thoughts down on paper (or on a screen), you may quickly resent journaling and want to give up, and that is counterproductive to what journaling is all about.

Many people start journaling by writing for 10-15 minutes each day. If this seems to be too much, reduce the time to 5 minutes. You can always increase the time once you have established a good writing routine and get better at putting your thoughts into words.

Avoid forcing yourself to write at the same time each day. Sometimes life gets in the way of even the best-laid plans. Many find it better to write in the morning, as they can release one negative thought or feeling before getting on with the day. If you don’t have time to write in the morning, you can do it on your lunch break or even at night before bed.

Know that it’s okay to skip a day. Mental exhaustion is a real thing. Unexpected situations can arise and throw off our entire day. Life happens and things get pushed back, just be sure you pick it back up the following day. It’s okay if you don’t journal every single day.

Tips to Stay Motivated

Sometimes it can be difficult to find the drive to pick up your journal – or open an app. Everyone that keeps a journal will admit they have struggled with writing more than once. The goal is to make it easy for you to remember to do it, and make it easy to do. Try to think of your writing as your way to cope rather than another chore.

Tip #1 – Prompts Are Your Friend

There is a plethora of journaling prompts online that will boost your thinking if you are ever stuck. A simple reflective question such as “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” can give you the nudge you need to fill your 10 minutes of writing time.

You can also pick up a guided journal. These books are filled with questions and prompts to help you jot down what’s in your mind. Tip #2 – View Journaling as a Habit, Not a Hobby

While you don’t want to stress out about journaling, you should view it as part of your daily routine. If you see it as a fun hobby, you may not feel the need to stick with it daily. That notebook soon becomes a paperweight on your desk or bedside table.

Treat journaling as a task you need to complete, just as you would taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Viewing it as an important part of your day lets you reap the benefits faster.

Tip #3 – Remind Yourself Every Day

If you find it hard to remember to journal, set an alarm on your mobile phone. Set the alarm for a time that you should be free to journal, or at least at a time you can reset the notification to remind you at a better time. Once you have incorporated journaling into your daily routine, you may find you don’t need an alarm as a reminder.

Tip #4 – Change your Surroundings

Sometimes just a change in scenery can make it easier for the words to flow. Move to a new room in your home if you feel stuck. Try journaling at a different time of day if the habit starts to feel more like a chore. Step outside your home and give journaling in the park or at a coffee shop a try and you never know what kind of inspiration may hit when in a new environment.

Just Do It

As Nike says “Just Do It”. Starting a journal can be intimidating, but don't let it be! Journaling can be beneficial once you get started though writing every day can feel like a struggle at times, it can quickly become an amazing release and even one of your favorite habits. With these tips and proper planning, you should find it easy to devote a small portion of your day to journaling your thoughts, feelings, and plans.