Journaling: How to Get Started

Using a journal is a great way to help you reach your goals and to become more successful. Let's take a look at how to get started!

A woman is sitting at a desk writing in her journal. She is at a glass table with a white coffee mug to her left and a computer above that. She has a wooden shelf above her with a cactus, a statue, and coconut halves on it.

Have you decided that you want to start a journal? Maybe you have heard of the benefits that writing daily can provide. Maybe you know someone who has overcome anxiety or stress due to journaling. Maybe you want to journal to help you set and reach. No matter your reason, it’s always a good time to start writing down your thoughts every day.

If you are wondering where you begin journaling, it’s 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, stickers, and a special notebook! However, journaling is all-inclusive and is all about your preference and comfort. Whatever kind of notebook or digital medium you chose is perfect. There is no right or wrong answer for your journal.

The following tips will not only help you get started with journaling, but they will make it easier for you to continue the task every day to reach your goals.

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. If you have determined WHY you want to journal, however, you are more likely to keep up with it. Setting a goal to journal every day will help too. You can stay accountable by joining our Facebook group and posting your goal daily.

Reasons a person may want to journal include

  • Reduce stress
  • Cope with depression
  • Promote healthy self awareness
  • Release thoughts that are packed in their brain
  • Understand problems or fears they are experiencing
  • Give clarity to a mind full of jumbled thoughts
  • Create goals to achieve tasks or reach their dreams

You may very well have more than one reason to begin a journal - the more the better!

An open journal with a grid on the page. A person is holding a red pen, poised to write on the page.

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.

If you enjoy writing lists or letters, you may find it easy to keep up with handwriting 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. There are a bunch of digital journals you can check out.

When you are determining how you want to journal, it might help to know your learning style. That can help you determine if you want to do a digital or hard copy journal as well.

Set Realistic Expectations

The first thing to remember is it is essential that you don’t get too hard on yourself when you start journaling. Burnout is easy and can occur, 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.

Next, many people start journaling by writing 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. I would actually recommend starting at 5 minutes and building your stamina if you are't used to journaling.

Something to avoid is 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 negative thoughts or feelings 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. Picking a time to write is a great strategy and will help you get into a routine, but don't feel you have to stick to the time. It's better to write than to worry about the timing of your writing.

Last, if you can't journal every day, that's OK too. Mental exhaustion is a real thing and unexpected situations can arise and throw off our entire day. Just make sure to pick it back up the following day.

On a grey wooden table sits an open, blank journal. There is a glass cup next to the journal with colored pens in it.

Tips to Stay Motivated to Write and Reach Your Journaling Goals

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 the 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 - Journal Prompts are your Friend

There are so many 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 from Amazon or any local bookstore. These books are filled with questions and prompts to help you jot down what’s in your mind. You can also writing down your goal for the day and the steps you are going to take to achieve it.

Tip #2 - View Writing in a Journal as a Habit, Not a Hobby

While you don’t want to stress out about journaling too much, 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 quicker. Setting a daily goal to journal will help you stay motivated.

A white journal with grey swirls sits on a light grey table. There's a gold pen atop the journal. To the left of the journal are two black crystals and a clear crystal, as well as a gold paper clip.

Tip #3 - Remind Yourself to Journal Every Day

If you find it hard to remember to journal, set an alarm on your mobile phone. Do it 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. The goal is for it to become a habit that you just do every day.

Tip #4 - Change your Surroundings When You Journal

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. You never know what kind of inspiration may hit when in a new environment.

Journaling can be beneficial once you get started. Even though writing every day can feel like a struggle at times, it can quickly become an amazing release and even one of your favorite hobbies. With these tips and proper planning, you should find it easy to devote a small portion of your day to journal your thoughts, feelings, and plans.

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