The act of writing in a journal makes me feel better. Whether I am in the midst of a hard time in my life or experiencing a moment of unbridled joy, journaling makes my world seem more real and manageable.

As the saying goes, “Life has a way of making other plans”. While I would love to sit down every day, settle in with a cup of coffee and expound on the sound of the wind gently whistling through the trees; my world just does not allow for that! (I would guess, yours does not either!)

To help keep me focused on my daily journal, I use these 3 simple strategies and it has worked wonders:

  1. Reserve
  2. Write
  3. Review

Working this approach, I have maintained an ongoing gratitude / personal inventory journal for over 2 years. You can adapt this method to whatever your writing goals are to ensure you get the most out of your journal experience.

Make a plan to journal, write it down
Make a Plan, Write It Down, Review Where You’ve Been | Image: Shutterstock

Reserve Some Space to Journal

Life gets busy. Before I know it, I am squeezing one extra ‘to-do’ into my already overcrowded schedule. It gets easier and easier to shift journaling out in order to fit in something that seems important at the moment.

Prioritizing my own self-care may seem a bit self-indulgent, but I am not at peace on my inside, I am certainly not on the outside. I like to think of writing as my own form of ‘medicine’ that helps heal my soul.

Of course, we would all love to cuddle up and explore the deeper mysteries of our own spiritual journey through the universe, but we need to get some groceries and the kids have to be picked up! It seems like our lives are too full to have the time to write.

Find the Time: 

Everywhere I go, there is a space for a mini-break. Sitting in the car, waiting for the kids to come out or the little coffee shop next to the market are both great places to find 5 minutes to stop and jot down ideas into my journal.

In everyone’s day, there is a spare 5–10 minutes to reserve for ourselves, if we give ourselves permission to use it!

Hold Yourself Accountable: 

At first you may have to force yourself to find the time to write every day. You may be hesitant because you don’t feel ‘inspired on a schedule’ to be in the mental space to capture your thoughts. You may miss a day or two and think, “What’s the point…”.

Like any exercise, writing in your journal builds up over time. You may not see the benefits immediately, but in the long term the results are obvious!

Use a habit tracker or some other form of reminder to keep track of your consistency. If you miss a few days, do not beat yourself up! Your journal will be there when you start writing again!

Just like building muscle, the repetition starts to form a pattern in your brain. You will unlock more capabilities as you build over time. Just like professional bodybuilder magazines show the output of years of dedicated training, there are dozens of Medium articles about writing 1000 words every day. You can’t bench press 500lbs on day one in the gym and you won’t be able to write that way either! Don’t worry, if you want to you can get there over time!

Write In a Journal!

It may seem pretty obvious, but the best way to keep a journal is to actually write! I tend to get stuck on the old adage, “The great is the enemy of the good.”

In my mind, I build up a deep and complex exploration of my emotional triggers and the reactions I have to them in daily life… and when I finally sit to write, it comes out… “I went to the grocery store and got a dozen eggs. Two of them were cracked and I didn’t notice it!” I was thinking about Hemingway style novel writing but got 3rd grade book report!

It does not matter WHAT I write in my journal; it only matters THAT I write in my journal. Don’t let yourself get disappointed when you think you may not be doing your best. In reality, whatever you write in a journal IS the best thing you could write!

Content is Important: 

A journal is your own space to explore your ideas, gratitude, well-being or whatever YOU want it to be. There are no rules as to what you write (or even that you write words).

I find that there are times when I can only manage to jot down a few bullet points. I don’t have the mental energy to commit to even writing full and complete sentences, but I still put something on the paper!

There have been times when I could not find just the right words to convey my ideas, so I scribbled down a sketch to capture my feelings. Trust me, I am no Matisse or even Picasso! What was important was that I got SOMETHING on the paper!

If you want, allow yourself to come back to it and fill in the details when you are in a better space. The only rules you have are the ones you set for yourself. The only judge of the “completeness” of your entry is you!

Prompts Work: 

Sometimes I don’t know what I want to write. I look for simple prompts in my world to give me a spark. I have a few ‘trusted standby’ prompts that always work, regardless of my mood:

Find your own prompts and make a list of them in the back of your journal to help spur your creative mind!

Review Where You Have Been

Writing is good, but reading can be better! Take the time to review where you have been over the course of your journal writing!

Depending on what you want out of your journal, recognize your growth and change. Look for trends in your emotions, ideas and relationships. Things that may not be apparent over a short period of time become more obvious when you see them in a longer time frame.

Let those changes help drive further changes. A great writing prompt is to outline a plan of action for growing and improving the things you find in your journal!

Take a moment to build a journal strategy. Incorporate a plan to reserve your space, write something (anything!) down every day and review your progress. These simple ideas may seem obvious at the moment, but if you do them well they will help keep you focused on days when journaling may be the furthest thing from your mind!

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