Maybe you’ve never done much journaling, but you’re thinking you might want to start, or maybe you’ve tried a few times but struggle to make it into a habit.
Journaling is highly personal and everyone does it a little differently. Eventually, you will develop your own unique way to do it, but until then, we can help you get started.
For our intro to journaling and tips on how to begin, continue reading, but if you are looking for a specific topic, here are a few quick links:
- Journal Types and Writing Techniques
- Journaling your old stories
- Journaling through audio
- Sharing your personal journal
Before we get into practical tips on how to start, it is important to clarify some concepts about journaling itself.
What is journaling
Put simply, journaling is the habit of writing about yourself.
Of course, writing about yourself can be very broad! Your journal might be a simple record of what you do each day, or it might include your mood and feelings, the weather, introspection, your thoughts about others, or what's happening in the world.
Just talk to yourself while nobody is watching. Most often, you are talking to your future self. On occasion, you may opt to share your thoughts with people you trust. Later in this guide, we’ll discuss what to share and with whom, but for now, treat your journal as a conversation with yourself.
Why start journaling
If you are reading a guide to start journaling, you probably already have an idea of why you want to do it. Any reason is valid if it works for you, but knowing why other people do it might strengthen your habit.
You might journal to deepen your understanding of yourself or your emotions, to heal past hurts, or to cope with current challenges. It can help to organize your ideas, make sense of what's happening in your life, and build a foundation to make decisions. You can use it to track activities, develop healthy habits or eliminate unhealthy ones, and understand how what you do relates to how you feel. Or you might simply record life events and create memories that you can revisit in a distant future. You could use your journal to exercise your creativity, experiment with new ways of self-expression, ramble, or vent. Or, if none of those reasons strike your fancy, you might choose to start a journal for a brand new reason altogether.
How to start journaling
Developing a new habit is never easy. On one hand, you just have to start. The problem is, some people are so good at starting, that they just keep starting and starting and starting...
We hope that with our tips, you will start journaling definitively and not have to start again!
Give some thought to the reason you are journaling
It can be anything, but you have to have a reason. If you can't explain to yourself why you’re starting this, you probably won't be able to convince yourself to keep doing it. Once you develop the habit you might discover new reasons to maintain it, but you must already know at least one good reason to start.
The second day you write matters more than the first
When you start journaling, you might put a lot of thought and time into that first entry, but one entry doesn’t constitute journaling. Remember, journaling is a habit, which means it continues for more than just a day. That first journal entry is just a pre-requisite to what will eventually become a habit if you do it again and again and again.
You should care a little bit less about what you write on the first day, but do consider what you are going to write tomorrow. If you start thinking about what you want to write tomorrow, you’re more likely to actually do it.
Timebox the first days of writing
Timeboxing is the technique of allocating a fixed amount of time to an activity. In the first days of writing your journal entries, timebox your writing so you don’t get overwhelmed—and keep it short, like 15 minutes.
You might feel inspired and be tempted to pour your heart out for hours to make up for all the days that you haven’t written anything. Resist that temptation! No marathon ever started with a sprint. You won't be capable of creating a daily habit of something if it takes hours out of your day. If you set such a high bar for yourself, you’ll feel pressure keep writing long and inspired entries, and the pressure will make you quit.
While you are still forming the habit, don't abuse it. Long entries will sometimes occur, but let it happen naturally once you have already formed the habit.
Set an alarm
When you are starting a new habit it is not, by definition, part of your routine. You won't naturally remember to do it, and the day will get away from you. So set an alarm. Try to predict the time of day when you’re most likely to do it—it usually fits best as one of the last parts of the day — and set a daily reminder on your phone. Don't trust your memory tomorrow, take advantage of your resolve today.
Tell someone you started journaling
A public announcement becomes a public commitment. Even if it is just one person, it is one more person who can hold you accountable for your resolution. If you can find someone who already has a journaling habit, even better.
Don't worry if you miss a day, but never miss two in a row
It is not a big deal to miss a day during that first week, or even two, as long as they are not consecutive. Be diligent to never miss two days in a row. Having a flawless streak of daily entries is motivating — so imagine how demotivating a negative streak can be.
After a few days, read your early entries
When you read your first entries after a few days you will feel how rewarding is to have a personal journal. You will understand much better the value of the habit of journaling and you will imagine how you would feel reading the same thing a year from now, then five years from now, or ten, or twenty. It’s powerful!
If you think you are ready to start, you can start with Quid Sentio. We make it easy to write, easy to find and filter older entries, and easy to share with trusted people when you are ready to do it.
Sign up here and give it a try, and follow all the tips above to set yourself up for success!
If you want to continue exploring more about journaling, we still have several more topics to cover in this guide. Choose yours: