How to keep a journal and actually stick with it


So let’s say that you’ve already internalized the benefits of journaling, and want to get on board.

Chances are, you’ve already tried. And stopped. Like going to the gym and so many other skills out there, this is one where people say “I’d love to, but I can never stick with it.

And I understand this. I tried keeping a journal many times over the years. And it never stuck, until I figured out these few tricks:

  • Aim to write very little. The easiest way to fail at keeping a journal is to try to tackle too much. So don’t aim for completeness. You will never be able to capture your entire life in a journal, so don’t try. Instead, limit your writing to a few paragraphs. Think: one or two moments from your day.
  • Write frequently. The less you write, the more often you can do it, and the less of a burden it will become. I recommend every day, or as close to it as possible. That way you’re more likely to add it into your daily habits (like keeping a record of your spending, which of course you do already).
  • Choose a medium that’s easy for you. When I first started journaling, I used Microsoft Word on my desktop. As I started traveling more, I switched over to using drafts in Gmail. Then I discovered Evernote, and haven’t looked back since. But even a pen and notebook can work if that’s how you prefer it. But think about this one before you start, as the choice of medium can make or break this project. If you find yourself fighting with your medium, it won’t work.
  • Pick a time and stick with it. When you wake up. When you go to bed. Lunch time. Whenever. It doesn’t matter what time you pick, but aim for a consistent time that works with your schedule. Make it part of your daily routine, and you will find it easier to continue.
  • Remember: anything can be worth writing about. Even though you are writing for yourself, you are really writing for all of your future selves, which may be a very varied group. (Seriously, I often wonder if my 15 year old self would get along with me today.) So while you may find certain things important today, they may not seem so meaningful tomorrow. So don’t feel like you need to write about relationships or jobs or anything specific. Write about how it felt while sitting at a cafe. Write about whatever you’re thinking about. Write about nothing.
  • If you miss a day, feel free to skip it. Don’t let the pressure of “it’s been so long since I’ve written” discourage you from getting back to it. Remember that no one is going to read any of this aside from you, so you make and break the rules as you wish.
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If you remember nothing else, here is your journaling mantra: fewer words, more often.

More than any of the above, the question that perhaps matters more than any other is, how badly do you want it? If it’s just something you’d kind of sort of like to do, then you probably won’t have enough drive to keep it going. But if you’ve internalized all the benefits of journaling, and you’ve decided that those benefits really are worth the effort, only then do you have a chance at sticking with it.

But enough about me. How have you been able to keep up with your journaling?

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