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Published on December 23, 2019

How to Create a Habit of Writing in a Journal

How to Create a Habit of Writing in a Journal

There are very few habits that have aged well with time as journaling.[1] That’s because it works incredibly well as the inner monologue everyone needs to have for a more productive and healthy living.

Journaling makes you self-aware of your own needs, strengths, and weaknesses. By writing down your thoughts, you get more clarity and confidence to make important decisions. It helps steer yourself in the path you want to go to.

If you are still not convinced, hard data from a Harvard Business school study should help you see the benefits of journaling. The findings of the study showed that employees who were encouraged to write up their experiences at the end of the day performed better.[2] The 15 minutes spent on journaling triumphed over the 15 minutes spent on extra work time.

Many researchers and famous thinkers have known to have kept extensive diaries to help them organize their thoughts and keep a record of their findings. Besides being a memory capsule, these diaries offer a lot of insight into how a person can improve themselves and get better at what they do.

Why Should You Write a Journal?

The major reasons why you would want to keep a diary are for focus, patience, planning and personal growth.[3]

  • Writing a journal lets you visualize your goals and gain clarity on your priorities. What you envision is the first step to what you want to achieve. With a personal diary, you get to visualize your goals and see the big picture of your own aspirations.
  • Your diary will become a tangible home to your ideas. They offer shape to the creative process you take to get the best out of your situation.
  • All your confusing and overwhelming thoughts can be streamlined and you can see where you are headed by articulating your daily experiences.
  • When you write a diary, you will find that you get a clearer understanding of your purpose and drive. You can self-criticize, find your own faults and be grateful and proud of your daily achievements and progress.
  • Your journal is for your own use. So it is a place for honesty and raw authenticity. By writing aloud all your thoughts, you will feel a lot better and have a focused growth.
  • It helps you organize your inner thoughts and take meaningful actions to bring your dreams closer to reality.

You will be surprised how much of a productivity boost the simple act of spending 10 minutes to write a diary can give you. Well, you wouldn’t know until you try.

Making a Habit of Writing a Journal

Anyone can write a journal and there is no one right way to journal.

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The thing about journaling is that you are not writing it for anyone else. You are writing it for yourself and you don’t have to care if it’s boring, or it has the right grammar or it looks pretty. It just has to be right for you.

Don’t wait for the perfect day or perfect experience to write about. Just start today. Spending just 10 minutes a day for a small write up can itself provide a visible improvement in whatever you do.

Wondering how you can keep up with the habit though? Let me help you with that. Here are some tips and suggestions to help you started with journaling:

1. Choose Your Medium

This is an obvious starting place and the choices are digital or paper. While traditionally, paper has been the most used medium, digital works fine too. The choice comes down to your comfort level and availability.

So my advice is – don’t spend too much time trying to choose the medium. Make the choice right away and stick to it.

Changing mediums often could be confusing and disrupt the thought process.

If you choose to go with paper and pen mode, try to find a notebook that works for you. Focus on the process of journaling and not the physical journal. It does not matter if the journal is too fancy, too big or too simple.

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Try using a dedicated app such as DayOne, Momento and Penzu; or writing tool that can be used offline if you choose to go digital.

Consistency is key to making it a habit. While you can make use of online storage to back up your journal, try to avoid being connected to the internet when you write.

Avoid distractions while you write. Your writing time is your ‘me time’. Don’t let that Facebook notification distract you.

2. Kickstart Writing

So you have got a pen and paper. Or maybe your phone or laptop. Either way, a blank page is now staring at you. Don’t think hard on finding the perfect words to start your journal. As I say repeatedly, your journal is for your own self.

Don’t second guess what you want to write. Just go with the flow. You need not restrict yourself to just prose.

You can write outlines of ideas, notes, make to-do lists, doodles, sketches, scrapbooking and anything you want. Anything you feel should be put in there, can go in there. Just let your creativity take its course.

3. Use Prompts

If required, you can make use of prompts to help you get started with.

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Start by having a conversation with yourself.

  • How was your day?
  • How do you feel?
  • What was new today?
  • What did you learn today?
  • What made you sad?
  • What did you find difficulty with?
  • What are you going to do tomorrow?

You can start the day by writing an outline of your plan for the day in the morning and then write again at the end of the day on how it went. This will help you see your progress and be aware of your growth.

4. Be Honest

Journaling only works if you are being honest. It is one place where you can know with certainty that you can open up and not be judged. Let out even the darkest of your thoughts and by the end of it, you will gain a little clarity.

When you look back, you can see how far you have come and literally witness your own growth and progress.

5. Don’t Skip Writing! Just Write Something, Anything

There may be days where you feel you have nothing significant to write. Sometimes you may feel too busy to write. But never miss out on writing, in any case. Because only with practice and consistency – a habit forms.

If you have nothing to write, try making use of prompts. Just begin by asking ‘ how was your day’.

If you had a great day, write what made you happy and write about the feelings of achievement.

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If your day was a struggle that seems endless, write about your obstacles and what you would do once you get rid of them.

You can even make plans for the future and write down your dreams when it feels pointless. Keep pushing yourself and visualize where you want to be. Journaling will help you trace back and find a way to victory.

Remember it is okay to go slow. You don’t have to rush it to simply be done with it. Take the time spent journaling as an investment in your productivity.

Once you start writing, you will see you have lots to write about.

Write about your ideas, goals, memories, things you are grateful for, feelings, dreams, achievements big and small, all the confusing thoughts you need to get out of, things you can’t say unless to yourself, your own story of life and all the ways you can improve.

You can even maintain particular journals such as study journals, dream journals and so on.

Get Started Now!

Productivity starts with being aware of your progress. And that, my friend, happens automatically when you start journaling. Start today and keep writing every day.

More Tips on Productivity

Featured photo credit: fotografierende via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How To Break the Procrastination Cycle

How To Break the Procrastination Cycle

How often do you find yourself procrastinating? Do you wish you could procrastinate less? We all know how debilitating procrastination can make us feel, and it seems to be a challenge we all share. Procrastination is one of the biggest hindrances to moving forward and doing the things that we want to in life.

There are many reasons why you might be procrastinating, and sometimes, it is really difficult to pinpoint why. You might be procrastinating because of something related to the past, present, or future (they are all intertwined), or it could be as simple as biological factors. Whatever the reason, most of us follow a cycle when we procrastinate, from the moment we decide to do something to actually getting it done, or in this case, not getting it done.

The Vicious Procrastination Cycle

For some reason, it helps to understand that we all go through the same thing, even though we often feel like the only person in the world who struggles with this. Do you resonate with the cycle below?

1. Feeling Eager and Energized

This is when you commit to taking a new action or getting something done. You are feeling confident and optimistic that, this time round, you will do it!

2. Apprehension Starts to Come Up

The beginning stages of optimism are starting to fade. There is still time, but you haven’t done anything yet, and you start to feel uneasy. You realize that you actually have to do something to get it done, and that good intentions are not enough.

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3. Still No Action

More time has passed. You still haven’t taken any action and probably have a lot of excuses why. You start to panic a little and wish you had started sooner. Your panic starts to turn into frustration and perhaps even irritability.

4. Flicker of Hope Left

You can still make it; there is a little time left and you ponder how you are going to get it done. The rush you get from leaving your task until the last minute gives you a flicker of hope. There is still time; you can do this!

5. Fading Quickly

Your hope starts to quickly fade as you try desperately to understand why you just can’t do this. You may feel desperate and have thoughts like, “What is wrong with me?” and “Why do I ALWAYS do this?” You feel discouraged, or perhaps angry and resentful at yourself.

6. Vow to Yourself

Once the feeling of anger or disappointment disappears, you most likely swear to yourself that this will never happen again; that this was the last time and next time will be different.

Does this sound like you? Is the next time different? I understand the devastating effect that procrastination has on many lives, and for some, it is a really serious problem. You also have, on the other hand, those who procrastinate but it doesn’t affect them in any way. You know whether it is affecting you or not and whether it undermines your results.

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How to Break the Procrastination Cycle

Unless you break the cycle, you will keep reinforcing it!

To break the cycle, you need to change the sequence of events. Here is my suggestion on how you can effectively break the vicious cycle you are in!

1. Feeling Eager and Energized

This is when you commit to taking a new action or getting something done. You are feeling confident and optimistic that, this time round, you will do it! The first stage is always the same.

2. Plan

Thinking alone will not help; you need to plan your actions. I always put my deadlines one or two days in advance because you know Murphy’s Law! Take into consideration everything that you need to do, how long it will take you, and what you will need to get it done, then plan the individual steps.

3. Resistance

Just because you planned doesn’t mean that this time is guaranteed to be different. You will most likely still feel the resistance so expect this. This stage is key to identifying why you are procrastinating, so when you feel the resistance, try to identify it immediately.

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What is causing you to hesitate in this moment? What do you feel?  Write them down if it helps.

4. Confront Those Feelings

Once you have identified what could possibly be holding you back, for example, fear of failure, lack of motivation, etc. You need to work on lessening the resistance.

Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to move forward? What would make it easier?” If you find that you fear something, overcoming that fear is not something that will happen overnight — keep this in mind.

5. Put Results Before Comfort

You need to keep moving forward and put results before comfort. Take action, even if it is only for 10 minutes. The key is to break the cycle and not reinforce it. You have more control that you think.

6. Repeat

Repeat steps 3-5 until you achieve what you first set out to do.

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Final Thoughts

Change doesn’t happen overnight, and if you have some deeper underlying reasons why you procrastinate, it may take longer to finally break the cycle.

If procrastination is holding you back in life, it is better to deal with it now than to deal with the negative consequences later on. It is not a question of comfort anymore; it is a question of results. What is more important to you?

Learn more about how to stop procrastinating here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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