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The 5-Step Guide to Starting an Online Journaling Practice

The 5-Step Guide to Starting an Online Journaling Practice

The times are changing and, while journaling used to be the sole territory of pen and paper, now you can use a whole range of tools and software to create and store your entries online. Digital journaling is a different entity to pen and paper journaling, and it comes with its own advantages and drawbacks. If you take the time to explore your chosen online journaling tool and set it up properly, however, you will have a convenient and feature-rich way to store your words, videos and images online.

1. Use the BJAT tool to discover which online journaling app is right for you.

The BJAT tool by Sam Lytle from Easyjournaling.com will help you work out which online journaling app is right for you. The tool uses a number of criteria, including how many journals you want to keep, whether you want to be able to back up your data via the cloud, what kind of social media integration you want (if any) and whether you want to be able to export your notes. It then takes your answers to these questions and presents a list of suitable journaling apps that meet your criteria as closely as possible.

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2. Familiarise yourself with the tool of your choice.

This might sound like a basic step, but all too often it’s tempting to jump in and start writing, without exploring the different features that each tool offers. Many journaling tools give you the option to add images, audio clips and even videos, which can all enhance text-only journaling. You might not use all of these tools, but knowing the features that are available will help you make the most out of the journaling tool you choose.

In addition to learning more about the different features of your tool, also check whether the developers offer mobile versions of their apps. More and more companies are now offering iOS, Android and Windows apps that sync with your browser app. These allow you to create and upload notes on the go so you don’t always have to be stuck behind your computer to journal.

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3. Customise your security and sharing settings.

Most online journaling tools give you the option to customize your privacy settings and share links to your entries on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t want your online journal entries to be visible to the public, it’s important to ensure your privacy and sharing settings reflect this before you start posting.

Additionally, some web apps give you the chance to encrypt your journaling notes (sometimes, for example with Penzu.com, this feature is part of a premium membership option). If you want to add an extra layer of security to your journaling notes, encryption hides your journaling notes within scrambled code, so they are invisible to prying eyes.

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4. Check your commitment.

Now you have the technical side of setting up an online journaling practise over and done with, it’s time to look at the habit-formation side. In the long-term, this is just as important as choosing the right online journaling tool, as your motivation and commit will be what keeps your online journaling practice going.

Make a commitment to use your new online journaling tool on specific days each week for the first few weeks. Choosing the same days each time will help integrate this new habit into your daily routine. During this period, notice which time of day is best for you to journal. Some people get most benefit from journaling first thing in the morning, while others find it more helpful in the evening or at lunchtime.

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5. Export/back up your notes on a regular basis.

Even if you’re happy keeping your journaling entries in your chosen online tool for now, you might want to export them at some point in the future. Backing up or exporting your entries so that you have your own copy of them is good practise anyway as it means you’re not totally dependent on the developers’ servers to keep your entries safe. Some tools allow you to export your entries as an RTF (real text format), some will back up your notes in the cloud, and others let you email your daily entries to yourself. Familiarise yourself with your tool’s backup and export functions from the beginning, then set a regular time (for example, the beginning of each month) when you will back up the previous month’s data so you don’t forget.

What are your tips for starting an online journaling practice? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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