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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.

More by this author

Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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