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The 5-Step Guide to Starting an Online Journaling Practice

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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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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 October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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