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Last Updated on August 22, 2018

Why You Should Keep A Journal And How To Get Started

Why You Should Keep A Journal And How To Get Started

Keeping a journal might sound like something you should have outgrown in middle school, but that’s just a stereotype.

Writing in a journal is actually very beneficial, and recommended by many psychiatrists as an accompaniment to, or even a substitution for, therapy.

In this article, I’m going to share with you the benefits of keeping a journal and how you can get started journaling.

Why you should keep a journal

Here’s some information on why you should keep a journal, followed by some tips on how to get started.

1. Clear your mind

Writing down what happens during your day is a great way to clear your mind. You can write down what happened and how you felt about it, and then you don’t have to keep those thoughts in your head anymore.

Writing stuff down is often just as good as sharing with a friend because you’re getting it off of your shoulders.

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Sometimes writing is even better because you can be totally honest without worrying what the other person will think of you.

2. Improve mental health

Writing in a journal is a great way to relieve stress and improve your mental health because, as mentioned above, your mind is cleared.

You don’t have too many thoughts running around in your head because you’ve let them loose on paper. Studies have shown that even writing for 15–20 minutes on a stressful topic leads to significantly better physical and psychological outcomes.

The practice is so highly regarded by mental health professionals that there’s even a Center for Journal Therapy!

3. Boost creativity

You don’t have to keep a straightforward record of what happened every day or how you felt when something happened. Keeping a journal means you have the freedom to write what you want, how you want.

Hey, you don’t even have to write! Draw sketches – maybe the doodles help you get more down quickly. Write in bubble letters, or include photos and mementos of things that happen each day.

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4. Keep a record of your life

Whether it’s for yourself or for others, keeping a journal means you’re keeping a record of your life. If you’re only writing for yourself, you can use the journal as a look back at past mistakes, and use them as reminders to not do the same things again.

You can put a positive spin on it by writing down the highlights of your day so you’ll remember the good things. If you’re writing for others, like your siblings or children, you can write an autobiography so your stories won’t die with you.

5. Holding yourself accountable

Writing regularly is a great way to hold yourself accountable – for therapeutic writing, as well as other aspects of your life. It’s a fun exercise to try to write at the same time every day – either when you first wake up and want to share your hopes and dreams for the day, or before bed, when you can write about everything that happened.

Once you’re able to write regularly, you can apply this discipline and schedule structure to other aspects of your life. You’ll see the benefits in a variety of areas, but especially in your work life, where your written communication can improve and you will find yourself completing writing-intensive projects more easily.

How to start journaling

Now that you know some of the benefits to keeping a journal, I bet you’re itching to start your own.

Before you get started, think about the following items to make sure you’re going to journal in the way that’s best for you.

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1. Get a new notebook

This is my favorite part of starting a journal! I love going to the bookstore or stationery store to peruse the aisles of blank books.

You might want to pick a standard spiral-bound notebook so the defined lines will help keep your thoughts on track. Or maybe you want a beautiful leather-bound book with gilded pages to inspire your most creative thoughts.

2. Sign up for a blog

Maybe you don’t want to be bogged down by a physical notebook at all. In that case, a blog might be the best way for you to keep track of your thoughts. There are many different blog sites online, the most popular, and easiest to use, being WordPress and Blogger.

Be aware that these sites are public, and you might be easily tracked down by people who know your name or email address. You can use a screen name, or sign up for a blogging platform with a privacy control, but it’s still best to be careful with what you’re putting online.

3. Download an app

Maybe you want the freedom of a digital journal, but don’t want to post publicly on a blog. You don’t want to tote around a paper journal, but you already tote around your smartphone, so why not employ it?

There are countless journal apps for your smartphone that range from giving you the look of an actual journal page, to giving you a place to easily jot down notes.

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4. Let your thoughts loose

Once you pick your medium, let your thoughts loose. This is the one place where you don’t need to censor yourself, so don’t get bogged down with wondering who’s going to read behind you and how much you want them to know.

Regardless of how you’re trying to improve your writing skills, be careful with editing your journal. If you write a sentence, then pause to edit it, you’ll never get your thoughts down, and you’ll probably get easily frustrated.

Write everything down as it comes to you, without thinking of how it sounds or what word might work better. This is the best way to get therapeutic benefits from journaling.

5. Don’t set guidelines

Maybe one day you want to rehash an argument verbatim, but the next day you want to tape in some photos of your visit to the new art gallery.

You can even use a journal to keep track of your accomplishments at work or in your personal life, and get a self-esteem boost every time you look over it!

The looser you are with keeping your journal, the more excited you’ll be to sit down and work on it.

If you let yourself be creative and free, then you’ll be more likely to want to write every day, and then you’ll not only have a more complete record of your life and thoughts, but you’ll also feel better by getting all those thoughts out of your head and onto paper!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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