Photo of Jessie Lewis holding a journal with overlaid text that says "start a journal already"

How to Commit to a Journal

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It took me forever to figure out how to keep a journal. How to be one of those people who is a journaler.

The thing is, it’s not about willpower. It’s about finding the parts of journaling that work best with your lifestyle and desired goals.

In this video, I share 6 tips to help you start a journaling practice and actually keep it up.

How to commit to using a journal

But if you’d rather read (do note that you’ll miss out on some of the details), here’s a little synopsis:

1. Give up on what a journal is “supposed” to be

Instead, focus on what you want out of it.

In an earlier video, I shared the 3 types of journaling: recording, processing, and planning. Each style of journaling provides its own benefits. So, what benefits are you looking for?

Rather than get down on yourself about not being able to squeeze yourself into what you think journaling is supposed to look like, explore what you want. And let those desires lead you to the kind of journaling that you want to do.

2. Make it as simple as possible

What would it look like if it were easy?

Do you need to write full entries, or just bullet points?

Do you need a physical journal, or would a Word Doc do the trick?

Do you need a full planner, or just a to-do list?

I don’t know the answer. Personally, I need a mix of everything. But find what “easy” looks like for you.

3. Tie journaling to a stimulus

This is from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.

If you want to start a new habit, tie it to an existing one. Create a simple “when ___ happens, then I will ___.”

For example:

  • When I sit down at my computer with my coffee, then I will open my daily planner.
  • When I feel emotional, then I will open my journal.

4. Don’t censor yourself

This especially applies to journaling for processing.

Your journal has to be a safe place where you can say whatever comes out of your brain. Without judgement.

This can be scary for multiple reasons. Let’s dissect them:

You’re afraid of what might come out

I’m no psychologist, but my personal opinion is that the only truly dangerous thought is the unprocessed one.

You have to get it out of your brain in order to analyze, understand, and finally make a decision about it.

(Though of course, if you find your thoughts are more than a simple journaling practice can help, I’m a big supporter of pursuing therapy.)

You’re afraid of wasting space

You bought this pretty diary and you think you’ve gotta fill it with ~pretty things.~

Meh. Forget it. Again, it’s gotta be a sandbox. Let it flow, babe.

You’re afraid others will read it

Two scenarios here:

First, if you trust the people you live with—just talk to them. Set expectations. My husband knows my journal is my private processing space. (But he also knows he doesn’t have to worry about me keeping things from him.)

If you don’t trust the people you live with, you might look into journaling in a safe place online, or else journaling on paper that you throw away. This applies to processing, specifically—when you journal to process something, it’s about, well, the process. You’re not creating some work of art. And while it’s certainly nice to hold onto it for future reference, you don’t need to.

5. Make it easy to reference

I do this in a few ways:

  • Date every entry
  • Highlight or underline key topics
  • Keep your journal in one place so you always know where to find it when you need it

6. Make it a creative practice

If you want to commit to a journaling practice, you have to make it something you love to do and get value out of. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

A few ideas:

If you want to improve your writing and storytelling skills, use your entries as practice. Don’t just list events; capture specific moments and emotions.

If you like visual art, you might incorporate pictures or paintings right in the book.

To keep a journal, it has to fit you

Let it be light. Let it be something you can explore freely and make your own.

(And if you’d like to chat more, I’d love to read your comment over on YouTube!)

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