Writing

4 Tips to Create a Successful Journal Habit

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So, you’re interested in journaling. (Yay, good news — me, too! You’re in the right place).

Maybe the idea of journaling excites you but that blank page overwhelms you.

Maybe you journal pretty often yet it seems like you get nowhere on the page.

Maybe you want to start journaling so that you can tap into its proven benefits yet the things you see other people doing just aren’t working for you.

Maybe your interest in starting a journal habit is something new for you, and you want to set yourself up for success.

Or maybe journaling is something you’ve tried to pick up repeatedly throughout the years but each time you’ve set it down and abandoned ship. I mean, really, how many of us have gorgeous, maybe even expensive, journals or notebooks that we’ve left half-used and tucked away in the bottom drawer of our nightstands?

So many of us (myself included), want to incorporate a daily writing or journaling practice into our life because we’ve heard about how it can benefit us emotionally, mentally, spiritually, etc., yet we struggle to move from the idea of journaling to the implementation of it — and in a way that gives us life and excites us to show up to the page!

I get it. I’ve been there.

I’ve kept diaries and journals since junior high, but not always regularly or successfully. Over the years my journaling habit has evolved, AND I’ve learned how to develop a successful, consistent daily journal habit.

Instead of feeling frustrated or like you’re stumbling around aimlessly trying to make journaling work for you, I’m here to share 4 tips to help you begin and cultivate a successful journaling habit that can actually work for you.

1 – KNOW YOUR WHY

First things first. You need to know your why. Why do you want to journal?

Journaling needs to be important, not just be of interest, to you. If journaling is not actually that important, then it won’t be prioritized. Like with most things in life, your journaling habit probably won’t stick if you don’t make it a priority.

Writing in your journal needs to matter to you. I can tell you all day long why journaling is important to me and how writing can be healing and beneficial. But ultimately, you have to want to journal for yourself and know WHY you want to journal.

Your WHY will help motivate you, help you prioritize your journal time, and help you know HOW to approach your journaling (because there are different ways to approach the page depending upon your WHY and your needs; I’ll share more on this in the months to come).

Maybe exploring your WHY on the page is how you begin your journal practice.

  • Do you want to cultivate more gratitude? Will you keep a gratitude journal?
  • Do you want to develop a more authentic spiritual prayer life? Will you keep a prayer journal?
  • Do you want to document your days? Will you keep a daily life journal?
  • Do you want to process the pain of grief? Will you keep a lament journal?
  • Do you want to work through your grief in another way?
  • Do you want to practice listening to your life and/or recovering your voice?
  • Do you want to use journaling for renewal of your mind?
  • Do you want to journal to heal from a painful wound or traumatic event in your life?

The reasons why and types of journaling can go on and on. Spend some time reflecting on your why and let that lead you as you cultivate your journal habit.

2 – MAKE IT A DATE

When things matter to us, we find a way to make time for them. Create a successful journal habit by getting intentional and practical.

Treat it like a date and put it in your schedule.

When you know your WHY, it’s time to plan your WHEN and WHERE. Decide, AHEAD OF TIME, on a time and a place to journal. (This is a good time to decide how often you want to journal. Do you want to create a daily journal habit? I highly recommend a daily practice; however, starting small is great, too.)

I recommend carving out 10-20 minutes in your day when you want to journal and choosing a location that best suits your needs and current lifestyle or season of life.

  • Will you try to rise early so that you can journal before your day begins when the house is still quiet and you can hear your thoughts without interruption? (If so, bonus tip: Don’t set your alarm earlier without going to bed earlier.)
  • Or, will you decide to journal at the end of your day as part of your bedtime routine?
  • Will you journal in bed or sit in a favorite chair?
  • Will you write outside on your front porch?
  • Or, will you journal in your car while waiting in the school pick-up line?

Make it a date and put it in your planner, on your calendar app, or even on a sticky note. Tell a friend. When you write something down and share it with someone else, you’re more likely to stick with your plans and cultivate your habit.

3 – DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

Decide what you’re going to use to journal and do what works for you.

  • Do you like to write in the cheap spiral-bound notebooks you can buy at Target for ten cents or do you prefer hardcover, flat-lay journals?
  • What matters more to you in a journal, fashion or function?
  • Do you like blank pages or pages with lines or dots?
  • Do you need a journal that provides you with a format or prompts?
  • Do you like writing with a pencil or will you use a favorite pen?
  • Do you need to go purchase a new journal or pen or do you already what you need on hand?

Decide what you like. Do what works for you. Know what you’re going to use.

Not sure what kind of journal you like or need?

First, go back to your why. Pick a journal to try and know that you’re free to change your mind as you learn what works and what doesn’t work for you. Let go of any self-imposed pressure or expectations about what your journal practice “should” look like.

Some people like to fill page after page with neat, flowing cursive handwriting. Other people like to add embellishments, illustrations, and colors to their journal pages. And some people like to write in short choppy phrases or even use bullet points. You do you.

Tip: Keep whatever journaling supplies you’re going to use in the place where you’ve scheduled your journaling date with yourself.

JOURNAL SUPPLY RECOMMENDATIONS

If you’re looking for some recommendations when it comes to journaling supplies, here are my favorites:

  • These are my favorite blank journals (they are high-quality, linen hardcover, and lay flat): click here.
  • These are my favorite journaling pens (they allow you to write smoothly and quickly): click here.
  • Try my free journal page template below that you can download, print, and start using today.

Please note these are affiliate links; as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Coming in late 2022: I’m launching a collection of journals. Each journal will serve a specific purpose for journaling and offer you a simple format to guide you. Join my email list and stay tuned for more details.

4 – CREATE A HABIT STACK

Your journal practice doesn’t have to be a random isolated event tucked into your day. Consider the habits you already have in place. Where can you add journaling?

  • Do you read regularly? Add your journal time before or after reading.
  • Do you like to wake up early and slowly savor a hot cup of coffee? Add your journal time to your morning coffee routine.
  • Do you have a bedtime routine? Add your journal practice to your routine.

Stacking habits together can really help you find that successful rhythm. Reflect on what habits are already in place in your day and see if adding journaling fits with any of them. Take time to reflect on your priorities and passions and pick a few to join together with your daily journal practice.

(P.S. If you want to try to wake up early and journal in the morning, yes, you’ll probably need to set your alarm a bit earlier, but the key here is to really adjust your bedtime. If you want to wake up earlier, going to bed earlier is a must.)

Here’s a look at my morning habit stack…

(Remember, you do you, but this might offer some inspiration).

  • Brew myself a cup of coffee.
  • Light my writing candle.
  • Write in my journal (my goal is to fill 3 pages).
  • Read Scripture and/or read a non-fiction book.

In past years, yoga was part of my early morning habit stack. And in each season, I stay open to making shifts and changes to my habits and rhythms.

STIMULATE YOUR SENSES (MAKE IT ENJOYABLE)

Within your habit stack, you can also increase your likelihood to show up to the page and journal by creating a stimulating sensory experience for yourself.

For instance, in my habit stack, I enjoy the taste and sensation of warm coffee as I write. I light a scented candle to stimulate my sense of smell. I appeal to my sense of touch not only with the pen and the page but with the soft blanket I drape across my lap.

When we ignite our senses with senses we enjoy, our bodies and minds are more likely to want to spend time in the journaling space. Make your journal writing time enjoyable! Make it fun! Incorporate what you like.

Let me know what you try and what works for you in the comments.

TRY MY FREE JOURNAL PAGES

Give my free daily journal pages a try. Grab them by clicking here.

two pieces of journal paper on a table with a pencil, blanket, and candle

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rainbow 'enthusiast,' ENNEAGRAM 4, deep thinker + deeper feeler

I'm Kristin.
Your host here and new writing
mentor.

I'm a bereaved mom, former English teacher and stay-at-home mom (to two growing boys), veteran military spouse married to my high school sweetheart, contemplative creative, writer, and writing coach. I'm all about spreading the love of writing as a way of healing and hope.

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