Seven Tips to Keeping a Journal

I recently started to keep a journal. I’m not sure if I’m late to the game, but it got me thinking.

What’s the actual point of a journal?

Why do I need to write things down, about me?

People who keep journals say the benefits are immeasurable. Once someone learns how to keep a journal, they rarely abandon the practice. That’s because it’s a great tool for helping you to:

  • Gather your thoughts

  • Define your goals

  • Express your emotions

  • Record your progress

  • Reflect on past experiences

However, a journal can be whatever you want it to be. I just tend to write down ‘what happened’ during the day, and then a little about my thoughts, what the weather was like; especially if extreme, and any memorable moments.

However, starting a journal, and maintaining one, can be quite daunting, so here are seven tips for starting and keeping a journal.

1. Always write something

Even if it’s just a ‘hello’. Writing a journal is a habit. You need to keep doing it, to keep doing it! Missing a day means you might miss the next day. Writing something will keep the habit alive.

The longer you go without writing in your journal, the harder it will be to pick it back up again.

Even if you feel like you don’t have a lot to say, jotting down a few lines every day will keep your notes up to date. It will also help you maintain a sense of routine that you may be missing if you’re not going into an office every day.

2. Keep entries short

This follows on from the previous comment. You don’t need to write chapter and verse. Although, having said that, there’s no reason not to. Write whatever you feel.

Somedays I just write a couple of lines; on other days it’s more lengthy. Just don’t force it.

3. Use a cheap notebook (or note taking app)

You could use a cheap notepad, or spend a little more on something special. Journaling is different to your notes. This is about you - and you deserve something that will bring out your creative juices.

Many people put pen to paper to write their journal. It helps them to formulate their ideas - writing slowly and deliberately.

On the other hand, you might be just as content with writing on an app on your laptop, tablet or phone. Of course, you can't 'stick' things on an app - but you can add photos.

I actually use Bear for capturing my journal thoughts, and I do add photos that are relevant. It will make it interesting when I review my entries, in the future.

It's not as romantic as a notebook, but it works for me.

Whilst it's now becoming a habit, I have created a daily reminder in Todoist , to write the entry for the day.

4. Don’t stress about writing every day

This contradicts point 1 - but if you have nothing to write, then don’t sweat it. It’s completely fine. You need to feel comfortable about it, but I'm sure there's something you can capture.

5. Create a relaxing routine around journaling

I tend to write my journal at the end of day. In a reflective, quiet, environment. On the odd occasion, I’ve started it during the day, if there’s something I specifically want to capture, but usually it’s part of my ‘bedtime’ routine.

6. Keep it simple

Write how you would speak. Don’t get all technical and lar-dee-daa with your language. Keep it simple and when you read it back, it will all make sense. Have fun with it.

7. Don’t try to be perfect

Just write. If you use a notepad and you make a mistake; just cross it out. Or make a point that it’s not right. You can also doodle in a notebook - something that I can’t do on Bear (not that I have an urge to doodle).

Goal Setting

Of course, you can use your journal for helping you to achieve your goals.

There’s no doubt that journaling can help you be more productive. Journaling is essentially a practice in brainstorming, planning , monitoring, and analysing your activities — all vital skills for improving productivity. This can be very beneficial if you're finding it challenging to work from home and need that extra push.

Writing goals down is proven to help reach your goals. The very act of writing them down means you need to think about what your goals are in the first place.

Now that these goals exist in your journal, you have to find a way to achieve them.

Todo Lists

A journal is an excellent place for you to keep lists of more immediate tasks . Maybe you have an essay to hand in, for university or you’re looking for a new job and need to update your CV.

Maybe you’re planning to start a blog or a podcast and have a list of things you need to do to get started. Whatever you need to do, writing these tasks down in a journal can help you accomplish them.

Of course, you can use a task manager for the same thing.

I keep all my tasks out of my own journal and put them in Todoist. This helps me to separate the journaling with the actual doing.

Analyse yourself

Once you’ve been journaling for a while, you can start to look at how you work and what you could do to improve. Consider the following:

  • What tasks did you accomplish? How long did they take?

  • What do you find is slowing your productivity?

  • Conversely, what improves it?

  • Are you getting enough sleep?

  • Are you eating well?

  • Are you stressed? What’s causing your stress?

By setting aside time to review your journal, you can eliminate habits that don’t work for you and take advantage of ones that do. Eventually, this practice can lead to better productivity, both in your work and personal life.

Anger Management

We all have bad days. More often than not, a bad day also means a lack of concentration and low productivity.

Work through any negative thoughts you may have by writing them in your journal. If you’re feeling sad, frustrated, or overwhelmed, having an outlet to express yourself can be therapeutic. Writing your feelings down could also prevent you from accidentally unleashing them on someone else.

Instead of sending your frustrations via email or text, put them in your journal. Once you write them down, you may find that your head feels clearer, and you can move on with your day .

Many people will tell you that they feel a lot better as soon as they get their emotions off their chest.


Finally, it's time to reflect.

One positive part about keeping a journal is going back and reading it.

This will give the the chance to see how you’ve evolved, what issues still persist for you, and what problems you’ve solved. Over time your goals may change, so it’s good to refer back to them often and update them accordingly. That way, you stay focused on your current priorities.

If you haven't yet started a journal, then my advice is 'try it'. I find it quite cathartic, at the end of the day, to write my journal.

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