Journaling – Tips to Help you Get Started

I wrote a post earlier this week about the benefits of journaling.  If you haven’t read it yet, check it out now.  We know that the benefits are great, but how in the world do you get started?  Today, I want to share a few things that helped me to get started and make journaling a part of my daily routine.

My Journals

#1 - Be Consistent with Journaling

Like I said in my last post, I have started and stopped so many journals.  What I found worked best for me as I began 2018 was to commit to being consistent with my journal.  I started with just a 7 day commitment.  I wasn’t specific on how much time I would dedicate or how many pages I would write, but I did commit to writing something for just 7 days IN A ROW.

What I found was that by day 5 or 6, I was already more comfortable writing.  I wasn’t dreading it, it no longer felt like a chore, and I was enjoying getting my thoughts on paper.  Just a few days into my commitment to be consistent, and I was already feeling less foggy and less stressed.

Commit to being consistent for at least a week.  Try not to stress out about writing five pages a day, but just commit to the act of opening your journal and writing something.

#2 - Just Write

In the past, I tried put so much focus on making my journal perfect.  I used proper grammar, neat handwriting, and tried to make everything flow.  Well, let me just tell you that this did not work for me.  It became a chore.  I was more concerned with writing in complete sentences and making each page look good than I was with just dumping the contents of my brain onto the paper.  Let’s be real…you are the only person that is going to be reading your journal.  So what if it doesn’t look beautiful.  A pretty journal is not the point…the point of the journal is to get your thoughts on paper.

Grab your pen, open a page, and start filling the page with your thoughts.  Be crazy and write in print and cursive if you want.  Don’t be afraid to write sentence fragments.  If your thoughts jump from one topic to another, it’s okay.  

Just write.

#3 - Be Flexible

It is so easy to set out to do something, have you journaling time perfectly marked in your calendar for 8:30 pm, and then your kid fights you to go to sleep.  Life happens.  It’s okay to be flexible.  As you are starting your commitment to consistent journaling, I do encourage you to pencil in a time to sit down and write.  However, if that time doesn’t work perfectly, or you end up with an extra 30 minutes in the morning, use the time that you have.

For me, I do always shoot to journal the mornings.  I get up 30 minutes earlier than I have to (which means the alarm goes off at 4:15 am) so that I have time to clear my head before the day begins.  Let me just be honest and tell you that Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday are a different story for me.  Even if I am not up at 4:15 am on Wednesday, I do still try to get my quiet time done first thing so that I don’t risk something coming up (I am completely unproductive past 8:00 pm) and taking over my quiet time.  

The key is to be flexible.  Shoot for a time that you think will work, and be consistent with that time as much as possible.  However, if you oversleep or have a weird day, be open to bringing your journal to lunch or to sit in the car a few extra minutes to write before you pick the kids up from daycare.

#4 - Find a Method

If you run a search on journaling, you will find hundreds of methods out there.  What works for me might not work for you.  It’s actually a little overwhelming, and don’t get me started on how perfect some of these journals are on Pinterest.  Let’s start by acknowledging the fact that journaling is for YOU and only YOU.  Please, please, please do not compare your scribbled journal to someone’s journal you saw online.  If you are super creative and love to doodle and draw, go for it.  But, if your drawing ability stops at stick figures, please don’t stress with a lettering journal.

Gratitude Journal

I have found that incorporating some type of gratitude into my journaling is very beneficial.  It helps me to focus on good things that are happening, and it helps to set the tone for my day to be one of thankfulness.  I personally write down three things everyday that I am thankful for.  Instead of being generic, I put an effort to be as specific and detailed as possible.  I also list one positive experience that has occurred in the last 24 hours.  This could be something very simple, but again, I am very specific.  I try to go back to the moment or experience and go through it again in my head.

You can check out this post for more details, methods, and ideas for gratitude journaling.

Strategy Journal

The strategy journal is pretty new to me.  It creates order to my goals, dreams, and tasks.  I have just started with this method, so I am definitely still learning.  At the beginning of the year, I began incorporating it some throughout my journaling, and I am really enjoying it.  I actually use a completely separate notebook for strategy journaling, and this has seemed to work well for me.  This video from the Modern Health Monk was a great resource as I got started.  

If you are working through a few things or have some big goals, I encourage you to give strategy journaling a try.

Bullet Journal

So, this method has been around for quite a while, but I am still learning about it. Even though it's new to me, I do see where it could be a great tool.  See, I’m definitely a lover of the paper planner and calendar system {I just can’t migrate to the calendar on my iPhone}.  The bullet journal takes the calendar system to a whole new level.  You can check out some basics about bullet journaling here.  I also found this video very helpful.

The bullet journal does look a bit intimidating to start.  Over the next few weeks, I will be incorporating more bullet journaling into my routine to see if I can transition from my planner.  I will report back with how it’s going in a few months.

Electronic Journal

Maybe pen and paper isn’t your thing.  If the traditional journal isn't your jam, it's okay.  You can mind dump on your computer.  Try starting a Word or Pages document, use an online method such as Evernote, or start a private blog.  I’m sure that you can even find an app that you can use to type directly into your phone.  I am personally not a huge tech person, so I stick to a notebook and pen.

If you love technology, embrace that and take your journaling to the keyboard.

My Current Method

For me, this is what is currently working….no method.  Well, it’s not exactly no method.  It’s more of a combination of a lot of methods.  As I said, I journal in the morning.  Much of my journaling is done in conjunction with my Bible reading and prayer time.  I typically find a verse that sticks out to me whether it’s in my daily reading or in my devotional, and I simply write it down.  Seriously, this is where my journaling started.  One verse, and I simply just thought about it - what it means, how it relates to my life right now, how I can apply, etc.  From there, I just start mind dumping.  I reflect on what is going on, what I am struggling with, where I am winning, and what I want to change.  Then, I incorporate gratitude by simply listing three things that I am thankful for and one positive experience.  This simple list refocuses my mind to gratitude and keeps me focusing on the positive.  

Don't get caught up on sticking with just one method.  Your journal might not have a method, or it might be a combination of a few.  Just do what works best for you.

#5 - Stay Positive

Words have power.  I am a 100% believer in the fact that words, whether written or spoken, have a huge impact on us.  While journaling can often be a time where you are focusing on a trial or valley that you are walking through, I think it is important to make sure you put a positive spin on it and not just constantly write down negative things.  Be honest, write down your feelings (positive or negative), but then start working through your feelings and develop solutions.  

We should use journaling to clear our minds and get our thoughts and fears on paper, but I don’t believe that it should be used exclusively for writing down everything bad that is happening.  Maybe you are in a real season of struggle.  You might be dealing with the death of a loved one, financial struggles, the loss of a job, discouragement, a troubled marriage, or a sickness.  Face the feelings that you have by writing them down, and then do your best to put a positive spin on it.  Stop dwelling on the negative, and look for good or purpose in your struggle.  

A great way to make sure you finish your journaling time with a positive focus is to incorporate gratitude at the end of your journaling session.  Remember, your words are powerful.  What we say to ourselves often becomes our story.  What kind of story are you writing?

Final Thoughts

I hope that my experience will help you get started with a journaling practice.  Be consistent, just focus on writing, be flexible, find a method that works for you, and stay positive.  If you incorporate these things, I believe that you will be able to successfully incorporate journaling into your daily routine and begin to see the benefits that you can receive by simply putting pen to paper.

Happy Writing! ~KP

Kenzie Presnell

Loving life, enjoying the ride, and trying to live life as healthy as I can.

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