This is a guide covering 20 Journaling Tips (How to Start Guide).
- What is a Journal?
- What Should You Write in Your Journal?
- How Do You Start Writing a Journal?
- Final remarks
Journaling is a great tool that can help you stay positive in life. Its benefits range from relieving stress and anxiety, improving thought awareness, and helping us change our behavior.
But how do you start journaling in the first place?
Tim Ferris — and many other productivity coaches — write in a journal every day because of its benefits for boosting productivity, improving mental health, gaining clarity in thought, and enhancing perspective in and around life.
But many of you might know this already and are here to know how to journal right away. Like any well-informed and more mature person will tell you, a better strategy is to try and learn everything about what journaling is before you put both of your feet into the water.
Say, did you know that there are different journaling styles? And the decision to choose one over the other depends on what you want from your journal.
To manifest journaling benefits, you must start somewhere. This guide is for those novices out there who have no idea about how to journal.
What is a Journal?
A journal is a personal notebook that is kept for a specific purpose by the owner, usually for self-improvement, productivity, keeping track of habits and feelings, and creativity.
You write in a journal by making entries that are snippets of the day’s events, your moods, or the things that you have set yourself to achieve.
Journaling, on the other hand, is the actual process of making entries into your journal. It is the act of writing in your journal.
Like all new year’s resolutions, journaling, too, has had its fair share of fickle followers. The graph for people who search for journaling, according to this Google Trends chart, shoots up each year in the month of January only to go down as quickly in the preceding months.
Sticking to habits is hard, but sticking to writing in a journal is even harder because people just don’t know how to journal and try to wing it without adequate research.
There is also a misconception that for proper journaling, you need to have a notebook and a pen, and that the benefits of journaling cannot transfer to its digital formats. But the idea with journaling is simple: to write about the things that you care to write about; the material is secondary or of no significance in this case.
What Should You Write in Your Journal?
Beginners who want to start journaling don’t know where or how to start. People use journaling to keep track of habits, organize their life, capture ideas and thoughts, check in with their moods, and write words of gratitude and compassion.
A few famous people who used to write in a journal are Ben Franklin, Marcus Aurelius, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Winston Churchill.
Journaling styles vary from person to person. The content as well as the way one writes in a journal also varies.
For example, some people like to journal in shorthand and bullet form and some like to write in the longhand and free-form style.
So, what do you write in a journal? Again, a single definitive answer to that question doesn’t exist, mainly because everyone uses a journal for different reasons.
If you want to know about how to journal for mental health, your style and content will be different than a person who wants to start journaling to improve productivity.
An expressive form of writing is used to relieve stress and anxiety through journaling, but that kind of writing is definitely not suitable when you want to journal for achieving and setting tasks. Journaling is as versatile as you can make it.
Further, there are journaling styles that have been created to unlock specific modes of thinking.
‘Morning pages’, a kind of journaling made famous by Julia Cameron in her famous book The Artist’s Way, is an example of a journaling style developed to kickstart creativity for the day.
The morning pages serve to clear your head and get you closer to those ‘Aha!’ moments that are ever so elusive.
Further, in therapy, journaling can help people reduce anxiety and ward off depressive symptoms to improve mental wellbeing.
But no matter what sort of a journal you intend to keep, and in which style, the most important thing is to start journaling daily. Develop it as a habit rather than something that you do sometimes only when you have the inspiration to put pen to paper.
So how do you begin a life-long habit of journaling?
How Do You Start Writing a Journal?
Here are 20 tips for beginners on how to start journaling right now.
1. Go digital
People have a specific image in their heads when you tell them about journaling. It has to do with blank white papers, or a diary and a pen. Although writing by hand has its own cognitive benefits over typing, it is not entirely necessary to write your journal on paper.
Make use of the Notes application on your iPhone or the Evernote application for desktop for digital journaling.
2. Start your day by writing in your journal every day (or at least try)
The time you get up in the morning is the only time, in the whole day, where you will have the least distractions to contend with, and that’s why it is helpful to make your journal entries at this time. You can set or prioritize tasks for productivity throughout the day.
3. Make it a habit
If you want to reap the life-long benefits of journaling, you need to make it into a habit.
According to Jeremy Dean’s Making Habits, Breaking Habits, it takes on average about 66 days to form a habit. If you stick longer with it, you would be journaling on autopilot.
4. Journal on the way to work or any time you find convenient
You don’t have to ritualize journaling to the point where you are always seeking those hours that you had set aside for it. Make some journal entries while on the way to work, waiting in line at the bank, or while waiting for your order at a restaurant.
5. Express gratitude
Gratitude is an uplifting positive emotion that is criminally underrated. Gratitude journaling is a research-proven method of increasing general mental health and positivity. If there is only one thing you need to know about how to journal for mental health then this is it: gratitude journaling.
6. Start out small
The cardinal mistake committed by most people when they start writing a personal journal is to overwhelm themselves too early in the journey. To make habits that stick, you need to start small, with baby steps.
7. Write in the evening
Evenings are best for accountability on how your day went and identifying your sticking and distraction points so that you can develop strategies to deal with them tomorrow.
8. Write expressively
Get it all out there. No filters, just straight-up rant. It doesn’t matter.
You aren’t getting it published anyway. If you are feeling stressed and want someone to talk to, you can instead learn how to journal for therapy.
Expressive writing helps because, just like seeing a shrink, you get to vent about your feelings and get them out in the open for you to see, which can lead to some interesting introspective realizations.
9. Create a bullet journal
A bullet journal is a structured system to keep track of your past, organize your present, and plan for your future. It is a great way to get started journaling if you want to learn how to journal for self-growth and success.
Besides, it is a fun and easy method of journaling for beginners as well.
10. Write about the things that interest you
The notion that writing a journal is all about narrating your day’s events in chronological order is extremely mistaken.
A journal is what you make of it. So, you can choose not to write about the day.
Instead, you should use it to record ideas or thoughts that you want to explore.
11. Stimulate your mind with writing prompts
If you are a complete newbie, looking for a guide that tells you how to journal for beginners, then you should be looking into writing prompts for journaling. A writing prompt can be a question, a recollection, or anything that can help to guide your mind towards a specific problem or event.
12. Write a letter
Yes, a good, old-fashioned letter. Write a letter of gratitude to someone in your life that you are grateful for.
If you want to learn how to journal for anxiety then this is a super helpful way to escape the anxiety trap because it will give you perspective.
Moreover, you can also write letters to yourself in the past or future. You can also be your own supporter and write about stuff that you are proud to have achieved.
13. Your journaling will suck in the beginning
If you think you are going to sound like the Dalai Lama with your first entry then you are in for a huge disappointment. And the earlier you realize that, the better.
Now, you might think that that’s going to put you off from starting a journal, but if you are prepared for the initial disappointment and choose to power through, you will certainly break some progression barriers in due time.
You are going to be surprised at how introspective and deep your thoughts go once you make journaling a habit. So, stay the course; it is worth it.
14. Try out different journaling styles
Don’t limit yourself to one journaling style. Often people will be inspired to start writing in one style by watching some YouTube video or reading research on the benefits of journaling a particular way.
But limiting your options by choosing a certain journaling style right off the bat is not a good way to begin. Try out and experiment with different journaling styles before you stick to one.
15. Take it along with you wherever you go
This is an awesome way to catch creative ideas as they drift in and out of your conscious.
Many artists and writers keep a journal or a notebook handy wherever they go so that they can record fleeting moments of inspiration and creativity.
You can also do this digitally on the Notes app on your iPhone, for example.
16. Narrate the day’s events
If all else fails, and you have no deep introspective thoughts, you can just write out the day’s events.
Now, you can do that chronologically or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters the most is you don’t skip a day of journaling just because you don’t feel like it or you have nothing worth writing.
17. Use a habit tracker
There are several habit-tracking apps on the market — both for iOS and Android — you can use to make journaling into a habit. Use any one of them to achieve an unbreakable streak of journaling.
Visually, it looks satisfying on a chart to have a long streak of the days you have crossed out and that unbreakable chain of crosses is what might motivate you to keep at it day in and day out.
18. Watch tutorials on journaling
YouTube is full of helpful journaling tips and ideas that you can try. There are several channels specializing in the niche that can guide you to make your journaling transition from a beginner to a pro in no time.
19. Set a time block
One of the most productive ways to work is the Pomodoro technique. You can use it to write in a journal. Set a block of time, say 10, 15, or 20 minutes. It’s up to you.
20. Don’t be hard on yourself; it’s a process
Don’t beat yourself about it if you miss a day here and there. We are all humans, and life tends to get in the way of our best-laid plans.
So, what if you missed a day? Improving your life and being a better version of yourself is a process that is going to take practice. So, stick to your journaling even if you feel like an impostor.
This guide is a step in the right direction for beginners who want to learn how to journal from scratch. All the steps detailed in the guide will help you start your journaling journey straightaway.
Sikandar is opinionated on a diverse set of topics that include, but are not limited to, Productivity, Health, Fitness, Motivation, and Career. He is in love with the written word and writes mainly to help others on their self-actualizing journeys. A journalist by education, getting to the bottom of things is his modus operandi. Often, he finds himself moonlighting as a life coach to his family, friends, and colleagues. He can be reached at his LinkedIn for collaboration.