How to Restart your Journaling Habit
Toward the end of January, has your exciting New Year’s Resolution already run out of steam? It’s not your fault; this is normal. But instead of developing a sense of cynicism about resolutions, there are some pragmatic actions to jump-start (or re-start) the habit of journal-keeping.
1. Make a definite date with yourself. Reserve at least 30 minutes. Say tomorrow, at 3:35 pm. Or next Saturday, at 9:15 am. Look at your calendar, choose something you will keep without fail. Honor this appointment as you would if it were made with the most important person you can imagine (the President, your dream celebrity, whoever)! After all, it REALLY IS an appointment with your Highest Self! Set reminders, and schedule other appointments around it.
2. Use that appointment as your first new journaling session. In that journal entry, write down your plans for the next 30 days to build and maintain the journal-keeping habit. Will you make daily appointments with yourself? Write before you shower each morning? Choose some action plan inside that first appointment, and contract with yourself to follow it. Try not to spend too much time in the blame, shame, or guilt from the past. Instead, get present with your intentions to re-start, and why it is important to you. Then be practical and realistic in planning your follow-up.
3. Make a game: Count consecutive days of writing. See if you can reach 7, 10, 30, 60, or even 90 consecutive days of writing at least a full page in your journal. In my journal-writing courses, we often have a contest among the participants to see who can keep writing daily the longest without skipping a day. It is fun, friendly competition, and a great way to keep a tangible goal in view.
4. Get support: Join a journaling circle. There are several places to look for this. From as simple as subscribing to a journal-prompt feed (there are many on Twitter), to joining a group that uses textbooks (such as The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, or the 27-Day Journaling Challenge by Mari L. McCarthy), to a simple buddy-system with a good friend. Having a sense of community, to exchange tips, or just to get that extra nudge of motivation can make a huge difference. Almost everyone who participates in my courses report that having a supportive group with a common goal was the single most important factor in keeping consistent in their journaling.
5. Expect obstacles, and make backup plans. There will be days when you get invited to a morning hike, or a birthday breakfast with friends, that thwart your best intentions of writing in the morning. Rather than allowing those days to interrupt your habit, reschedule your writing appointment for later in the same day. Or, make certain you jot down notes to include in your next journal entry, and allow yourself the extra time on the following day.
6: Make it fun and easy! If you’ve made a commitment to write for 30 minutes, or 3 pages each day, and you find that you are just not able to set aside that much, adjust your goals. Sometimes in the excitement of starting a journal-keeping habit, we pressure ourselves to write long, profound and interesting stories each day. Instead, give yourself permission to write just ONE page, or even just a few sentences that describe most important (or most unique) interaction in each day. Over time, your muse will help you build from there. Also, you might try switching for a period of time to typing versus handwriting your journal entries (or vice-versa!) to see if one works better for you.
Nathan Ohren is Director of Client Services for a worldwide software company in Santa Barbara, CA. He has been keeping a personal journal for over 27 years, and enjoys coaching people and facilitating groups for creativity and effective life management. Nathan is the founder of www.Write4Life.us, a resource for “passion, clarity, and purpose through journaling.”