Greeting the New Year with a full plate of goals and aspirations isn’t unusual, but keeping things organized and staying motivated for more than a few weeks is less common. If you are the type of person who likes to start the year fresh and use it as the jumping off point for the plans you have to enjoy life more, keeping a journal can help.
Many people shy away from journaling because it makes them feel self-conscious. They might envision an eight year old girl writing in a palm-sized locked diary, squirreling away her secrets to chuckle at once she reaches womanhood. Or they might think of something too hippy-dippy for their tastes – someone wearing colorful, flowing clothing, chanting and burning incense while they write.
Though both of these are perfectly fine ways to keep a journal, they are not your only option. Anyone can use journaling to improve their life. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to get in touch with your feelings, create a stick-to-it plan for achieving business goals, hoping to get healthier in the New Year, or just wanting a more organized and efficient environment, a journal can help.
If you believe journaling could help you enjoy life more in 2016, where do you want to begin?
Choose Your Journaling Tools
Every committed journaler begins with the right journal. If you are intimidated by the idea of investing $20 or more in a fancy leather bound journal, grab a spiral notebook and be done with it. But if the idea of buying something flashy and new inspires you, by all means find something that suits your taste. The important part is what you put into it, so whatever makes you feel comfortable and motivated is the right option for you.
In addition to the book, you’ll need something with which to write. Again, go for something that makes you feel comfortable. If you are using a pen or pencil that causes your hand to cramp or smudges or bleeds through the paper, you will be distracted. Test a few pens on scrap paper and see what feels good when writing. And remember, you can always switch later if you find your original choice isn’t working for you.
Think about How You Will Journal
Next, choose a journaling style. This is where things can get a little mixed up, but getting past this point ensures you will still be filling your journal come December, instead of looking back on months of blank pages.
Your journaling style should suit your personality and your purpose. If your goal is to monitor data from daily living and you have a no-frills approach to life, you can make your journal entries short and sweet. Give yourself permission to expand when you feel like it, but don’t put any pressure on yourself to create pages of narrative if you aren’t the type to enjoy doing that.
And if you do prefer to get it all out of your mind and onto paper, write away! There can be something cathartic about completing a “brain dump” and not having thoughts and feelings stuck in your head.
Over the years I’ve used different styles of journaling that seemed to suit different phases of my life. Looking back, I felt better in the moment and appreciated more the times I was wordier and really willing to dive into what was going on around me. I didn’t always have the motivation to do this, though, and there were also times my journaling was nuts-and-bolts – one sentence summaries or nothing more than a list of things that seemed important at the time.
If you have no idea where to begin, start by writing one good thing about your day. What did you do that felt rewarding? What brought a smile to your face or lifted the spirits of someone close to you. Do you have a hope or good thought for someone you care about? Just one thought or sentiment about your day is enough, at least until you have the desire to write more.
Breaking the Rules of Journaling
I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks to successfully journaling is feeling as if you should be doing it one way or another. You compare your journal to what you see others doing and the resulting feeling is defeat. I’ve found myself looking at something creative or artistic or inspired and feeling as if I’m not measuring up. Despite having an audience of only one when it comes to journaling, sometimes it feels as if the performance in my head is available for the world to see.
One of the most important things you can do to get started with journaling is to think about what your goals are for the process. What do you want to accomplish and what do you want to feel when you look back at the journal at the end of the year? Ignore the “rules of journaling” and forget whatever you’ve been told about how to do it right – including these tips if they intimidate you!
Improving your life by writing is about you, not about anything else. It’s something you do completely for you that doesn’t take anything away from anyone else. It’s calming, it’s therapeutic, and it’s fun to later read about the person you were at a given point in history and to see how far you’ve come.
Do you journal? Do you have any tips for staying motivated to journal? Share them below and let me know how you intend to incorporate writing into your life in 2016!