“I would love to write a journal.”
I hear this statement a lot followed by, “But I can’t keep it going.”
Like a lot of you, I said the same thing for years. I would write in my journal at the beginning of the year or the start of a new month and stop after a few weeks.
But no matter how many times I tried and quit, I know the benefits of journal writing.
Journaling is therapeutic
In dealing with life, lots of people find relief in therapeutic writing. The three types of therapeutic writing you can use include:
Pen poetry is a creative way to write about your feelings using images and emotions.
An open letter allows you to write a letter (but not mail it) to a person highlighting what’s going well or an issue you have with a specific person.
Freewriting or journaling allows you to write about what’s on your mind without worrying about style, punctuation or grammar.
For the few weeks when I wrote in my journal, I found power in being able to write about what happened in a day or a week. Understanding how I feel and seeing how I respond to life events over time is not only therapeutic but also empowering.
After many failed attempts, I finally built a journal writing habit using several steps, including the five listed below.
Step #1 – Make a commitment
To change my journal writing habit, I made a commitment contract with myself. The contract was a simple sticky note posted where I could see it every day. Every writer’s commitment contract is different. For my contract, I committed to writing five to seven days per week.
Step #2 – Start small
As a Lean Six Sigma communicator, I know the power of the Kaizen approach which uses small steps to improve a process, a habit or a product. To strengthen my journal writing habit, I started small by writing three sentences per day. Once I mastered three sentences, I added more sentences until I was writing a paragraph
Step #3 — Use a trigger
To help me write daily, I use a trigger or a cue that leads me into my journal writing habit. Peter Gollwitzer, a professor of psychology, determined that people were more successful at achieving their goals when they wrote “if-then” statements where “if” represents the cue and “then” is your planned action. Here’s my statement, “If I am in bed, then I will write three sentences in my journal.”
Step #4 — Protect the chain
I love the fitness app on my smartphone. Once I complete three challenges each day, the app displays a perfect circle with three closed rings. For your journal writing habit, keep track of your progress by putting a checkmark or ‘X’ on a calendar. Don’t let the chain break by missing a day. Each day represents progress.
Step #5 — Schedule a weekly review
At the start of each week, I read all of my entries from the previous week. During your weekly review, assess how well you did in keeping your journal writing commitment. Don’t beat yourself up if you missed a day or didn’t write for a long time. List what’s working and what’s not. Make adjustments quickly and get back to writing.
Karen Brown Tyson used journal writing to complete her book, Time to Refresh: A 21-Day Devotional to Renew Your Mind After Being Laid Off, Fired or Sidelined.
Karen works online, in person and by phone as a communication and writing coach. Karen helps her entrepreneurial clientele focus on business and nonfiction writing.