Tyler Stahle | Apr 3, 2017

3 Tips to Improve Your Journaling Habits

This is part one of a three-part series exploring how to successfully keep a journal. Read parts two and three.

Journaling can be one of the most satisfying personal accomplishments when done correctly. Writing down personal thoughts and feelings can help free the mind, unleash creativity, and give time for reflection. However, obstacles such as limited time, not knowing what to write about, or feelings of inadequacy often prevent us from preserving personal or family memories.

In his 2017 RootsTech presentation, Steve Reed, Chief Creative Officer and co-founder of JRNL, outlined dozens of helpful tips on implementing proven journaling principles into your daily routine. We’ve summarized three of his suggestions here.

Tip 1: Define your own journaling success

Take a minute to think about what successful journaling looks like to you personally. Perhaps it means writing once a day or once a week. Maybe you have a goal to write a certain length or about certain life events. Whatever the case, allow these standards to be your goal, and don’t give heed to other predefined recipes of journaling success.

“I think a lot of times, we can beat ourselves up over some nebulous idea of what we think journaling should be when there’s a lot more going on there,” said Reed. “But the good news is there are no rules when it comes to journaling. I’ve read the Ten Commandments, and there’s nothing in there about journaling. There are no rules.”

Reed noted that while it’s a good idea to learn about the techniques of people who are successful journalers, don’t feel pressured to mimic their approach. Take the good from others and mold it to what works best for you.

“When you have a definition of what your own success is, you have something realistic that you’re working towards that’s based on your own preferences, desires, and what you want to accomplish in your life with journaling,” he said.

Tip 2: Try new things 

Journaling is more than filling a blank notebook with your daily activities. Thanks to the internet and social media, dozens of new methods and mediums exist that you can use to be a successful journaler.

“There are apps. There are websites. There are hobby-based journals that are out there, travel journals, gardening journals, and then just the internet in general,” said Reed. “There [are] blogs where they have all different kinds of journal prompts, ideas, journals you can make yourself, different kinds you can buy. There’s so many different ideas.”

Tip 3: Remember that something is better than nothing

You win half of the journaling battle by just getting started. Once your thoughts start taking the form of words, you’ll find that you have more to write than you realized. So rather than being weighed down by obstacles to journaling, keep in mind that writing something is always better than writing nothing.

“Something beats nothing. It always beats nothing, especially when it comes to journaling,” said Reed. “When you really think about it, the definition of what a journal is is whether it actually exists or not.”

When you don’t think you have anything of value to write, Reed suggests thinking of your posterity—those who might read your journal long after you’re gone. These readers will be happy for any amount of detail you’ve left for them.

Reed spoke fondly of his great-great-great-grandfather Axel Hayford Reed, who was a Medal of Honor winner in the Civil War. Axel kept a journal during the war and later printed it. The journal has become a family treasure that’s been passed down from generation to generation.

“This man left an incredible legacy,” Reed said. “He not only did a bunch of genealogy work by doing all the research of his time and put it into a book, but he included his story of his experience in the Civil War, and I read it every 4th of July. It doesn’t take me very long, but it’s a fascinating read, and it truly inspires me.”

What other journaling tips have you found to be successful? Join us next week for part two of this series exploring how to successfully keep a journal.

Tyler Stahle

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