One tip to start a journaling habit
Journaling is wonderful. It can help with mental health, anxiety, mindfulness, parenting, happiness, it can even be good for children. But you already know this.
When a new year comes along, we tend to have huge goals for ourselves. As January passes by and February starts, we sometimes notice we let those goals slip by. The first week or two were fantastic, but as life gets in the way, we wonder "why can't I finish what I start?"
The problem isn't journaling. We know we should. The problem is sticking to the habit.
The good thing is that it's not your fault. You're not helpless. The issue often lies in the huge expectations we set on ourselves, the size of the challenge, and the lack of prioritization.
- We expect ourselves to be perfect, but humans aren't perfect. We get tired, we get distracted, we overwork ourselves. Humans aren't robots — that's why we made robots.
- If a new goal is really but a massive extra thing to do every day, another elephant sitting on top of your to-do list, like "Journal for an hour" or "Write 2000 words in my diary", the task can become daunting and exhausting. We just don't have that kind of willpower and time day after day.
- As if these aren't enough setbacks, we also don't prioritize it. We could add it into our calendars or daily schedules, sometimes we know we should, but we also have to run errands and make dinner and get enough sleep. To form a habit, it must become part of our daily routine, but our daily routine is already packed.
Looking at it from this perspective, journaling can seem like a gargantuan task that's just not worth it. However, the benefits of journaling are seen even with a very small daily commitment.
Don't force yourself to do something immense every day. Don't expect yourself to Tetris 30 hours of productivity into a 24-hour day.
Instead, make it as easy as it can be. Make it ridiculously easy for yourself. Meet the concept of baby steps.
Take the smallest step
The idea comes in various names: Baby steps, small steps, half steps. But in reality, the name is irrelevant. The value lies in its simplicity and effectiveness. The goal is to make the habit so small that it becomes ridiculously easy, which —at least in my book— is the opposite of daunting.
Make the new habit into a game by doing it as fast as you can, with a "get over with it now" type of mentality. Or turn it into a 3-minute chore to do every day, like washing your teeth or using hand sanitizer.
Enough talk, let's get practical. Here's how I set up a journal for small steps success in Diarly:
- Set your writing goal to the smallest possible number, of just 100 words in a day, in Settings > Goals.
- Define a prompt for yourself in Settings > Prompts. Write a question or starting point, as simple or as complex as you want it to be, but make sure it invites you to write. Hint: The prompt also counts towards your writing goal, so if your prompt is 50 words long, you only have to write 50 words.
- Set up notifications in Settings > Notifications. Let Diarly do the bookkeeping: Schedule it to remind you to write when it's most convenient.
- Perhaps you're a morning writer, and you want to write a goal for the day ahead, so you set up Diarly to remind you to write in Morning Goals, every day at 8AM.
- Or, if you want to reflect on your work day, set up reminders for Work Thoughts at 6:30PM on weekdays.
Once you set up your journal for easy, small, minuscule daily steps, try not to make it too complex for yourself. Keep it as simple as possible until the habit has formed in your daily routine, and then start to explore and play with it more.
All the features mentioned are available in the free version of Diarly, so if you aren't already using it, get it for Mac or iOS — the links to the App Store are at the bottom of this page.