I have to confess: I’ve never been good at keeping a journal. Until this year.
It’s always been something that I’ve wanted to do regularly, and over the years I’ve started journals in many different forms. I have bits of journals in several notebooks and in several computer files, but while they’re interesting, they’re more a testament to my failure to keep a journal going for very long.
But this year has been different. I started a journal on January 3, 2012 and have an entry for just about every day since then — nearly 3 months might not seem like a lot to you, but it’s about six times what I’ve ever done before, and at this point I have confidence that I’ll keep it going for at least a few more months.
What has changed? I instituted a few “tricks” to keep the journaling simple, easy, and sustainable.
I wanted to make sure the journaling was as easy as possible, so I have no excuses. So I instituted a few rules that have worked very well for me:
1. Only write a few bullet points. I don’t write full sentences — just a bullet point for interesting or important things that happened each day. I only have to write 2-3, though sometimes I write 5-6 if I did a lot. I mix personal and work stuff together. By keeping each day’s entry short and simple, I make it so easy to journal that there are no excuses — it only takes a few minutes!
2. Keep my notebook where I won’t miss it. I put my notebook where I have coffee in the morning. I’ve been using an old Moleskine that I found in my closet that I’d started using as a journal in 2008, on my trip with Eva to Thailand. It really doesn’t matter what kind of notebook you use, but I’ve found a physical notebook is best because on the computer, I’ll tend to forget or be distracted by other computer tasks (damn the Internet!). When I see the notebook as I sit down to drink coffee, I remember to journal. Btw, one of the lapses in my current journal came when I changed my morning routine and started drinking coffee on the couch instead of at my desk — my journal stayed on the desk and I forgot to journal for more than a week. I had to fill it in later, which wasn’t easy. Which brings me to my next rule.
3. Don’t miss more than 2 days of journaling. I missed almost two weeks once, as I just mentioned … and later when I had to fill in back entries, I had a hard time remembering what I’d did. I had a couple other lapses like this, usually because visitors change up my routine, and I’ve found that looking in my calendar and emails helps jog my memory so I can get most of the main things into the journal. But it’s far better to journal the day after the events happen, when things are still fresh. I’ve found that two days later is also fine, but at three days, you start to mix up the previous few days and forget some things. So if I don’t journal every day, I will make sure not to miss more than a day or two.
That’s it. Those three rules work very well for me, and have helped me keep a journal for the last several months.
And here are a few more tips (some were said in the paragraphs above as well):
I highly recommend keeping a journal. It takes minutes a day, and looking back on your life is something that seems deeply satisfying.
Originally published at zenhabits.net