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  • Writer's pictureEdie Montreux

3 Steps to Pick a Journal Technique

Did you add "journal every day" to your New Year's Resolutions? Have you already broken that resolution? Don't worry - you're not alone. If I made resolutions, I would have broken this one because I broke my ReMarkable stylus in early January. That's right, I'm using technology as my crutch and saying that's the reason I didn't write for two whole days while I waited for Amazon to deliver my new stylus, even though I have a million G2s and a shelf full of functioning notebooks I could have used.

Here are three steps you can take to make journaling a habit in 2022 (even if you miss a day or two):

A blue notebook with Rainbow and "Over It," a G2 pen and reading glasses
My last notebook before I went digital (still have a few blank pages)

  1. Choose your notebook. Pick a notebook you'll use. This used to mean I went to Target and studied their stationery isle for hours on end (okay, it was probably a few minutes, but according to Lemur, it was hours) to find the perfect notebook. Then, it meant opening a new Word document or Google Doc on my computer. Now, I get the best of both worlds. I can write longhand on the ReMarkable and it will convert my kindergartner-going-on-serial-killer handwriting into legible text. Another fantastic method for jotting down your thoughts is through the many phone and computer applications available through your app store. As with anything, read the fine print to make sure you're willing to pay for any extras or so you don't lose access to your data after a free trial.

  2. Choose your time of day. There are specific journals you can only keep at certain times of day. If you're a morning person, morning pages from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way might be for you. She recommends setting the alarm thirty minutes early and keeping your notebook by your bedside to write out three pages before you start your day. Another journal best for mornings is a dream journal. The best time to write down your overnight dreams is the moment you wake, before you start your day and lose whatever the dream was about. Other journals are better saved for the end of your day. One is the gratitude journal, recommended in Shawn Achor's The Happiness Advantage. This can be as simple as jotting down five things for which you are grateful before you go to sleep, or as involved as writing three emails a week to the people for whom you are grateful, to pass on the love. Whichever type of gratitude journal you start, this could also improve your mood and help you sleep. Another helpful journal for the end of your day is the Clear Your Mind journal. This is exactly what it sounds like. Have you been upset since the barrista at Starbucks got your name wrong at 9 a.m.? Write it down, and let it go. This is also a good time to write down all the things you want to accomplish the following day so you can get them out of your mind for better sleep. No matter what time of day you choose, stick to it. This will help form your journaling habit.

  3. Choose your reason to journal. The type of journal you write may depend on the outcome you want. Do you want to form a writing habit? Daily pages (a modification from Morning pages, above) may be the right journal for you, or maybe you need prompts to guide you to write each day. There are several books, websites, etc., available to provide these types of prompts if you need them. Are you looking to improve your mental health this year? The ABC method from Dr. David Burns' Feeling Good might help you turn your thinking around. This form of cognitive behavioral therapy can help you see the negative effects of your thought patterns and help you turn them around: A - Activating Event B - Your beliefs about this event C - Consequences (your behavioral or emotional response) Another way to focus on changing your current response is to give the other party the benefit of the doubt. If you waved to a neighbor and they didn't wave back, you may think he hates you, but chances are he didn't see you wave. This can help you choose another method of contact in future situations. Maybe instead of waving from across the street, you'll walk over and start a conversation. Do you want to define and measure your professional or personal goals? One way to do this is to set SMART goals for yourself. These are: Specific (to you, and well-defined) Measurable (gotta have some numbers!) Achievable (you can do it, you're not waiting for others to complete their work) Relevant (your goal, not the team's goal) Time-based (there's a deadline for success or failure) These can be anything from fitness goals (get 10% more cardio minutes this week than you did last week) to professional (have coffee with 5 professional writers for 30 minutes each to discuss their favorite marketing tools over the next 2 weeks). Once you have the goal defined, you can use your journal to take notes and track progress.

Paperback 25th anniversary edition of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way with notes/page markers
My print copy of The Artist's Way. I also have it on Kindle.

The method I use is a variation on Morning Pages, called Daily Pages. I'm not setting an alarm for 3:30 a.m. First, the dogs would get up, so no writing would get done for the first hour of my day. Second, I need something to write about, and I don't dream very often, so my dream journal would be spotty at best. I write in the afternoon for three pages of free-form long hand. I now do it on my ReMarkable tablet, though, so I can immediately convert snippets of dialogue to my manuscript or some plot points to my OneNote.

What journaling method will work best for you? Try it out for 30 days to form a new habit and let me know how it goes!

A shelf lined with notebooks
20+ years worth of journals (before I went digital)

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