Journaling: Just do it. And here are a few tips to help.
Journaling is a great way to organize your thoughts, contemplate your experiences, ease anxiety, and weigh your decisions. It’s an exercise widely used in coaching practices of all kinds, from personal fitness to business. Sometimes, however, people who want to start journaling, regardless of the purpose, can get stuck staring at a blank page or screen, creating another level of anxiety and knocking down any benefits that might have resulted.
Journals help you remember details and accurately recall dates, times, locations, and people. They’re great to keep a simple record of your workday, or to help you in your success journey. They have a number of uses, and there are countless resources to help you learn how to do them. So, I won’t beleaguer those here.
So, from one old writer, here are a few tips that might help get you started.
1. Pick a medium that you feel comfortable working in. My experience is that hand-writing a journal can be more effective, more personal. It’s true that keeping a digital journal in a Google Doc or other app can be more convenient sometimes, but there’s something more ‘real’ about the connection between the hand, eye, point, and page. But whatever the medium, choose something that feels most natural and normal to you.
Good choices can be Google Docs, the “notes” program on your mobile phone, and so on. Paper, bound journals don’t need to be expensive. You can pick up a nice one at Walmart for less than $10. That said, a simple school composition book is fine. Count on filling them up.
2. See your whole self, warts and all. We have a tendency to want to see only the good in ourselves. But it’s important when journaling that we’re the most honest we can be with ourselves. Remember, no one else needs to see your writing, so there’s no reason to hold back. If you’re trying to make major changes in your life, it’s vital that you are honest with ourself about the bad so you can replace the thoughts and behaviors with the good.
For example. If you’re trying to quit smoking, it might be a good idea to start keeping track of how many cigarettes you smoke every day (if you’re a heavy smoker, it’s unlikely you really know the number). Or, in another example, someone who’s having a hard time with self-esteem often inundates themselves with negative thoughts throughout the day. If they write down those thoughts, good and bad, and the circumstances that manifested them, the individual might be able to start seeing where those bad thoughts are coming from.
3. It’s not literature. So the easiest way to express this point is to say, don’t worry about it being Shakespeare! Don’t second-guess what you’re writing or worry about what anyone else would say if they read it. Just get it down! Remember, this is for your eyes only, unless you want someone else to read it. My advice is to keep it to yourself. If you have a coach or someone helping you with goals or accountability, then you can transcribe points you’ve noted at a later time. Otherwise, just get it on the page, regardless of the grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and all of that. If you don’t just write to get it out, you probably won’t do it at all.
Remember, there are tons of resources online to teach you how and why to journal. These are just a few basics, shared in our usual straight-forward style. Do as much research as you like, but remember, if you don’t get started soon, you might miss your motivational window.
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