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How to journal for maximum benefit
Achieve your goals with the right journaling strategies
What do Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo and Thomas Edison have in common? They were all geniuses at the tops of their fields – and they all kept journals. Learning how to journal helped them organize their thoughts, be more creative and make great discoveries – and it can do the same for you.
Interest in how to start a journal isn’t just for scientists and creative types. Use of journals is skyrocketing among businesspeople, entertainers and more as they discover the same benefits as Darwin and Edison. And in today’s quickly changing world, just about everyone has thoughts and anxieties they need to get out. If you feel like you need to clear your mind and organize your thoughts, journaling can help.
How to start a journal
To start a journal, it might seem like all you need is a pen and paper. But you may also need to overcome your limiting beliefs in order to actually put the pen to the page. You want to learn how to journal but you may think you’re a bad writer. Maybe you’re nervous about writing down personal information. Or maybe you’re afraid of what might come out.
Famed children’s writer E.B. White said, “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.” The first step in how to start a journal is to gain confidence. Understand that you don’t need to be a great writer or even a good writer. Accept that starting a journal is about the process of growth. You might discover some uncomfortable facts, but that is the only way you will grow as a person. Once you’re able to let your thoughts flow, you’re ready to learn more about how to journal.
1. Commit to your new routine.
To see all the benefits of journaling, you must make it part of your routine. Set aside a specific time each day and stick to it. Put a reminder in your phone or leave yourself a note. The important thing is to turn it into a daily habit.
2. Create an inspiring space.
Create a relaxing and comfortable space where you can focus without any interruptions. A spare room or attic nook works well, but if you don’t have much space, a breakfast tray in bed will be just as cozy.
3. Gather your supplies.
A pen and paper works, but there are many different types of journaling. Depending on which one you choose, you may need a journal that is formatted a certain way. If you go with a more traditional format, you can still make it interesting by purchasing a journal with an inspiring design or that speaks to your personal style.
4. Clear your head.
Learning how to journal takes concentration. Even stream-of-consciousness styles require you to look deeply within. A short meditation routine or priming can help clear your mind and get “in the zone.”
What to write in a journal
Discovering what to write in a journal is a very personal process – that’s why there are nearly as many journaling styles as there are people who write in journals. The key, as with any goal in life, is to focus on your outcome: Is it to hold yourself accountable and achieve your goals? Is it to overcome limiting beliefs and change your mindset? Reduce anxiety? Be more creative?
Learning how to journal can do all of these things for you – but it’s important to set your focus on just one goal. Here are a few journaling types that are popular with some of the world’s most successful people.
Initially developed by artist, author and teacher Julia Cameron as a creative exercise, Morning Pages is starting to catch on with the business world. This concept for how to start a journal is straightforward: Every morning, write three full pages of your stream-of-consciousness thoughts. You must do it by hand, and the only other rule is not to overthink it! Everyone from entrepreneur Chris Winfield to software engineer Nicky Hajal has experienced the benefits of Morning Pages. Why not try it yourself?
Five Minute Journal
No time for Morning Pages? Entrepreneur, investor and best-selling author Tim Ferriss swears by his morning ritual: the Five Minute Journal. This ready-made book makes it easy to learn how to journal. It’s filled with questions and quotes intended to prompt reflection, cultivate gratitude and make each day better than the last. Tim says just five minutes in the morning helps him be more productive and content throughout the day, making it well worth the small time investment.
Rapid Planning Method®
Tony Robbins’ Rapid Planning Method is more than a journal. It’s an entire way of thinking – and it’s created for those who want to achieve big things. Through a series of exercises, you’ll define what’s most important to you, identify areas for improvement and then create specific, actionable goals to achieve maximum results. Actor Gerard Butler and Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia agree: RPM can help you refine your ideas and develop empowering habits that will transform your life.
How to journal is different for everyone, but even recording everyday stressors and events can have a positive impact on your life. One study found that students who wrote down seemingly insignificant events rated them as more interesting when they looked back on them three months later. “Rediscovering” mundane events can make life more meaningful and help you see the beauty in every moment of your life.
If you’re wondering how to journal, the most important advice is to get started today. Whether you choose a structured format or a stream-of-consciousness style, writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you make sense of the world. That’s something everyone can benefit from.