As someone who is dedicated to personal development and always pushing myself to learn more, do more, and be better, I decide to start a new habit sometimes as often as every day.
Some habits I never actually start. Some I do for a few days or weeks or years and then one day drop and never think about again. Some habits I struggle to even start the intended action every time, but I find a way to persist. Some good habits I pick up easily.
I’ve noticed a pattern about the habits that I keep. Often they’re important to me. Often they’re enjoyable. Often I receive encouragement and feel successful. But more important than any other factor is how easy I make the habit for myself.
Make any habit you want to start as easy for yourself as possible.
If you want to start journaling daily, make it as physically easy to access the journal and write as possible.
For me, the easiest way to journal every day is keeping my journal on the cloud. I have a Google Doc and have a shortcut to my journal in my bookmarks bar. I start each journal entry with today’s date and start a new Google Doc for each year.
I’m on my computer every day for most of the day. I always have my computer or my phone with me, so my journal is always with me. I don’t need to remember to bring my journal. I don’t need to find a pen. My journal is one click, maybe sometimes two clicks, away.
Don’t force yourself to write a lot. Just write something.
In the past I’ve told myself that I have to write at least a page or at least three paragraphs or at least a whole story, but I’ve found that most days, for me, this is too daunting. There are dishes that need to be done and Facebook notifications that need to be read after all!
Instead, I tell myself that I have to type something in my journal everyday, even if it’s just a word or a sentence. I first heard of this strategy for starting an exercise regimen. If you want to get stronger, tell yourself to do at least one pushup a day. By the time you get down there to do one, you’ll probably feel like trying to do a couple more. Set yourself up to win. I used to be able to do zero pushups. I started with two pushups a day. Within a couple short months could do ten consecutive pushups! Our willpower to start a task will get stronger the more we practice starting.
By setting the quantity bar low for myself in writing, I make it easier to get started. I’m not visualizing a big arduous task I have to complete. And, usually, once I get going, I write plenty. It’s just the idea of having to writing a lot (even though I love writing!) that can be a obstacle to getting started.
Don’t “punish” yourself if you miss a day.
I also allow myself to journal at any time of day, although usually I write towards the end of the day to allow myself to record what’s happened, reflect, and process. I tend to have a free flowing schedule with little routine in my day anyway, and if I set a journaling time and miss it, it’s unlikely I will go back and do it. I’ll just write it off until the next day, and then maybe the next day. Before I know it I haven’t done it in months.
That said, if I do miss a day, I don’t force myself to go back and do the days I missed. I tell myself that whenever I am ready to get back in I can start from there. If I had a crazy few days when I completely forgot about journaling, it can be too daunting to start to journal knowing I have to go back and record the last four days of activity! By not putting pressure on myself, I write about the day I’ve been having, and then, amazingly, I usually find that I do have the energy to go back and give at least an overview of my last few crazy days.
More of a pen and paper gal?
Typing my journal lacks the intimacy of putting pen to paper, so I will sometimes work out my feelings with a juicy, black pen in a gorgeous journal. That’s enough for me, but if hand-writing your journal is for you, then follow these steps to make your journaling habit easier. Ask yourself, is there a time every day where I am in the same place? Maybe you always have a cup of coffee at the kitchen table before you go to work. Can that be your journaling time as well? If so, keep your journal and pen at the kitchen table!
The extra effort of deciding when to journal, finding your journal, and then finding a pen, will be your undoing more days than not. Set yourself up for success by making it easy for yourself.