Oh, the dreaded journaling post!
Write in a journal, they say. If you don’t, one day you’ll regret it!
Keep a journal for your kids and grandkids and great-grandkids. They’ll love reading about your life and how much has changed.
If you don’t write it down, you’ll forget it!
Just thinking about journaling makes me anxious. And then the mom guilt starts up because I’m just not doing it enough. I’ve tried to keep a journal before, and there were a few times where I was pretty consistent for a few months.
But, oddly enough as a writer, I don’t enjoy journaling. My hand cramps up. The writing feels awkward. It often turns to complaining and then I don’t want my posterity to read it anyway. I’m tired, so I rush through and leave out the details that make the memories fun. I forget to do it for a year and then figure, “I missed Ryan’s first year of life, so it wouldn’t be fair to cover Roxy’s first year.”
The whole idea of keeping a journal used to be sort-of overwhelming for me. And yet I loved the idea of writing something every single day. But I’m a productivity junkie and I also lack patience, so if I was going to be spending time on something every single day, I needed to see the benefit immediately. So I created my own journaling routine–what I call Journaling with a Purpose.
My Morning Journaling Routine
The Brain Dump
First, I free write for 2-5 minutes. The closer to first thing in the morning this can happen, the better. I set a timer on my phone and just write–about anything and everything that comes to mind. Typically, that ends up being something that’s weighing me down or stressing me out.
And guess what? I oftentimes come up with a solution to that problem right then and there. Something about physically writing down my problem and utilizing a fresh brain to troubleshoot it helps me narrow in on a solution. Even if I’m not able to come up with a solution, I still end up feeling better about the situation. I get it out of my head and onto paper, and then I’m able to stop worrying about it and move on with my day.
Next, I write down 3 things I’m grateful for. Sometimes these are small, silly things like cozy socks, smoothies, or the puzzle that kept my toddler entertained for 20 minutes straight. Sometimes it’s practical things like running water, toothpaste, or refrigeration. Other times it’s sentimental things like my family, my religion, or good friends. And sometimes it’s things that are really, truly “extras” in my life like the newest smartphone, a new pair of shoes that made me smile, or DoorDash.
My items range from really general (my kids) to specific (when Ryan could tell I was having a bad day and gave me a giant hug and told me I’m the best mom ever), but either way they force me to focus on what I have rather than what I don’t. And starting my day this way is truly life-changing.
- Then I write down my short-term goals. These are goals I hope to accomplish in the next few weeks-few months. I choose three categories and have a goal for each (right now my categories are blog, health, and home/family). Yes, I actually write each goal out every day, even though they don’t change for awhile. The physical act of writing them down forces me to think about them, etch them into my brain, and remember them.
- And last, for each goal category above, I jot down one thing I can do that day to get me one stop closer to reaching my goal. This helps ensure I’m always thinking about and moving forward with my goals. So, for instance, my short-term blog goal lately has been to prep for launching my blog. An example of a daily goal would be to draft the post on journaling with a purpose. If your short-term goal is to drink a gallon of water a day, your daily goal could be to drink two more ounces than you did the day before.
My Evening Journaling Routine
Intentional Memory Keeping
First, I write down one thing I want to remember that day. Whether it was something funny one of my kids said, something sweet my husband did for me, or something I learned, I jot down something I want to remember. This can be as short as a phrase or as long as a page. The important thing is that I reflect on my day and pick the most important thing to remember.
Next I write down something I did well that day, something I’m proud of. This can sound a little conceited, but as someone who constantly struggles to recognize that I do anything right, this practice helps me view myself in a better light. I’m forced to sit down and look for the POSITIVE I do, rather than berate myself for what I did wrong. It helps me love myself a little more, which helps me do even more good the next day.
So now I know you’re looking at this list and thinking, “Six things? How is doing six things easier than a normal journal?” Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. For me, it’s all about having a here-and-now purpose behind it. When I can see the benefits in my daily life, I’m more likely to do it.
For instance, I can tell a HUGE difference in my day when I don’t do my morning free-write. I’m more stressed and overwhelmed and uptight. So I try to make that a part of my daily routine.
But more importantly, the whole process only takes me about 10 minutes per day. I spend about 7 minutes in the morning and about 2 minutes at night. Sometimes it takes longer, but most days that’s it. Just 10 minutes and I have less stress, an attitude of gratitude, clear direction and forward movement on my goals, an intentional memory recorded, and increased self-love. I’d say that’s well worth a 10 minute investment, wouldn’t you?
Real Talk: Journal Style
Okay, now for the reality behind this system. No matter how good the results are and how much better my days are when I do it, I’m still human. I forget to do it a lot (especially the night part because…😴). I’m not perfect at it–not even close–and I don’t want anyone to read this post and think, “Wow…how does she do that every day? That’s amazing!” I’m human, just like you. And I’m a mom. I have kids that are up all night, which means I sleep in and don’t wake up in time to spend a few minutes journaling before the kids wake up. Or I stay up too late watching Netflix.
The goal of Journaling with a Purpose isn’t to do it perfectly or even every single day. It’s to improve my life. And every time I do it, my life gets just a little bit better. But if it doesn’t happen, I don’t sweat it.
Do you keep a journal?
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