How many times have you bought a brand new, pretty journal with good intentions to chronicle your life for future generations? After about three lengthy, detailed entries in your best handwriting, did you turn to a couple of scribbled sentences for the next few days and then find it buried in your night stand weeks later? What then? Do you jump back in or just come to terms with the knowledge that you’re just not the kind of person who uses “journal” as a verb?
I’ve been through this cycle several times — I’ve tried journals with dated pages, journals with built in fancy ribbon bookmarks, and journals with lined, dotted and grid pages. I’ve even given a gratitude journal and a bullet journal a go. Each time I’ve had the same experience when I tried to do it the “right” way — I only keep up for a very short time until I give up.
What if you could get all the benefits of journaling without all the guilt of not being perfect at it? Well, I believe you can! Here’s my formula for journaling YOUR way!
Throw out expectations
The very first thing you should do is throw all of those expectations you have of regularly journaling in beautiful script in great detail out the window! I’ve learned that lowering my expectations of myself is one of the most important things I could do to help me feel more in control. I wrote a whole post about it here.
Don’t worry about how you think it should be or what others have told you is the correct way to keep a journal. Instead, quickly jot down what appeals to you about keeping a journal. For me it was getting my feelings and ideas out of my head so I could begin to understand them. My journal is for me and me only, so I decided it didn’t really matter how my journal looked or was formatted or how often I wrote in it. Once I dropped the expectations, I began to use my journal for its real purpose a whole lot more!
Decide what matters to you
There are many uses for a journal, and you should decide which of them are meaningful to you. Choose one or many of these 10 ideas for your journal, and then you can personalize your approach.
Personalize your approach
Once you've identified which of the above are important to you, you can start using your journal! The only real rule that I abide by is writing a date on the page. This helps serve as a frame of reference when you look back at what you've written.
I use my journal in all of the ways I shared, and I switch fluidly between uses based on what is needed to achieve my purpose for keeping a journal in the first place. I just want to get things out of my head so I can begin to understand them from a more objective point of view. It doesn't matter how often or rarely you write, as long as your journal is a resource for you when you need it!
My approach is obviously going to be different than yours, but that's the beauty of journaling your own way. It is what you WANT it to be! If it's a personalized approach, it can't be wrong, just different than someone else's. I start with a blank journal and just fill it with what meets my needs, but if that is a little intimidating, you may want to try something like The Guilt-Free Journal for Women by Jan Silvious. Though I haven't tried this book myself, the description sounds awesome, "Here's the perfect way to break the guilt cycle! Packed with creative writing prompts and encouraging Scriptures, this whimsically illustrated diary has no calendar references, so you can write when you want to, and enjoy it! "
"...that's the beauty of journaling your own way. It is what you WANT it to be! If it's a personalized approach, it can't be wrong, just different that someone else's."
I like to get a new journal every January as a sign of a fresh start. I looked back at my entries for this year so far, and here is what I saw:
It's a lot of fun to read what I was thinking and feeling throughout the year. From these entries, I can see some goals I accomplished, some areas I'm still struggling with, and find some fresh inspiration to get back to projects I've put on the back burner. If I had put myself in a box and not used my journal if I didn't fit into it, I would not have these things to look back on and learn from.
I challenge you to stop feeling guilty about not keeping a journal the RIGHT way, but instead determine what you could gain from keeping one YOUR way!
Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash
Carroll, Ryder. “Bullet Journal.” Bullet Journal, bulletjournal.com/.
Silvious, Jan. Guilt Free Journal. Living Ink Books, 2002.
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!