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How to Keep a Journal: 8 Tips For Making Journaling Work For You

Wondering How to Keep a Journal? Here are Our Tips!

There are loads of reasons people keep a journal – for self-improvement, for mental health, or even for a spiritual journey. One thing is for sure, learning how to write a journal effectively can be hard work! While many people turn to Reddit to ask others for advice, you’ve got Board and Life!

“Keeping a journal” tips are out there and it’s no secret that sticking to them is the difficult part! So, if you want some of the best techniques for keeping a journal, here are ours. We’ve been writing non-stop for a few years now. Bruce even has a travel journal that he likes to write in when we are on the road. That said, if you are wondering how to write a personal journal, many of the same concept and tips will apply! Ready? Let’s get journaling!

Find Your Writing Purpose

pink journal with green palm leaf how to keep a journal

Feeling grateful? Write down why! // Photo: Unsplash

Here’s the thing about this one – it doesn’t have to be clear right away. Start off by writing about your day. It may feel stupid, but that’s more because you are foreign to writing and not because your day sucks. You need to practice. Like anything else in life – you need to do it over and over to get used to it!

Another way to think of it is by asking yourself: Why am I writing? There are lots of reasons people want to keep a journal. We mentioned charting your mood for mental health reasons, while others want to keep a food journal. Some might want to observe the world around them, and others want to practice their poetry. You might just want the journal for making lists of your tasks and your thoughts throughout the day. See, those are all journaling purposes – and they are all valid!

Buy a Notebook You Love

In our post on becoming a better writer, we mention the idea of “finding your workshop”. The workshop isn’t necessarily a place where you physically go to journal each day, but in this case, it’s the journal itself.

Others might tell you to just buy a cheap notebook and start writing. While we do understand that you don’t need an expensive one, we think that buying a book that you really like can truly help you own the goal of writing in it. That said, don’t buy the most expensive journal on the market. This is the journal that Bruce uses. It’s rugged but simple – and suits his style.

If you buy an expensive one and don’t end up committing to journaling, then there’s a chance you will feel even worse about easting the money on such a fancy book! Just buy a notebook you love for a price that works for you. Simple. You can have a look at some of our favorite notebooks or just head over to buy the perfect notebook now!

Aim for Routine/Consistency

notebook with coffee and scissors on desk how to keep a journal

Time for tea or coffee? Time to journal, we think! // Photo: Unsplash

Building a routine around journaling is a great way to stay on track. Always have a lunch break at the same time? Journal. Always on the bus after work? Journal time. Do you always have energy before bed? Maybe turn that into prime journal time? There is no right or wrong time to get thoughts down as long as it works for you.

Ideally, you try to stick to a certain time each day. This will ensure that you have a schedule built around the time commitment of journaling. If you have a flexible schedule but don’t want to forget, you can even set a timer so you know its journaling time. Pearl Buck once said, “I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has to get down to work”. We think that is so true – so journal if you want to even if it’s not “time” yet!

In general, it’s important to set journalling goals – or at least have an idea of how much and when you want to journal. Setting SMART goals is one way that you can help yourself stay on track.

Be Okay Breaking That Routine

journalling in nature on man's lap hoe to keep a journal

Ended up walking through the forest? Missing an entry is okay – or journal if you have it! // Photo: Unsplash

So you set a routine and you’ve been good with sticking to it. Journaling the same time each day. Then, life happens. There are literally a hundred and one reasons you might miss an entry at a time you set out. Guess what? That’s okay.

Journaling is about a mix of effort, passion, and consistency. Aim to do all three of your entries. If you can’t, aim for two of the three each time. If you can’t get the consistency part down, at least you’re still journaling with passion and effort. See what we mean? Don’t let an off day be the thing that derails your whole journaling flow. You might be journaling for the purposes of your mental health. If this is the case, you can write about what missing an entry meant to you!

Keep Entries Short

This one is a good one to start off with. Keeping entries short means that you don’t put tremendous pressure on yourself to write full on novels in the first few entries. Of course, if you have lots to say and jot down then by all means.

By “keep it short” we just mean that you should aim to get something down and not worry about the length. Some of the best ideas – and greatest works of fiction – are only a few lines long.

Mistakes are Part of Who You Are

blank journal with colorful pens in holder how to keep a journal

Colors and markers aren’t always mistakes – but character. // Photo: Unsplash

If you are just starting out, allow yourself a few mistakes. Don’t let one weird page be the end of the whole journal. You will come to look back on those marks, scribbles, and omissions with a laugh and a chuckle. You’ll put down quite a few words pretty quickly and without even realizing how far you’ve come those mistakes will be buried somewhere deep in the journal.

Basically, don’t sweat the small stuff when it comes to journaling. The journal is a reflection of you – both your characters and your imperfections – and that’s totally fine!

Try Different Journaling Styles

This one is important. Many young new writers think they have to write a certain way. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Do novelists do poems? Do poetry writers force themselves to write epic novels? Likely not. So, find how you write and journal like that, too.

There are a few surprising ways to journal. You can just use jot notes, for example. You can handwrite and use small paragraphs. You can aim to fill single pages or double pages. If you have a line, you can use the layout to your advantage and test out what style you prefer.

You can even doodle if you think that images go along well with your words. Experiment, the journal is your workshop to play with!

Carry Your Journal with You

journal open on table with coffee how to keep a journal

Got an idea? Good thing you stopped eating that cake and tea and had the journal! // Photo: Unsplash

Finally, this last one goes along with building a routine but also being okay to break it if the situation arises. You should get into the habit of keeping your journal with you! That way, if you are struck with inspiration, you can go for it.

Having a schedule or routine is only necessary for the beginning to get you going. If you find that you want to be more spontaneous when you write, then do so. Having your workshop along with you for the day can make this possible! Plus, there are things that happen in a day that you just will forget later. If you want to jot them down fresh, you’ll need your journal.

And there you have it – 8 of the best tips for how to keep a journal that has helped us over the years. In the end, there is no one magic formula – you just have to try it out and see what works for you! We all have different motivations and that should come out in your journaling! Did you buy a new journal? Have you just started or been journaling for years? We’d love to hear about your journaling journey! Get in touch on Twitter @BoardandLife and tell us what you love about hiking! We’d love to compare notes!

As always, Stay Curious,
-B&L

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How to keep a Journal