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What do Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt have in common?  A lot actually…but for the sake of this guide: journaling.  They all kept a journal.

Notice how they didn’t just talk about keeping a journal.  They didn’t just say they wanted to keep a journal.  They actually did it.  And it was a daily discipline.  How often do we talk about implementing habits like this and never get around to it?

You may realize the importance of a journal.  You may like the idea of keeping a journal.  But do you do it?

The time is now.  If you keep putting it off, you’ll be 90 years old, wishing you had written something to pass down.

And that’s just one of the reasons to keep a journal…

Why Keep a Journal?

Once you start journaling, you realize that it’s just plain fun.  It’s enjoyable to journal daily, no matter exactly how you use it.  If you’re not quite sold on the idea yet, here are a few key reasons to keep a journal:

  • Journaling empties your brain. It’s a great way to get the thoughts out of your head and onto paper. It’s much easier to sleep through the night once you’ve emptied your brain.
  • Journaling leaves a legacy. There’s nothing more valuable to pass down than an account of your life and thoughts. It’s a great way for your loved ones to remember you and for you to pass down the wisdom and lessons you’ve gained.
  • Journaling improves your health. The act of writing down your thoughts, ideas and accounts of what happened is good for your health. Journaling has been shown to improve emotional (dealing with thoughts), mental (keeping your mind active) and even physical health (reduces stress).
  • Journaling improves your writing. Whether you’re a writer or not, writing is a valuable skill to have. The best way to improve your writing is by writing…a lot. Writing in…a daily journal, perhaps.  Wow, would you look at that!

How to Start Journaling

Don’t make journaling harder than it really is. One of the main reasons we don’t start new habits is because we don’t know where to start or because we think it will be difficult to adapt to the new habit. Because of that, like with any successful habit, you should start small.

Start with whatever sounds fun to you. Pick from the list below or create your own idea:

  • Journal the day – This is the easiest way to start journaling. Simply record the day’s events and what stood out.
  • Journal your thoughts – Record all of those thoughts in your head. Don’t worry about organizing them, just write.
  • Journal in seasons – Start a new journal with every season of life. Single life, marriage, children, a new job, a new town…anything big that changes, start a new journal and title it by the season. This is a fun way to look back.
  • Journal gratitude – Starting the day with gratitude will always give you a boost. What better way to practice gratitude than actually writing it down? You’ll be amazed at how much your mood improves when you write your gratitude.
  • Journal affirmations – Affirmations are a way of affirming things that are already true and things that you are working towards making true. I find it best to record “action affirmations”, I start them with action verbs to make them more literal.
  • Journal a mixture – Why not pick your favorites out of these and do them all? You can always try the insanely popular Five Minute Journal – it gives you an outline with questions to answer, including several areas. Here’s a sample page:

five minute journal

Set aside a certain time everyday to write in your journal. Start with just a few minutes, so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. Mornings are best for me, but you may find that evening work better. Or if you’re doing something like the Five Minute Journal, you may do morning and evening.

Now on to the different types of journals…

What Type of Journal?

The first question is: physical or digital? Should you actually write down your entries or is it ok to type them on your computer, phone or tablet? That’s completely up to you. Either way is fine, but I’m going to say what you might have expected me to say…

I believe there is power in the pen. I prefer to journal first thing in the morning and I use pen/paper to stay disconnected from technology until absolutely necessary. But that’ just me. There is no right or wrong way. I know people who type it on the computer and then print it and store it in a notebook. It’s your decision. Let’s talk about the differences…

Option 1: Paper and Pen

If you decided to do paper/pen journaling, you need to decide which type of journal to buy.

Jim Rohn recommends buying a very expensive (usually at least $50) leather-bound journal. Then you are challenged to make your content worth way more than $50. You’ll also be more likely to stick with the habit if you invest the money.

I suggest quite the opposite. Challenge yourself to journal for 30 days in whatever you have available. It could be an old journal, a spiral notebook or loose paper. The point is, get something to write on and start journaling. Once you do it everyday for 30 days, reward yourself with a nice journal. It could be a blank journal or a guided journal, but wait until you’ve committed for 30 days.

Here are some nice guided journals to choose from:

Here are some nice blank journals to choose from:

Option 2: Digital

If you want to go digital, you can either type your entries into documents and save the files in separate folders (sort by month, year, etc.) or you can use a program like Evernote. You can always try an app like the Five Minute Journal app or why not just start a free blog with WordPress.com and make your journal public?

The options are endless. Honestly, I could talk about journaling all day, but that would postpone you from getting started.

Start journaling today with whatever means you have. You’ll love this new habit. I promise.

Do you journal or plan to start journaling?

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