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How to get into the journaling habit

Carving out consistent journaling time depends on your body clock, the predisposition of your nervous system, and the many other calls on your time.

Setting up a positive habit takes preparation and intention, and to increase your chances of success research tells us to repeat the habit at a similar time and place every day. Four to six weeks is often cited as the average amount of time to integrate a habit into your routine, but it is not a linear process and you will experience times of momentum and times when things seem to plateau. What is reassuring is that even the most desirable healthy habits can survive missing the odd day or two.

Tip #1 - set a timer for 15 minutes

Sometimes you'll find you feel complete after a few minutes, other times you might wish you had more available time. This may depend on the type of journaling you are doing: "gratitude" journaling and "sprinting" are techniques that are concise; self-reflection and creative techniques usually need more time.

I recommend you try 15 minutes a day for a week or two and be ready to adjust accordingly and that you set a timer. This means you will honour the timings of the contract you have made with yourself to turn up and journal.

Tip #2 - make a connection

One of the simplest ways to segue journaling into your existing routine is to attach 15 minutes of journaling time to something you already do. For example, add it to the enjoyment of your morning or afternoon tea or coffee, or use it to follow up a meditation practice, and if you're a rail commuter you might find your travel time provides a regular slot. Again, experiment with a view to identifying a regular slot each day - consistency is key.

Tip #3 - prepare for road blocks

Of course, life gets busy and there may be unexpected calls on your attention which impinge on the time you have allocated for journaling. If you do hit some obstacles to your practice, then make a note of what they are when you next get to your notebook. Sometimes it might even be useful to journal about the reasons for not journaling!

"The more any of us writes, the more our words will “come to us.” If we trust in the words and their own mysterious relationship with one another, they will help us find things out" - Naomi Shihab Nye, Poet and Novelist

Tip #4 - set up nudges

Plan ahead for obstacles by setting up some tricks or treats to keep you on track. Here are some ideas:

  • You might block out your journaling slot in your online calendar or in your paper diary, so you have a visual cue to remind you. You could also set up alerts on your phone.

  • If 15 minutes turns out to be too long, trya five minute micro-journaling slot and gradually build up your journaling muscles over subsequent weeks.

  • And if rewards work for you, then think about a small treat you could offer yourself for each block of journaling you complete.

In short, think about finding a pocket of time you could reliably give to exploring your journaling, but stay flexible and kind to yourself. Making thoughtful and long-term changes to your daily routine will take time, but the only way to get there is to start.

By the way.....

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