I didn’t start keeping a journal until I was in my thirties. I’d grown up thinking only girls wrote in diaries. However, once I overcame that misconception and got started, I quickly discovered the benefit and pleasure that came from keeping a journal.

Journals can be effective tools in helping one get organized, in the creative process, or in developing a new habit or skill. However, keeping a journal is a habit in and of itself, and needs to be developed.

Here are 5 tips to help you keep momentum and get the most from your journaling habit:

  1. Do it your way – There is no “best way” to write in a journal. Correction: there is a best way to write in a journal and that is, what ever works for you. You are not striving for perfection, but for self-expression. Don’t worry about the spelling or the grammar. Turn off the internal editor.
  2. Be honest – This is the place to be honest with yourself. Write about the way you feel, not the way you think you should feel. This is not the place to worry about what others might think of you. Even if you have problems showing your true self to others, you owe it to yourself to be honest in your journal.
  3. Go deep – That is, let your feelings out. You can keep a journal which merely records the events of your life, and there’s nothing wrong with that, or you can add to its benefit by recording how you felt about what was going on. Your feelings can be symptoms of things not working well, which need to be corrected or adjusted. Your feelings can be celebrations of accomplishments, which motivate you forward to your next goal.
  4. Experiment – Find the format that suits you best: loose-leaf binder, cheap notebook, Moleskine (aff), leather-bound diary, all can work. Should you write first thing in the morning or last thing at night? Are you more comfortable in the quiet of your bedroom or in a public coffee shop? You can fill a page every day, or like Gretchen Rubin, in The Happiness Project (aff), keep a one-sentence journal. Experiment with the process to find what is best.
  5. Relax – Keeping a journal should not be a grim chore. If you see it that way, you’re not likely to keep it up for too long. Approach it in the spirit of creative play; an enjoyable, quiet-time gift to yourself.

Enjoy your journaling!