The Ten Principles for Keeping an On-going Journal

There are no hard-set rules for keeping a journal. How often you write, how much time you spend, and how rigorously you maintain a regular journaling schedule are matters of personal choice and circumstance. What seems a comfortable writing schedule for one may seem unbearably formal to another. And while an individual living alone may have hours of solitude and enormous flexibility in terms of time, a parent with small children may have very little of either. So it is of primary importance to find what works for you. The following general guidelines, however, may help you to establish journal writing as a regular and enduring habit.

1. Allow yourself regular writing times.   Find a time of day that works well for you and use this time every day. As much as possible, control interruptions during this time.
2. Provide yourself a proper writing environment.   If you need quiet space, try to find a time that you can write without the noise and interruption from friends and family. If the hum of the world around you is soothing rather than distracting, plan to write during a time when other people will be engaged in their own work and not looking over your shoulder.
3. Develop a centering ritual.   Associating journaling with another pleasurable habit can help to strengthen the routine and create an atmosphere of self-nurturing. When you are ready to write in your journal, consider pouring yourself a cup of tea or coffee. Play relaxing music. Take a moment for meditation, deep breathing, or prayer.
4. Prompt yourself with a routine self-reflection question:   If you tend to have trouble starting, prompt yourself with a routine question, such as “What are you feeling right now?” or “What’s on your mind?” Anais Nin suggests asking “what feels vivid, warm, or near to you at the moment?” Of course, in the LifeJournal™ program you can always click the Prompt button for a question to appear, or click the Quote button for a quotation to spark reflective commentary.
5. Write because you want to write, not because you have to.  Don’t allow journaling to become an obligation or chore. Remember not to demand more of yourself than you can give. If you have missed a day, or several days, accept that journaling, like life, is imperfect and go on. Write the next time you have a chance.
6. Create a positive feedback loop.   As you continue to use the journal as an opportunity to be with and learn about yourself, you will find that the practice gains a momentum of its own. Discovering your own hidden depths piques your curiosity and stimulates you to continue, setting up a positive feedback loop between your conscious and unconscious mind.
7. Emphasize process rather than product.   An important purpose of journal writing is simply expressing and recording your thoughts and feelings. Concentrate on the process of writing–keeping the flow of words rather than worrying about the end result. If your goal is to have a specific audience read your piece, go back to it later and edit it. Use your journal as the raw material for more polished writing.
8. Make good use of LifeJournal.   One of the many benefits of using LifeJournal is that it’s available. For example, many send and receive emails, read the news and weather report, and check stock prices or the movie schedule online daily. It’s simple to make opening LifeJournal part of your daily habit also. You can add it to your startup menu, so that when you open your computer, LifeJournal also starts. Or alternatively, you can make sure that you include it in your ritual of closing down the computer. If you don’t have time for a long entry, you can always find the 3-5 minutes to enter a Daily Pulse with Pulse Notes to help you keep the journal writing habit alive.
9. Learn from your own experiences.   After just a few weeks or months of keeping a journal, go back to earlier journal entries. See how you’ve changed. Look for patterns and correlations between your stress levels and your health. How does stress affect your energy levels? See what helped your general mood improve by opening up journal entries that precede an increase in your mood ratings. Learn from your own experiences. Use the objectivity of time to review your life from a different perspective that you had when you wrote the journal entries.
10. Have fun!!   Journal writing is its own reward. Once you get started, your journal will become another one of your good friends–one who is always available and has the time to listen attentively.