Making time to check in with yourself daily can help you stay guided and activated each day
Journaling is a way to process your experiences and reflect on how things are going. It allows you to look at where it is that you want to go and what it is that you dream of doing. It is a way of dialing into what is most important to you, how you feel, and what you want most.
First things first: make it part of your routine
To make it stick, it’s best to do it at the same time and in the same place each day, making it a part of your routine. It could be first thing in the morning, after work, or before bed. It’s more likely to stick if you can tie it into something you already do every day.
For example, I wake up to the morning pot of coffee percolating (we use the coffee instead of a traditional alarm). So, I get up, pour myself a mug and go sit on the couch in the front room by the window to write my pages and have my coffee. After that, I feed our cat and go about the rest of my morning. The coffee and the cat signal the start and end of the journaling part of my morning routine. This makes it automatic – I sit down to do my pages each morning without thinking about it. It also keeps it contained – the cat being a very loud protester of a late breakfast.
I write my pages every day with a very rare exception. I don’t write them when I’m visiting or staying with someone else, but this is something you can feel out for yourself.
When I first began, I bought myself a beautiful lined journal that I looked forward to using, and stack of fancy pens. This definitely helped keep me motivated to do them. In time, the journal itself has mattered less, and I now buy a cheapie notebook at the $1 store.
I recommend using a larger book (approximately full-size 8.5″ x 11″ sheets), so that you don’t feel cramped and so that you can write enough each day to clear your head effectively.
Journaling has helped me to I separate the thinking from the doing. It allows me to get my negative thoughts, my concerns, fears, upsets onto the page and out of the way for the day. As a result, I increasingly spend my days showing up and doing.
Morning Pages (what I do)
The idea of Morning Pages comes from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. The idea is to write three pages of freehand writing first thing in the morning. It’s basically three pages of stream of consciousness writing. Don’t worry about being tidy, spelling, or repeating yourself. Just write whatever is in your mind out onto the page. Writing by hand and without other distractions, as much as possible, is important.
The most common complaint I hear about these is that they take too long. At first, I think the pages did take me about 45-minutes to an hour. Now, they take me about 20.
For me, what I’ve found is that by doing my pages daily, I separate the thinking from the doing. They allow me to get my negative thoughts, my concerns, fears, upsets onto the page and out of the way for the day. They work kind of like a brain dump – getting everything out of your brain and onto the paper clears space!
As a result, I increasingly spend my days showing up and doing. The pages have made me more focussed and productive and have most certainly saved me much more than 20-minutes each day through increased productivity.
Working like a filter to process ideas
I find something tends to come up several times. Have often thought I had a brilliant ‘new’ idea and then gone and done it only to realize later it had come up several times in my pages or journal notes over previous weeks.
Seeing patterns and learning from your journal
Since the Morning Pages are so dense, I never re-read them. For me, it’s not their purpose. I do, however, write short-form notes at the bottom, to help myself see patterns and learn about when I feel certain ways or have more/less energy. It has also helped me to see my biggest areas of concern which allowed me to take deliberate action and make changes to them.
At the very bottom of the last of my three pages, I put: Mood, Energy, Health, Did, and Top Concerns – and a few very short notes next to each. Through this, I learned that when I drank even a glass of wine, I tended to be bummed for the next day or two. I learned that reading the news tended to negatively affect my mood even more than alcohol. I learned that alcohol had a huge (negative) impact on the amount of energy I had. I learned that a solid day in studio working with my hands, also had a huge (positive) impact on the amount of energy I had.
By looking at my list of ‘Top Concerns’ over recent weeks/months, I learned that I often felt most concerned about the same few topics. This helped me to look at them more directly and ask what I could actually do to improve how I felt about them and then put a plan in place to do that.
You could track anything you’re curious about in this section: natural things such as weather or cycles of the moon, who you spent time with, how much exercise you got, what you ate, how much you slept.
Alternative journaling options
Manifesting / Pray Rain Journaling / Positive visioning – I use this only occasionally, but I know people who swear by it. When I feel the need for a little positive visioning, I write 1-2 pages noting down all aspects of a dream – what I’m wearing, what it feels like, how something will go. It’s a positive and encouraging motivator.
Short affirmation or prayer for the day – Simply take a few minutes to write down your intentions for the day – how you wish to feel and what tone you wish your day to take. To get things started, you could begin by expressing the natural feel of the day – the weather or the light, and allow that to lead into how you’d like to show up. Learn more about using affirmations.
Word Maps / Diagrams / Webs of thoughts – These are free-form and loose and can be very helpful for clearing your mind or organizing your thoughts. Learn more about word maps.
Do what works for you
I really stand by journaling as an enormously helpful tool that has had a huge impact in my life. The point, is to help you feel aware of your life and how you are showing up – where you are in and out of alignment. It is to give you space and a means to process how you are feeling at this moment in time. For me, journaling and walking have been two of the most helpful and impactful tools in my life – they are how I meditate.
I encourage you to try different things until you find something that works well for you and fits well into your life.
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Learn how journaling can be combined with positive affirmations for creating lasting changes in your life. Or about creating a daily gratitude practice.
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