Journaling is more than a powerful habit. It is the best way to comprehend your joys, fears, hopes, and expectations. There are many ways to build an effective daily journaling habit but most revolve around questions, answers, and consistent assessments. On this basis, here is my daily journaling routine.
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I’ve been journaling almost every day for over 5 years now. The act is an essential part of my daily routine and a cogent personal growth booster.
Frankly speaking, journaling is a personal endeavor. Structures vary and everyone has their preferred journaling hacks.
There are, nonetheless, a few constants that work in almost any scenario.
In this context, the right questions and a constructive but unbiased undertone are cornerstones of any beneficial journal.
My daily journaling routine
After many years of daily notetaking, I’ve devised a 3-step approach.
Each step has a different purpose and different specificities.
The first part is an unstructured thought-gathering act while the second part offers insights through questions and answers.
Finally, the third part contains a fully structured to-do list and goal setting worksheets.
1. The diary page – raw thoughts
“In the diary, you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations.” – Franz Kafka
The first part of my daily journaling routine usually happens after lunch.
This session takes around 10 minutes and encompasses an unstructured collection of my thoughts. I call this the “diary page”.
The point is to transfer raw and unfiltered ideas onto paper. This enables me to clear my mind and to let loose of my emotions.
The main benefit is stress relief. Your thoughts will vacate your mind and become immortalized on paper. These thoughts can be positive or negative, but they will be unaltered.
For my diary page, I use some templates found in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way Morning Pages.
In this book, American novelist Cameron shares some of her best insights from completing a “morning page” every day for over 12 years.
The idea is to give your thoughts space to breathe inside an unstructured book.
I use a small dotted Field Notes journal in this context. Its pocket-size dimensions and blank pages make it the ideal tool for a free-wheeling journaling spell.
2. The nighttime questions and answers
The difference here is that I journal in a very structured manner at night.
In the evening, I write into 2 different journals: my 5-minute question journal and my weekly planner.
First, I try to ask relevant questions.
In this context, I use the well-known 5-Minute Journal by Intelligent Change and adapt its content to my priorities.
Here’s how it works: every page of the 5-Minute Journal contains the date, a quote, and 5 questions to ask yourself. To suit my preferences, I’ve customized the questions to the following:
- did something memorable happen today?
- what am I grateful for today?
- what did I learn today?
- how does today fit into the grand scheme of my personal growth?
- what could I do better?
I write these into a plain Moleskine Classic Notebook.
Its specs are similar to the Field Notes journal, but the Moleskine is a bit bigger and has lines – convenient for questions and answers.
Be sure to focus on pertinence, not the number of words.
Try to find your most relevant questions and answer them in a concise and valuable manner.
Don’t force yourself to write a certain number of sentences. If one is enough, stick to one.
As an example, if your answer to “what could I do better” is: “I could eat an apple today”, then that’s fine. Daily journaling is not wizardry, it is sometimes a highly mundane activity.
No matter how banal your answers are, they will serve as a personal growth tool in the long run.
Why? Because even the most ordinary evaluation is an evaluation – creating a small incentive for improvement.
And once you’ve journaled for long periods, you’ll see that all of your achievements are just accumulations of small everyday improvements.
When it comes to the tone of your questions and answers, don’t be overly positive but don’t create a negative undertone either.
Be honest about your wins and failures but aim for a productive ending. If one of your answers is negative, don’t leave it there.
Always couple a negative sentence with a positive call to action.
For instance, if your answer to “what did I learn today” is “I learned that I suck at reading classic literature”, you should complement this answer with something like “I could look for easy classic novels to become a more proficient reader.”
3. The to-dos, plans, and evaluations
Finally, the last component of my daily journaling routine is a to-do list.
I usually follow 2 lists simultaneously.
The first one contains big monthly and weekly projects such as writing 5 articles this week and completing X freelance gigs this month.
The “big” to-do list also regroups major goals like saving X amount this year.
Every night, I look at these projects and evaluate my long-term progress. I also check whether I advanced toward them on any given day.
This is where the second to-do list comes in.
The second list reminds me of daily tasks such as meetings and work-related to-dos. It is a pretty straightforward planner with activities to cross off.
Both lists are written with effectiveness in mind. Only the most paramount activities and thoughts are compiled here. The minutiae are not included.
The purpose of these lists is to help you advance toward your objectives, not to confuse you with unnecessary trivia.
Summary of my daily journaling routine and final thoughts
- My daily journaling hacks include the use of 3 different journals, each serving a specific purpose.
- First, I use a blank, unstructured diary to gather my thoughts and to write down general affirmations.
- Secondly, I use customized questions to evaluate every day in the context of my personal growth endeavors
- Finally, I put my to-do list, plans, and goal setting worksheets into a Moleskine weekly planner. This last journaling spell is part of my night routine.
- Keep in mind that these journaling hacks are not set in stone. Exceptions exist and not every day is the same.
- If you are new to this, a daily journaling routine might be excessive. Start with weekly journaling and work your way up.
- The important point is to find your long-term routine. We all have off-days and these will in no way impede your progress in the long haul.
Useful links on My Daily Journaling Routine
- more in the section “Life”
- more under the topic “Personal Growth”
- Check out my Ultimate Goal Setting Worksheet
- The 5-Minute Journal by Intelligent Change on Amazon
- Moleskine Classic Notebook on Amazon
- Field Notes dot-graph journal on Amazon
- Moleskine Weekly Planner on Amazon