How to Become More Consistent in Your Daily Journaling

I started journaling a little over a year ago. It has become a regular part of my morning ritual. It has helped me clarify my thinking, process my feelings, and make better decisions.

Screenshot of My Daily Journal

However, like most people, I struggled with consistency. I wanted to journal. I was convinced of the benefits. But I found myself blowing it off with increasing frequency.

Sound familiar?

Several months ago I stumbled onto something that solved the problem. Not one hundred percent of the time, but most of the time.

Honestly, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. It seemed too simple.

But I shared it with my wife, Gail, who was struggling with consistency herself. After successfully using it for a few weeks, she said, “Honey, you have got to blog about this.”

So here’s what I shared with her: use a journaling template.

Not that earth-shattering, right? I didn’t think so. I template almost everything I do.

I do this is so I don’t have to constantly reinvent my workflows. I want to document the process and then improve it over time.

That’s exactly what I have done with my journaling template. I have gone through several iterations of it, and I am sure I will go through more. It basically consists of seven questions broken down into three parts:

Yesterday

  • What did I do yesterday?

    [I don’t chronicle everything, of course. I just hit the highs and the lows—those activities or events I want to remember later.]

  • What lessons did I learn?

    [I try to distill my experience down into a couple of lessons I want to remember. It’s not what happens to us but what we *learn* from what happens to us.]

Now

  • What am I thankful for right now?

    [I journal in the morning, and this is one practical way I can begin my day with a sense of abundance and gratitude.]

  • How am I feeling right now?

    [Feelings aren’t the be-all-end-all, but they are an important clue. In the past, I just ignored or suppressed my them. This gives me an opportunity to check in on myself.]

Today

  • What did I read today?

    [I record a list of anything I’ve read since I last journaled, including Bible passages. Occasionally, I record a lesson or insight.]

  • What are my plans for today?

    [I preview my schedule and my major tasks for the day, mostly to get focused on what needs to be done.]

  • What one thing must I accomplish today?

    [I like to know the one thing I must get done, even if I don’t accomplish anything else. This helps me prioritize.]

Note: The part in brackets above is simply for your benefit. It’s not actually part of the template.

Currently, I am journaling in Day One. However, I have used Evernote and Scrivener. Any tool will work. It’s largely a matter of personal preference.

To make it easy, I have the template in Typinator, a text expander that is one of my key productivity tools. I just type ~JE (as in “journal entry”) and Typinator replaces that text with my template. Here’s a quick, 73-second screencast to show you how this works.

If you want to copy and paste my template into your text expander or some other tool, you can download it here.

The advantage of using a template is that it gives me a track to run on. This is especially helpful on those mornings, when my brain is a little foggy or I don’t particularly feel like writing. All I have to do is get started and then the process pretty much takes over.

Question: What keeps you from journaling on a regular basis? Do you think a template could help? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://www.WishListMember.com Stu McLaren

    I LOVE templates and workflow docs… thank you for sharing this. I can see how this template also serves as a great source of new blog post ideas just through the questions you’re asking. I will be using this today. Thanks again.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Awesome, Stu. I’ll look forward to hearing how it helps you!

  • http://www.GigaLawFirm.com/ Doug Isenberg

    Is the process of writing in your journal an end in itself, or is it a means to an end? In other words, what do you do with your journal entries AFTER you’ve written them? Do you read them on a regular basis, refer to them for specific or purposes, or what? Thanks for the insight!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I almost never go back and read them. For me, it is a means to and end. It helps me think more deeply about my life, where it is going, and what it means. Perhaps I will go back and read the entires some day. But for me, it is enough to simply use it as a processing tool. (It’s also cheaper than therapy!)

      • http://www.GigaLawFirm.com/ Doug Isenberg

        Thanks! I’m sure it varies by the day, but about how much time do you spend writing in your journal on an average day?

        • Lynn Morrissey

          Hi Doug,

          If you don’t mind, I’ll chime in too. I’ve journaled (usually consistently) for over thirty-five years and love the idea of “harvesting” a journal. Obvioulsy, I”ve not re-read everything I’ve written, but there is tremendous value in rereading if you want to see areas of growth and regression or just re-live some joys in your life. I’m a Christian, and it’s a tremendous faith-builder for me to see how God Himself has been faithful to me throughout the years. It’s a great way to be aware of blessings and also of how He has pulled me through hard times. And I would agree with Michael: Journaling is also cheap therapy! It’s a most cathartic process. I’ve actually studied journal facilitation with Kathleen Adams, a pioneer in the field, who is very well respected. YOu can also learn tons about this at her site: http://journaltherapy.com/

          • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

            Lynn, I agree with the value of re-reading what you’ve written. I do that too. In fact, I “tag” each journal entry in Evernote with today’s date, i.e. “October 04″ so that I can click that tag to see the entries on that day from years past. I got idea from the old journal I used to use, which allows you to see your entries on the same date each year for ten years: http://amzn.to/19mAJH0

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            That’s a great way to tag your entries, Wayne. I may have to consider that!

          • Lynn Morrissey

            Thanks, Wayne. THat’s a great idea. Because I handwrite my journals, I don’t have that advantage; however, i make an overall index at the beginning of each journal, where I can flag page #s of signficant entries, and I use a yellow-china marker for things I want to hightlight. Also, often at the end of a journal (or definitely at the beginning and end of a year, I bullet-point highlights and lowlights of my year. It’s a great exercise.

          • http://focused2win.com/ Shannon Herod

            That is a great idea and one I have already adopted. I tag each entry into evernote with month, day, weekday, year. That way I can filter them in many different ways.

            For instance I can see how I am usually feeling on Mondays.

          • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

            That’s a lot of tagging! I’m sure you’ll glean some interesting insights, Shannon.

          • http://focused2win.com/ Shannon Herod

            Hey Wayne,

            I Journal with my iPad 90% of the time, and I do it inside of an application called Drafts. This app allows me to create custom “actions” that will send what I write into Evernote with just a tap on the screen.

            Inside of the “actions” I can have define tags using their date formating. So the app actually knows what day it is and adds the appropriate tags to the entry for me. So I never manually add tags. The app does it for me.

            If I am using my PC and journaling right into the desktop evernote app I use a program called PhraseExpander to layout the tags for me with just a couple of keystrokes.

            It sounds techie, but it is actually very easy to setup

          • http://www.GigaLawFirm.com/ Doug Isenberg

            Thanks, Lynn, I’ll check out Kathleen’s site.

          • Angela Martinez

            Thank you Lynn for sharing this link! I checked it out and forward it to a few friends of mine that I’m sure will enjoy it as much as I did.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          I spend 15 minutes. No more, no less. Because it is part of my morning routine, there are other things I have to get to. Thanks.

          • http://www.GigaLawFirm.com/ Doug Isenberg

            Sorry, one more question, Michael (and everyone else): I see from your other post that you journal in the morning, which I understand. But my concern is that I might not recall the details of the previous day as well as if I perhaps journal at the end of the day. What are your thoughts on each approach?

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            For me, a good night’s sleep puts the previous day’s events into perspective. I am not at my most resourceful at night. ;-)

          • Kathryn

            I agree with you on the morning journaling. The day can make so much more sense when you’ve had a good night’s sleep. I keep thinking about when my children were little-when I was in the trenches, so to speak, I couldn’t see any good some days. But, reflecting in the morning, I would be able to see the good and the bad would shrink into little or nothing.

          • http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/ Andy Mort

            I have tried journalling in the evening, before bed. Oddly it felt, and reads completely different to my morning entries. It was much more about listing events of the day, whereas in the morning, after a sleep my mind is able to reflect on yesterday in a deeper and more philosophical way, and anticipate the events of today (to come) with that measured perspective.

            I would recommend allowing your brain to ascribe the necessary unconscious processing before adding it to the real world, it makes it much more interesting to read back in the future (unless you just want a list of things you have done – in my experience at least!) :)

          • http://EvaPScott.com/ Eva P. Scott

            Doug, I do night journaling. It helps me sleep better. My journal is a prayer journal. I do, however, put a listing at the top before my prayer begins that lists important events of the day. It is sort of a “what I’ve accomplished” list. This helps me know I’m moving on my goals, even if slowly. I am a night person, though. Perhaps your body clock changes your journaling process.

      • http://www.twitter.com/erikjfisher/ Erik Fisher

        I love this: “Cheaper than therapy!”

  • http://www.lindalochridge.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    Thanks Michael! I do journal but I use paper journals and it’s a hit or miss for me. What I especially appreciated is your template and the questions you ask. I think this would be extremely valuable. I’ve looked back at journal entries and couldn’t even remember what I was “talking” about. Also, I did not know about text expanders and will look into Typinator. My typing is much faster than my writing, and much neater too these days! Thanks again!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Linda. Gail didn’t think she would like using a digital journal. She was committed to paper. However, after giving Day One a try, she is sold. She wouldn’t go back.

      • http://www.lindalochridge.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

        I just got up from doing my Bible study and writing in my journal…and I gave up due to an empty pen and hurting wrists. LOL. I’m going to give this a try, for sure! Thanks!

  • wmarkwhitlock

    I have journaled off and on for 30 years. My private bookshelf in the garage contains volumes of my favorite notebooks (Mead 5-star, 5.5″ x 8.5″ covered spiral). BUT ONLY IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS did I find a way to keep my entries from swirling into recounting tasks. I didn’t want to write play-by-play. I wanted to write color. Nate Larkin’s book, Samson and the Pirate Monks, helped me. He outlines a FOUR PART TEMPLATE for verbal updates with a close friend who is walking with you through your life but it also works as a journaling template.

    What are you feeling?
    What are you thinking?
    What are you doing?
    What are you thinking about doing?

    This template has helped me identify and address where I get off the rails and where I triumph.

    Thanks, Mr. Hyatt, for continuing to discuss and advocate for journaling. It’s important work.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s a great template, too.

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    Journaling has been a part of my life since I was a teenager. Now, at mid-life, my journaling is mostly prayer journaling, but it’s still processing by letting go of worries & concerns. I start my days with this & find much better focus when I have released those things. Journaling helps order my thoughts & to deal with life, so I can actually live life.

  • Lynn Morrissey

    Hi Michael,
    You may have remembered me from other journaling posts, because I’m a journaling aficonado from way back (over 35 years), and this gift of reflective wirting has transformed my life. I’m a Christian, and God has used this process to heal me from a host of difficulties (like deep depression) and also to help me clarify life problems, discover my dreams, count my blessings, and to see His faithfulness throughout the years. Most important, for me, journaling is a means of communicating with Him in prayer and to hear His answers. I’ve written a book about this w/ Multnomah Publishers called Love Letters to God. What keeps me from regular journaling is busyness and perhaps resisting exploring something I’m avoiding. What draws me back is that I know this is really the only way in which I communicate well with God (other than Bible reading) to draw me into intimacy with Him, and in knowing the multiple benefits of writing I’ll derive (which are numerous). I personally haven’t used a template, because I love the freewheeling surprise of jounaling, never knowing where God will take me with it. But you demonstrate beautifully that there is never a one-size-fits-all means of reflective writing; and there shouldn’t be. So I’m thrilled to read your ideas, and I’m sure that they will benefit a great many people. I personally love paper journals (but good quality, acid-free, as in an art journal, nicely bound, to preserve my writing.) I like to cradle the journal and the tacticle quality of it. Ocassionally, I’ll paste in pictures, photos, collages, etc., because color and symbol speak to me in powerful ways. What helps me stay consistent is my deep longing for intimacy with God (and again knowing how the process has transformed me), and developing a ritual around it…..like journaling in the morning after I have read my bible and over a cup of good, strong English tea, with Bach or other Baroque music softly lilting in the background. Though I also love the variety of journalng in a hotel lobby, park, or sidewalk cafe. I do like your template questions, and sometimes I will do a “feedback write” by re-reading what I have just written and asking myself “What do I notice? How does this surprise me? What am I feeling?” etc., …that kind of thing. It’s amazing what you can learn upon an immediate re-reading, or later when harvesting your journals, as I mentioned to Doug below. Sorry that I have waxed on so long, but this is my passion. Can you tell?! :-) I”m glad that it’s yours and your wife’s as well! THanks so much for writing about this more than once.
    Blessings,
    Lynn

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing your insights, Lynn. It is so true that “one size doesn’t fit all.”

    • http://EvaPScott.com/ Eva P. Scott

      I paste in the prayer list from our church bulletin into my journal. Then I have it handy to pray for people. I also have pasted in print-outs from news articles that I feel are answers to prayer or needs to be prayed about. I have tried typing my journal, but I do too much typing during the day as I do transcription. It reminds me too much of work.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Try writing in your journal. You just might love it!

        • http://EvaPScott.com/ Eva P. Scott

          I do write in my journal. What I was trying to say is that I need a paper journal, because I add things that are paper to it, and I like writing in my journal instead of keeping a typed journal because I do transcription and typing all day for my work. [Perhaps you meant to respond to someone else instead?]

  • http://bloggingyourpassion.com/ Jonathan Milligan

    Love this. I think it provides just the right amount of structure while leaving room to play.

  • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

    I have used the same process with Typinator in Evernote, where three keystrokes enter the current date, time, and the template I want to follow. I LOVE Typinator and use it everywhere I find myself repeatedly typing something.

    Thanks for this, post, Michael. A great reminder to keep going!

    BTW: your template for your iPhoto credit still has “Insert Photographer’s Name.” :-)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for catching that caption issue. It’s actually a screenshot I took myself and then uploaded to PlaceIt.

  • http://LeanStartPad.com/ Jeff ‘SKI’ Kinsey

    Good stuff. I find that Siri ["Take a note"] and the Lift App help record my path through life each day and help with my journaling.

  • Cynthia

    Thank you, Michael! I’m going to start using this now.

  • Charles Pobee-Mensah

    I am very surprised to here that a template makes such a big difference. I guess I shouldn’t be. I’ve recently been losing weight by giving myself a small reward every time I log in the app LoseIt. Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit helped clue me into how to form good habits. A template certainly helps to simplify the thought process, but perhaps is also serves as a small reward. Maybe completing each section of the template is like a small win.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I never thought of it that way (a small win), but maybe that is the reason.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I kept a journal consistently for more than ten years. Then I started blogging. For me, a journal is still a leather-bound book written in with a pen. One thing that followed my journal to the blog is my poetry. So in a sense my blog has partially become my journal.

    • http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/ Andy Mort

      That’s interesting. So do you not privately journal at all any longer?

      I remember when a lot of my friends started with blogs ten years ago or so they had a very journal like feel. People were just keeping a diary in public – and that still remains the perception of some people I talk to about blogging. They think I mean hanging a private journal out for all to see.

      That’s cool that your blog has given your poetry a platform outside of the leather-bound book!

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        No. I still journal privately, just not as often. There are things that are not meant for a public format. My blog does not really have a journal style or take place of journalling. It just takes the time away that used to be reserved for journalling.

        I also have learned the art of fictional-based prose in which I can reflect on reality and mirror it in fiction. This actually makes for very raw and honest writing that can also be very captivating. My first book is “A Train Called Forgiveness.” My blog is @ http://www.danerickson.net if you’d like to se what I’m doing.

  • henniesf

    Template for journalling definitely work. A version we used when we developed Vimbli includes rotating questions with rating options. We found that once the user rated the question s/he was more likely to journal. The question prompts breaks the inertia and provide content to journal about. Once the ink (or letters) starts flowing it is much easier to keep writing …

    A phrase I have heard often is: It is easier to edit than to create. Without a template (or rotating questions) you need to create every time and it is tiring. With a template you just edit … much easier.

    (Vimbli is focused on corporate onboarding, and we strongly encourage journalling as part of the onboarding process. The framework also works for general life transitions, i.e. going to college, moving to a new city, etc. If you want to try Vimbli contact me via the contact options on the website I’ll give you access. Reference Michael’s blog.)

  • Lon

    Typinator looks like a brilliant solution for many things I’ll have to try it. However, for those of us whose journals are like buckets we pour our hearts and minds into, it seems like it wouldn’t lend itself well for creative expression.

  • http://www.twitter.com/erikjfisher/ Erik Fisher

    Michael, thank you so much for this. I like you am sold on the benefits and necessity even of daily journaling. I’ve been inconsistent with it myself, and wasn’t sure how to move back to the rhythm of consistency needed to really reap the most benefit from it.

    I love the idea of the template. I will possibly make some modification to it, but the spirit of what you have laid out with the questions is there for what I want to do with it: Take a moment to reflect on the immediate past, look at where my feet are planted in the present, and dream about the future. I love it!

  • jaredbrandon1

    I struggle with the choice between paper and digital to the point that I end up not doing it. I’ve started journals in both methods and now they are two disparate documents. And since I was journaling in Evernote, which I did not find to be very journal friendly, it got harder and harder to be consistent. Templating is a great idea because then it’s not just me and blank sheet of paper. It provides a framework I can depend on. Thanks for the tip!

    • http://www.twitter.com/erikjfisher/ Erik Fisher

      I have always hated my handwriting, so digital has been an easy decision for me. :)

    • http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/ Andy Mort

      Agree with that conflict. I adore the idea of paper journal. I just find it so much easier to do it consistently in digital format. I use Day One – I was tempted with Evernote but I found the idea messy – prefer keeping it simple, all in one place on its own. The blank sheet of paper is the worst, especially on a day when the mind feels jumbled and unable to provide a tangible sentence to kick things off.

  • http://www.seanmintyre.org/ Sean McIntyre

    Perfect. I have been journalling for a while but a template is a great idea. It also dovetails well with a post I am publishing on Monday. I’ll be sure to send people this way.

  • Greg Hawks

    love this… thanks so much!

  • http://www.softskillsforhardjobs.com/ Jim Ryan

    Great stuff. Do you journal on your iphone, ipad, laptop? I’ve been journaling using evernote but concerned with security.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      On my laptop.

  • chrisreal3

    I just downloaded Day One for the iPad but didn’t realize that it didn’t have a handwriting application and typing on the iPad is tedious at best. Does anyone know of a way to journal using the iPad and still use natural handwriting? (I can still hear Jim Rohn speak lovingly of his leather bound journals and I am having a hard time making the mental switch to typing).

    Any ideas?

    • Michael Lettner
    • http://www.incredibleadventure.nl Frank Meeuwsen

      Penultimate (http://evernote.com/penultimate/) might be interesting for you. Within a month, Evernote will release a new stylus that works perfectly with Penultimate and gives you the possibility to store your journals in Evernote. See https://www.evernote.com/market/feature/stylus?sku=STYL001001 for more info on the stylus

      • chrisreal3

        Thanks Frank…I saw that stylus when I opened Penultimate this morning. It looks pretty cool. The actually loved Penultimate and used it for more than a year (especially liked the automatic saving of your notes in Evernote), but their lack of a handrest feature (such as Notability has) had me constantly going back and correcting errant marks from my wrist.

        I downloaded the Day One app today to my Air so we’ll see how things go with me switching to the computer.

        Now I just need to go back and read Michael’s material on “becoming a morning person”… :)

  • Helen Archer

    I use One Day and I love it! I hope that some day there is a way to export the entries out of One Day, but for now it’s a great place to store my journaling. Thanks for sharing!

  • Leah Ness

    This is a terrific idea. I especially like the bit about writing down what you read about in your Bible time. I always benefit more from my time with the Lord when I write about it. I think for me personally, I would use this strictly as a prayer journal. Thank you so much for sharing the templates with us!

  • Jim Hart

    Great post Michael. It was a lack of discipline that kept me from journaling. Then one day I’m visiting one of the widows from our church. She is selling or giving away her husband’s belongings to those in need. She then reaches for the shelf and grabs one of his journals, looks at me and says, “But Pastor Jim…these I’ll never give away”. It was at that moment I made the decision to journal every day and have since then…

  • http://zechariahnewman.com/ Zech Newman

    Great write up Michael. I love the idea. Journaling is a huge thing for me and a blank screen is not a fun thing:) This will help my journaling consistency. Thank you

  • Sern Yi

    Hi Michael,
    Like you, I struggled a lot to journal consistently too. I used to journal at night, perhaps I should try morning with your template. Thanks for sharing.

  • jeannefarrington

    Hi MIchael,
    It was great seeing you at the Launch Conference last month. I’ve been journaling for a very long time. For me, writing by hand works best. I often look back at what I wrote last year, and what I wrote 5 years ago. Where was I? What was I thinking/feeling then? I don’t write every day, but most days. Like you, I write early in the day (although that hasn’t always been the case). I write about whatever is on my mind… what happened yesterday, what I’m worried about, what I want to accomplish today. Usually I list at least 5 things I’m grateful for at the end of my entry. I’ve been happier since I started doing that. There’s a lot of research showing that we feel better when we remember the things that make us feel grateful. It’s a great thing to keep on your template, for sure. :)

  • Kathryn

    I like this idea! My biggest obstacles to journaling on a regular basis are time and interest. I think using a template would help me corral my thoughts and help me to use my journaling time better.
    Thanks for the idea.

  • Eapenz

    Micheal: Thanks a lot for the help. I have been trying to establish a journal and having been blowing it off more than often. I shall follow your screencast. Please keep up the good work.

  • http://www.donaldmcallister.com/ Don McAllister

    I’m trying to develop a smarter morning ritual and this is very valuable, so thanks!

  • http://www.loveyourcareerforever.com/ Dr. Selena Tramayne

    Michael, thank you! What a great idea. I am going to implement this immediately. I use Day One occasionally, but have never heard of Typinator. What a great program. I bet the uses for it are endless.

  • http://lydiapowell.com/ Lydia Powell

    Have you ever tried 750words.com? The concept is to churn out 750 words a day – journalling, creative writing, etc. It’s a great, blank page interface with a perfect email reminder at the time of your choosing.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No, I have not, but it sounds interesting.

  • Hugh O’Donnell

    Thanks for sharing,, Michael, and I’m glad to see your comment about re-reading your entries. You validated my thinking on that issue. :)

  • Veronica Von

    Great post. I have been struggling myself with consistency in journaling and never thought about a template. Such a simple, great idea. I’m starting today! Thank you.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    I remember you wrote about journaling in a post quite some time ago. Of all the things you commented on, writing down the daily temperature is the one thing that stood out. Because I do that early in the morning (write down the temperature), I also tend to write more than that.

    It was a simple prompt but it helped.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      With the latest Day One update, the program automatically records the temperature, location, and weather in the entry. It’s pretty cool.

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

        The Day One app looks incredible. If only …

        … I had an iPhone.

        Ellen’s the one who has the smart phone in our family, but I may have to upgrade for the speaking benefits that and Day One would provide.

  • http://dbartosik.com/ David Bartosik

    love to journal ideas consistently but also enjoy stepping away once a month to do an overview of how the past month has gone rather than try and do it every single day. Feels like unless you have nothing else to do but write and dream every day life would get in the way.
    Family, kids, job, relationships…if you are investing in people, working an 8-10 hour day and shuttling kids, loving your wife th way she deserves and helping her find her deepest joy there never seems to be time in the day. But if I can consistently take an inventory and take 2-3 hours on a saturday that makes more sense to me.

  • http://www.fokkekooistra.nl/blog/ Fokke Kooistra

    Thanks for being open about your consistency struggle and for sharing the template suggestion. I am going to try it out.

  • http://kwinpeterson.com/ Kwin Peterson

    After your podcast in January, I started keeping a journal in Evernote instead of Pages so I’d always have it available. This has helped me go from journaling once or twice a month to 180 entries since February 1. Another thing that has been a huge help is making my daily planning part of the entry as you mention in your template. “Time to plan for tomorrow” becomes my cue for “Write in my journal.”

  • Patricia Likakis

    Some good ideas. Thank you. I journal multiple times a day & include the miracles of the day and how God showed up. Have found that reflecting on my struggles helps me gain clarity. Writing gets them off my mind & helps me sleep better. Am always giving journals as gifts.

  • http://www.lucidwisdom.com/ David Cook

    I have been journaling for years. But for a long time I went back and forth between typing it in a journaling app, like EverNote, and hand writing it in my Moleskin journals. One thing I have learned about myself is that my writing flows better when I hand write. I think it is because there is no backspace key, which turns off the internal editor and lets the thoughts flow. Sure, I can type faster than I can write, but if you factor in constant editing I actually write faster. I also use my own template style with my written journal. I make a section for general thoughts, one to write my desires/goals, and one for my daily mantra/prayer. It is hard to keep it up daily but I do love it.

  • http://quiensabe.com/ Henry Halff
  • http://rebeccarenejones.com/ Rebecca Rene Jones

    Ah, how your clip-art photo taunts me! :) Piping hot coffee in a stylish mug, iPhone at the ready, and a computer cued up and eager ,anxious to absorb my morning thoughts!
    What keeps me from journaling is exhaustion (translation: work outside the home + toddler). But it’s worth it when I do. Writing clarifies thinking. I live bigger. That’s why I’m taking part in a 31 Day blogging challenge and carving out precious minutes of my day to put ideas to paper. It’s not easy, but most things that are worthwhile aren’t, right?

  • http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/ Andy Mort

    A template! Great. I use DayOne and get something in there every day. I quite enjoy going back to read old entries (helps give context to current situation/progress report). Some days look like an avalanche of the mind. I start with nothing/mundane-things to say, then the brain unleashes itself and is dumped on the page.

    I go through periods when I find it very hard to motivate myself to open DayOne though because I can’t think what I’m going to write – a template would really help this. I will definitely give it a go as I’m sure it would evolve into a way that is perfect for me. At the end of the day it’s a tool to help the brain start – if you don’t even start then it doesn’t matter what you write!

    Thanks for another inspiring post!

  • http://www.geemco.de/artikel Goetz Mueller

    From my experience that kind of routine (all kind of routines, e.g. continuous improvement processes for business operations) has two dimensions, time and content. It’s often more important to achieve routine in time than content, because as you wrote, the content routine can be tweaked and improve over time. One would never come to that point without the time routine. In the beginning the “content” (real and meta level) could be almost anything, as long as it’s done regularly.

  • Tis_I_Christine

    Is there an alternative to Day One for Windows? I appears to be an Apple only product, correct?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, it is Apple only. I don’t use Windows, so I do not know of an alternative. Sorry.

  • Jeffrey Mach

    I’ve had a rough couple of days and woke up with tension and a headache. I just walked by my office and saw my bible and sat down and read. I then bumped my keyboard and this blog post was up on my browser. I re-read this post, copied the template and sat and journaled for 15 minutes. I feel refreshed and re-centered. I have more focus. This was quite a timely post. Thank you, and have a great weekend!
    Oh, and I leave on a hunting trip to WY in 3 hours – I will be using this template to at a minimum journal while I’m away and hopefully start a habit. Thanks again!

  • LarryHanthorn

    Michael, thanks so much for being honest about consistency in this area. I like to say show me someone who has kept regular consistent morning devotions, journaling and fitness and I will follow him anywhere. And if someone says they do this every day without fail, I ask them what else do they lie about!
    The suggestion of using a template is something that I am going to try starting today. However as much as I love technology, I still prefer journaling in a leather bound 5×7 – I am still a little old school on that. The best value of journaling for me (there are many!) is to read back through them later and mark my growth or identify the areas where I continue to struggle.
    Would really enjoy your thoughts on the difference between daily devotions, journaling, blogging and writing …
    Keep up the great work.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Journaling is really one part of my four-part quiet time framework. Here’s how it looks
      1. Silence and Solitude (15 minutes). I don’t pray during this time. I am simply quiet. I typically drink a cup of coffee and just be present to the moment.
      2. Prayer (15 minutes). I come from a liturgical tradition (Eastern Orthodox), so I use set prayers. But, I also pray extemporaneously, too. In many ways, my set prayers are a sort of template that provides a track to run on.
      3. Bible Reading (15 minutes). I have been reading through the One Year Bible for years. I read an Old Testament passage, New Testament passage, Psalm passage, and a few Proverbs.
      4. Journaling (15 minutes). My routine is as I described it above.

      When I get done with my quiet time, I go for a run. Thanks for asking!

      • http://www.mikejwilliams.com/ Mike Williams

        The silence and solitude sounds like something I want to try. I start my day with #2, and sometimes my prayers seem like a struggle because I’m still waking up. Good idea.

  • http://www.mikejwilliams.com/ Mike Williams

    Thanks for the encouragement. I started journaling after listening to your podcast, and a blog post from Jeffery Gitomer too. It really does help me process my thoughts and feelings.

    This week I started commenting on a verse or passage I just read to begin my journal entry. I find it not only helps me understand the verse better, but it gets my mind engaged and ready to write.

  • Steve W. Sloan

    Michael, great, great post!

    A common lament of celebrated drummer, lyricist, and author Neil Peart is that he just simply cannot capture it all. I agree, and so to attempt to overcome that , a couple of other things I recommend to try is using Dragon Naturally speaking, since for most it’s much faster and often less fatiguing than typing (helps at work, too). Once you’ve used it a bit, it’s fun sometimes to see just how fast you can speak a “take” down onto the digital page!

    Also, during the day when you don’t have time for a full comment, have a place to capture a keyword or phrase in the moment, “journal snippets”, on which you can elaborate during your regular journaling time.

    I use Evernote for journaling and it works very well. You can geo-tag your notes, capture photos, audio, etc. Also you can tag your journal entry with key themes, events, roles, etc. so that much later you can easily view a string of related themes, eg. prayer answered, daughter funny, vacation, etc.

    Other ideas for those wary of digital vs. hard-copy is that at some point you can have them printed and nicely bound, even in a sample of your own handwriting of which you can easily create a font at myscriptfont.com or yourfonts.com (Google for other options)

    For posterity, occasionally do and entry the old-fashioned way in your own handwriting on nice acid-free paper and ink and extend the journaling time as well. Can still scan to Evernote! Conversely, I recommend scanning all those old paper journals too (into Evernote).

    I’m considering an idea of a supplemental family journal as well, plus occasional video journaling, maybe even some video instruction, value sharing, prayers, etc. for the great, great grandchildren a’la Jor-El :)…

  • http://packageyourgenius.com/ Michele Welch

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the great idea of creating a template. I also journal but am very inconsistent with it. Definitely am committed to changing that dynamic.

    I think using your template will be very helpful. So appreciate your out of the box thinking. ;)

  • Dave Bear

    I have journaled on & off (mainly off) for years. At age 55, although I see the benefit, laziness takes over. I love your template. I’m going to try it during my devotion time. I think your questions will be a good fit, especially the “What am I thankful for right now”; starting the day as you say “with a sense of abundance and gratitude”. Thanks for the tip. By the way, I found you reading Jon Acuff’s book “Start”

  • http://www.todayicanchange.com/ Robb Gorringe

    My first comment on michaelhyatt.com, but a long-time podcast listener, and I get so much out of your blog as well. Thank you for the nice template, and making it download-able to Evernote!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, Robb.

  • http://www.theredcabbage.com/ Jonathan Wilson

    Journaling is a great way to organize and retain the day’s memorable moments. I bought a cheap journal from Barnes and Noble and have it on my bedside table. Five minutes at the end of each day to record the highlights. The difficult part is the consistency. I will go for stretches of time where I don’t do it. The main goal is to record the day for future review. Plus, maybe years from now my kids will be interested in looking at it – see what old Dad did once upon a time.

  • Newton

    Michael, i think the template idea is an excellent one. I have struggled with journals for a long time. Basically for 2 reasons. 1) what to put in it and 2) creating something new everyday. The structure to your thinking that a template enables is a strong one and i can see could deliver more value. Appreciate the sharing and your own thought leadership.

  • Veronica D

    What about journaling on windows. Is there an app for that?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I’m sure there is. Have you tried Googling it? I don’t use Windows, so I’m afraid I can’t be of much help. Thanks.

  • http://teamspir.it/ Casandra Campbell

    Wow, great system Michael! I’m curious – after a year of journaling, what has been your biggest insight?

    While I don’t journal individually (I keep telling myself I should), we make regular entries in our teamspir.it logbook as a team. We’ve experienced many of the same benefits you have. It helps us clarify our thinking, process our feelings, and make better decisions.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I think it is probably this: Life is a great teacher, but you’ll only be a great student if you pay attention and take notes!

      • http://teamspir.it/ Casandra Campbell

        Well put!

  • Melvyn TAN (PoEM™)

    Hey Michael, I want to thank you for sharing the template. I’ve made some modifications. Thank you.

  • Dawn Herring

    Michael,
    I love your approach to journaling by using questions you answer to get started. Questions can be such time savers, creating a greater focus on what you want to know and the insight gained can make it well worth answering. I occasionally ask questions in connection to a situation I need to work through in my journal, and I do find it helps; the answers I get often surprise me. But I don’t use questions on a daily basis as you do. I do think it’s a fab idea, though. It can be especially helpful for folks who have struggled with keeping a consistent practice.

    Your post, How to Become More Consistent in Your Daily Journaling, has been chosen for #JournalChat Pick of the Day on Tuesday, 10/8/13, for all things journaling on Twitter. I will share a link on my website, in Refresh Journal, and on the social networks for others to benefit.

    Our final Thursday session of #JournalChat Live is this week with our topic, Your Journaling: STOP it! as we discuss using our journals to determine what it is we want to STOP doing in order to make space for what we want to do.

    We are moving #JournalChat Live to a new time/day: Sundays at 4 EST/ 1 PST starting October 20.

    Thanks again for sharing your approach to keeping a consistent journaling practice, Michael.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Dawn. I appreciate the support! Wow.

  • http://www.laurenphelpscoaching.com/ Lauren Phelps

    Thanks, Michael! What keeps me from journaling is the lack of habit. I get off track after a couple days and come back months later. I like your template and am on a two day streak so far!

  • Tim Rash

    I like the idea of a template. I have tried this myself but my template had many more questions for me. I think I made it too complicated.
    My biggest obstacle right now is finding the app I want to use for my journal. I’ve tried using notes in Evernote, handwriting apps like Penultimate and a couple of different apps for my iPad mini and my Android phone. I don’t think I have tried Day One. I will take a look at that.

  • http://www.beforethecross.com/ Mike Mobley

    I definitely think a template will help me. I often get distracted in the process or like you said…just don’t feel like doing it, but knowing myself, if I have those questions to go off of and just get started…it will get done. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  • Wagzi

    I totally agree with you! I started Journaling when i was in my late teens and i have found that since having a template about 5 months ago, i am doing it almost daily. My template is based on the context of my journals which is usually a prayer / conversation with God. It has 5 sections – 1. Thanksgiving, 2. Confessions, 3. Requests / Concerns and lastly one that i have found to be the real game changer for me is 4. Listening / Action points / To Do’s – this section outlines what i sense i ought to do, any lessons i’ve learned from the day, stuff i’ve heard or observed that’s resonated with me and action items based on the other categories in my prayer e.g. call someone and ask for their forgiveness – the template takes variations but the thanksgiving, confession and listening section have been therapy for me

  • Jim Voigt

    This is an interesting thought. The main reason I eventually bail on journaling is that I tend to write on and on and on and it takes a lot of time. Perhaps these long entries can be better used if adapted to blog posts. But my journaling can be simpler, more to the point, and less verbose. Mission accomplished. Thanks for the insight, as always.

  • greg_gandenberger

    Very helpful. Thanks!

    I added “What do I want to work on in myself today?” I’m working on being more attentive and interruptible.

  • http://www.beckycastlemiller.com/ Becky Castle Miller

    Cool. I just created a new notebook in Evernote called Journal and put this template in there. I’ll give this a try and see how it works for me!

  • http://thomasemason.net/ Thomas Mason

    So cool! I placed the template in my Evernote account. Now this will not only make journaling possible but also doable.

  • http://suwandytjin.com/ Suwandy Tjin

    Michael, I begun my journaling since about one month ago and I have found it made me think carefully about what I did during my day. I usually tried to write my journal entry almost just before I tuck in, because I felt the events during the day would still be fresh in my mind.

    I used the app “Grid Diary” to enter my journals. It is a free app and comes with the added benefits of providing all the templates that you mentioned in your post. I do suggest for you to give it a try. (Unfortunately it doesn’t have the Mac equivalent yet). I can easily adjust the questions to fit what I wanted to write. Here’s my 10 questions that I use for my journal:

    1. Did I exercise today?
    2. What did I read today?
    3. How did I add value today?
    4. What inspiration did I have today?
    5. Whom did I meet today?
    6. What matters of interest happened today?
    7. What were the three most successful things I did today?
    8. Set three small goals for tomorrow?

    I continue to adjust the template too =)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      This looks very cool. When it becomes available on the iPad or Mac, I will be all over it.

      • http://suwandytjin.com/ Suwandy Tjin

        I should have also mentioned that it also comes with the ability to link with Evernote (we both love Evernote, don’t we?) and Dropbox from the get-go. And yes, I can’t wait for the iPad and Mac version to come out =)

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Oh, man, now you are getting me excited!

  • Mark A. Hernandez

    Mike, Gracias. Love the template which will make my journal entries easy and efficient. I see the template as a way to reflect and see what I need to do different, cut, or feed. Is there a way that I can track my entries so I could do that?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      If you are using Evernote or Day One, you could use tags to track them.

  • http://larsbobach.de/ Lars Bobach

    Great idea! I always struggle with my daily journal. I will try it out right away!

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    Thanks, Nico. Awesome!

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    Thanks, Nico. Awesome!
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    Nico

    Michael,
    thank you so much for this!
    I just paid for, AND AM USING, DayOne, and TextExpander (your other recommendation is a bit too expensive for my purposes right now). And, I have them integrated exactly as you described. From Pomodoro Technique to Journaling to Life-planning, including using Nozbe for task management, you have become my life-hacking and productivity guru! I’ve had to move over to my iPad to implement the majority of your suggestions, but it works, beautifully! I am learning so much from you, and one day hope to thank you face to face. Regards,
    Nico (in Miami, FL)
    3:22 p.m., Monday Oct. 28

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  • Teresa Pangan

    Thanks Michael! Love that you make the point that something we know we need to do can be so hard to do in reality – make a new habit. One of my passions is giving gratitude courses. I see you include what you are thankful for. :-) I will definitely share this idea.

  • John R. Gentry 

    Thanks for encouraging me to journal and for the very helpful suggestions. I’ve started using Day One and I also installed aText, a little cheaper, though highly rated, text expander app than Typinator. I look forward to more clarity for my day as I regularly journal each morning. Thanks again. God bless.

  • John R. Gentry 

    Oh, and thanks for the template! Very useful.

  • marktenney2

    @mhyatt:disqus, thank you for sharing this template. I added it to my text expander (which I hadn’t really used until now) and added it to my Day One routine today. There is one thing you mentioned (I think in a podcast) that I’ve been unable to get back to. You’ve mentioned four items that you do in 15 minute blocks. I believe that three of them were journaling, silence, and Bible reading, but I can’t remember what the other one was (although now I’m thinking it may have been other reading). If you or someone else can remember that, I’d love to know so I can try that out. My own quiet time needs that kind of structure.

    Thanks for all you do!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Prayer. ;-)

      • marktenney2

        Thank you!

  • marktenney2

    Okay, this is only my second day in a row using this template and I can’t believe how it has changed my attitude walking into my days already. I love the accountability of the question “What did you read today?” and the preparation and focus I gain when I have to answer “What is the one thing you must do today?” Thank you Michael.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, Mark. I continue to find it invaluable for my own journaling.

  • Terry Stafford

    Typinator doesn’t seem to be working for me. I have the template set up with the ~je title, but when I enter that in a new journal entry in Day One, nothing happens. It merely types the ~je and that’s it. Is there a configuration setting I’m missing or something? Thanks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I’m sorry, but I am not sure why it’s not working. You might try clicking on the icon in the menubar and making sure you don’t have “expansions paused.” Otherwise, I’m afraid you’ll have to contact their support desk. Thanks.

      • Terry Stafford

        Just figured it out. I had to activate it in the Security & Privacy section of System Settings. Didn’t see that coming, but she works now. Thanks much for the heads up on a very cool app…AND the goal setting course. Very nice. God bless.

  • Hana

    Thank you for posting this. Very helpful. Simple idea but definitely works.

  • Eric Lorenz

    Slightly OT…I like the look of Typimator, but does anyone know of any plans for a Windows version? Or did I just miss it on their website? Thanks!

  • Howard Veit

    Thanks, templates are a great idea. I used Text Expander and used your template, with my modifications, and it works like a charm.

  • Brandon Smooth

    Thanks for the post. It was inspiring. I have “borrowed” your template and intend to do this for 30 days. Don’t worry, I can forgive myself if I slack on consistency. I can expect it now that you shared your experience. thanks

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    Thanks, Joe!

  • Rmonio

    I would journal more if I could use something on both iOS and Windows 8. Any suggestions on a good, cross-platform tool?

    Thanks!

  • http://www.fhm.com.ph/ Nathaniel Seal

    Can I make money out of journaling?

  • http://www.BrentWRobison.com Brent W Robison

    Thanks @mhyatt:disqus! Day one of using this, I’ve written my longest journal entry on DayOne by a long shot. I assume I’ll also be a whole lot more consistent now that I don’t have to decide what topics to write about. I see the huge value in “having a track”.

    Small free tip I learned: you can use Mac OSX’s keyboard text expander and copy and paste Michael’s template into it. I’m using the multi-markdown version for DayOne. I didn’t think this would work on Mac’s free expander. Glad it did :)