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.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?