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I'm Mara — I help creatives create and launch digital courses and profitable products. I love chatting about online marketing, design and goal setting!

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5 Journaling Practices For People Who Hate Journaling 

Today, we’re talking about untraditional journaling practices, specifically how to build a practice of journaling when you don’t really like journaling. Personally, I have gone through seasons of life where I was very prolific about journaling and really focused on building a daily habit of getting my thoughts out at least once a day. It was so helpful, especially during seasons where I was going through a big change or there was a really big problem I was working through. 

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For example, a couple of years ago when we were moving, we weren’t really sure where we wanted to move, and I was feeling a lot of stress about finding that next place that was the right fit. We wanted a good house for us that had the right amount of space. At the time, I would journal in the morning about that because I felt so much stress at the time, but looking back, so much of what I wrote about actually ended up coming true.

I’ve also used journaling a lot in my business when there have been seasons of change or a really big thing I’m stressed out about. When I was teaching (and deciding to leave my job full-time for my business), I would journal a lot because it felt like a very big decision.

A lot of people act like leaving your full-time job is this magical decision, but for me, it was very stressful. It’s very stressful to take the leap and give up consistent income to do something that feels more unpredictable and risky. I spent a lot of time journaling about if it was the right decision, and it really helped me work through the process of leaving my day job.

Now, five years later, I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t made that decision. So in this episode, I’m going to share some different strategies for how to journal. If you don’t really enjoy sitting down and writing by hand and being this perfect journaler, I’m going to share some things I do instead that I feel like is more fun than writing pages and pages about my feelings (which has never worked for me). Personally, I find it overwhelming and also get a little bored when I do that, but I still believe in the benefits of journaling so I want to share what I do instead!

journaling practices to try in 2024

5 Different Ways to Journal 

As you’re listening to (or reading!) this episode, I recommend picking one journaling practices that you want to try. All 5 that I’m about to share are super easy to start doing. They only take a couple of minutes to do or get set up, but pick one so that way you don’t feel overwhelmed and you actually just get started trying them! 

Before we jump in, I also want to say that all 5 of these are journaling practices I’ve done in different seasons. You do not always have to journal in the same way. Personally, my brain really craves novelty, and so sometimes in the past, I’ve felt bad if I don’t journal in exactly the same way every day.

For some reason it feels like every morning I should wake up and have this really gorgeous journal that I write pages and pages of my feelings in and I should be consistent with it or it “doesn’t count.” But the truth is, that is just not the way my brain works. My brain gets bored of doing the same thing over and over again. 

So all of these journaling strategies that I’m about to share are things that I rotate between. I don’t do the same thing every single day. Sometimes I’ll go through seasons where I’ll use one of these practices for many days in a row or sometimes I will switch it up every single day. I just do whatever feels fun that day and I just want to encourage you that you don’t have to be perfect with your journaling practice. It is totally okay if one day you journal in a notebook and another day it’s on your phone. There’s nothing wrong with that, you’re not going to get in trouble.

Now, let’s get into the journaling practices. 

1. Make a List Instead

So the first strategy I’m going to share with you is super easy and probably the most common thing I do to journal. For whatever reason, I find sentences very overwhelming when I am journaling, and making a bullet point list comes a lot easier to me. Instead of writing out these long sentences about how I’m feeling this way or what I’m really stressed about, I make really simple bullet point lists.

I usually will have some sort of pretty journal that I got at Marshalls or Home Goods that has an inspirational saying on the front, and I’ve had a lot of these over the years, but I typically have one that is designated as my written journal. It’s always around my desk somewhere or in the living room around where I have coffee. So I will either write the lists in that or often I will make lists on my phone as well. I will use the notes function on my iPhone to make different types of lists and literally just at the top I write whatever the list is about.

Creating a “What I Want” List

For example, a common list is “what do I want”? I will literally write at the top what I want and then I will start listing out bullet points after that. This takes me literally 60 seconds most of the time and the things I want are all over the place. I don’t filter myself or make them these perfect magical wishes. Sometimes the things on my “what I want” list are really small. I want new shoes, I want to talk to my husband about this thing, or I want my dog to be calm on a walk. Then sometimes they’re bigger things like big goals I have or big dreams I have for my business. 

I do a mixture of both big and small things, and I find it’s really powerful to do that nearly every single day. It’s so simple to do, but it’s very interesting what things I write down day after day. There are some things that are pretty consistently on that list. And then there’s also things that I achieve and then no longer have to write them down. It’s really interesting to see how it changes and evolves over time.

Another reason I think this is very effective is that it constantly reminds me of my goals in a low pressure way. So some of the things I write down that I want are purchases I need to make or errands I need to run, but a lot of them are overarching things of bigger dreams (financial security, a home that we love, a really strong family unit), and I’ve found that writing that stuff down helps me then focus on doing actions during the day that will get me closer to that thing. 

I also will notice things that come up that I wasn’t super aware that I wanted. So for example, something that kind of came out of the woodwork for me recently, was me realizing that since I grew up in the Midwest and we currently live in Florida, my daughter might not have the same experiences that I had growing up.

Around Christmas, I ended up writing that I really wanted my daughter to have a white Christmas where she gets to see the snow. I don’t have an answer for whether I want to move or anything like that, but it just was really interesting to have it pop up for me. So this kind of list journaling can be really powerful at uncovering some of the things you’re feeling that you didn’t realize you were feeling.

Other lists I will make when journaling

Besides my “what I want” list, I will also make lists about:

  • What things are making me unhappy?
  • What things are making me stressed?
  • How am I feeling right now?
  • How do I want to feel?
  • What books do I want to read?
  • What things do I want to learn about?

By the way, just making bullet point lists totally counts as journaling and it’s way less intimidating than thinking you have to write out sentences and sentences and pour all of your guts and feelings onto the page. For me, that’s just not realistic. If I think I’m going to sit there and write an entire page, I’ll just get bored and give up or never even get started. 

Mara Kucirek writing in her journal

2. Make a Gratitude List

Okay, the next strategy that I’m going to share is to make a gratitude list. Specifically, use a friend to make a gratitude list every day. This one has built in accountability and is really easy to do because typically I do this as a text message so I don’t have to write in a fancy journal or get out a Google doc that holds all of my gratitude.

All you have to do is find a friend and text them three things that you’re grateful for in the morning. This is something my lifelong best friend and I have done several times. We go through seasons where we’re both like, “oh, we’re being kind of grumpy” or where we just know we need more gratitude in our life. Then, we’ll both commit to sending each other a text message in the morning that has three things that we are grateful for.

Personally, I really like the built-in accountability on this option too because between the two of us, it’s so much more likely that one of us will remember versus if you’re just journaling on your own, sometimes you just forget in the morning or you procrastinate and put it off. But if you have to text someone, there’s accountability in that they’re expecting it or they will end up texting you first and it reminds you that you should take 30 seconds and just write out a few really quick things that you are grateful for.

It’s also interesting to see what is on other people’s lists because so often it’s really simple stuff, but seeing what my best friend types out and puts on her list always makes me feel better about the things in my life and reminds me to do a better job at appreciating the things I already have.

3. Have a Shared Google Doc With a Friend to Journal Together

You could use any sort of program that has a shared document feature but personally I find Google Docs is very easy to use. I have done this practice with multiple people throughout my life and all of the times I’ve been in a season where we had a shared Google Doc journal, it was really helpful for both of us.

So for example, for a while when my sister was in college and I was just out of college, we had a shared Google doc where in the morning we would tell each other about our day. I would write and just talk about things that happened and what I was working with, and since it was my sister, I was pretty okay with being super honest about hard things that I was feeling or frustrations. Then, she would write about her day.

Over time, it became a document where we could both see what the other person was writing, but it almost felt like you had a pen pal. So you had that accountability of knowing someone else was waiting on your answer. 

On top of that, it was kind of cool too because we could comment on the document. So if she was talking about something that was really frustrating her or needed help on a question, I could comment and write my answer.

I also did this practice with a friend at one point and we found a series of prompts online, like “what do you want”? Or, “what’s making you feel frustrated”? I think there were 20 different prompts that we copy and pasted into this Google Doc and then each week we would both go in and answer the prompt. So we did this for over six months, and I still go back sometimes and read the shared document because it was so interesting and good to encourage each other and then to also have the accountability to actually write out all of your feelings. 

Make it Your Home Page on Your Computer

By the way, that’s one of my BIGGEST list tips. If there’s something on your computer you want to remember to do, make it the home page. When I was doing this with my friend I would make our shared google doc the home page, but I will also do it with courses (like right now my home page is Elizabeth McCravy’s course “Podcast Success Blueprint.”

This way, every time I open a new tab to do whatever I’m doing in my business, I see the login screen for the course and it reminds me that one of my goals right now is to be working through that course. You can steal that tip and use it for anything in your life. I’ve had seasons where I used it to check my bank accounts or to do my bookkeeping. 

4. Use a Guided Journal

I’m sure you have seen these. They are all over the place nowadays! You see them at Target and at bookstores and online, but there’s all sorts of different journals that have prompts for you to fill in instead of having to start writing from scratch. For me, that’s been really helpful. It’s really intimidating to see a blank page and figure out what I am supposed to be journaling about, but if I have a book sitting on my desk and there’s a prompt to follow, I am much more likely to fill it out. 

Having a “Q&A a Day” Journal With My Husband

Right now, I have several different guided journals. One of the ones I really love is with my husband where we have a “Q&A a day Journal” which is three years long and every day it asks a question about life and then both you and your partner write the answer to the question in it. Sometimes my husband and I do it together.

For us, we have the journal sitting on our dining room table right now so often we will eat dinner, see the journal, open it to whatever day we’re on and write the answer. Then there’s also been seasons where we kind of forgot to do it when we were together and then we both just did it at some separate time and it was really fun to then later go back and read our answers. 

The way it’s structured, is that it asks you a question each day and then every year you repeat the question. So it’s the same question every day, but there’s three different spots, one for each year. So every year as you’re going through it, you see your answers to the question from the previous years, which is really cool to see now that we are in the third year.

Last year, for example, we were talking a lot about the fact that we wanted to start growing a family. So this year, when we’re getting back to those same questions, it’s fun to think that now we have a daughter and she has a name and she’s really here. 

There’s also questions around what’s stressing you out or making you unhappy and often the thing that was stressing us out, we have since solved in the last year. So it’s pretty cool to see the progress over the years.

You can probably tell by now that I really like collaborative journaling where you get to do it with someone else. So that question and answer style journal works really well for us, but they do have ones that are totally solo and you can just fill in the answer to the question on your own which is really cool. Next year, I’m going to get one where we can include my daughter too and I can’t wait to see how she answers the questions once she can start verbalizing more with us 🙂

Other Guided Journal Practices I’ve Tried and Loved

I also like those “one sentence” journals because I find that it was super interesting to see just how much writing one sentence could jog my memory for the day and remember a lot of stuff I would’ve forgotten otherwise.

Another guided journal that I have that I use pretty regularly,( and I don’t use it every day, I already told you guys, I’m not perfect about journaling), is a prayer journal. It’s super simple. I just bought it on Amazon by searching “prayer journal” and it’s not very in-depth. There’s a spot where you write your prayer for the day. So I will write what I’m working on, what’s stressing me out, what I’m hoping for, and then it has a spot for what you’ve been learning lately which I almost always cross out and write what I’m grateful for instead. 

I’ve found that that journal has been very helpful for me, especially in harder seasons. When there was something I was very stressed out about and worried about and it was something I couldn’t really fix on my own, that journal has been very helpful. I used it a lot during pregnancy when I was feeling a lot of fears about having a kid and also fears about her development (because when you’re pregnant, you constantly are worried about something happening to this tiny human), and it was very cathartic for me to be able to journal about my fears and my worries and my prayers for our future daughter (as one example).

Don’t Have Too Many Guided Journals at Once

I highly recommend a guided journal that you resonate with and it can also be really fun to find a guided journal that aligns with your season of life. One thing I would warn though is not to have too many going on. I’ve had seasons of life where a few people gifted me a guided journal and then I had five journals that I was supposed to fill out every day and it was overwhelming. I absolutely hated it. I really like having just one I’m focusing on, and then that way if you miss a day, you can go back and do it later (or even better – some guided journals are not dated and that’s really helpful). 

getting started with a journaling alternative for goal setting

5. Use Journaling Apps on Your Phone

I have tried so many different journaling apps over the years and one that I really like and have used consistently is called “Day One”. What I like about it is that it is so easy and simple to use. When I click the button, it takes just a few seconds to get to the actual journaling function. It’s also really easy to add photos into your journal, so that’s really fun.

You can also create templates, which I really like doing in my journaling practices. I have several templates I’ve created that are based off of things I already talked about in this episode (like a “what I want” list or a gratitude list). I use those templates a lot to get me started. 

I’ve gotten a lot more into journaling on my phone after I had my daughter. In general, I do find writing by hand to be a little more helpful and less stressful, but when I had a baby, I was spending so much time breastfeeding and holding her and laying on the floor with her that I didn’t always have a journal handy. And so I quickly noticed that I wasn’t doing any sort of journaling. 

Then, I started using the day one app again because I figured it’s better to do some sort of journaling on my phone versus not doing anything at all. Especially during that postpartum period, I needed some journaling support. There were a lot of changes, there were a lot of emotions, there were a lot of things I was feeling, and things I was stressed out about those first three months in particular.

Moreover, I had a lot of intense feelings and journaling helped a lot, but it wasn’t realistic that I was going to leave her or set her down and then go get this pretty perfect journal and use it. So I really leaned heavily on using my phone a lot more. And it worked for me!

Journaling in Pockets of Wasted Time

One thing I really like about using the Day One app (or any journaling app on your phone), is that it becomes way easier to journal in pockets of wasted time. So something I’ve started doing a lot lately is if I have some period of time where I’m out of the house and I have some downtime (like if I’m at the doctor or in line at the grocery store), I will use that time to do a really quick journal entry. 

Which Journaling Practices Will You Try First?

When I first started getting into morning routines and journaling, I felt like it had to be so perfect, and I never saw any content out there about how to journal when you actually kind of hate journaling (or you find the stereotypical journal where you’re writing it by hand to be boring). So I hope these strategies make journaling a lot more fun for you!

I also hope there’s something in this episode that helps you implement and start journaling because there are a LOT of studies that show that journaling does improve your happiness and overall life satisfaction. So it’s something that is really good to do, but not something that is always easy to do. I hope this was helpful!

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