How to journal every day even when you don’t have 5 minutes to yourself

It’s embarrassing really.

You started off with such great intentions for keeping a journal this year.

But there it sits with a few pages filled, and the rest are just…

Well, blank.

Here’s the thing. It isn’t your fault that you haven’t kept up your journal. You have tons of things going on — which is probably why you decided to pick up journaling in the first place.

This post gets into the reasons we often abandon our journals, with some very practical (and blissfully easy) strategies for making it a part of your daily life.

The real reasons you abandon your journal. (Hint: it’s not that you’re lazy.)

If you’ve been hanging out on Pinterest or Instagram browsing #bulletjournal or #bujo, it can hit you in one of two ways…

The best way is when it inspires ideas of your own. (To be fair that’s the purpose behind most of the content.)

But it can also have the opposite effect.

It can make you feel paralyzed.

Those gorgeous spreads that someone spent hours on to perfectly photograph? Well, that’s great for them, but


Here’s the thing. You don’t have to make anything exceptionally artistic unless it recharges you. Journals can be beautiful, but they can also just be functional. Day planning and task lists — which is how the bullet journal started — notes to yourself, recording your day, or exploring your own thoughts can be fast, easy, and deliciously messy.

This is your journal. Own it.

And you don’t have to post pictures ever. (Besides, Pinterest can be a bitch, anyway.)

Did you ever have a diary as a kid? You know, the kind with a lock, and tiny little fake brass key?

There’s a reason they put locks on kid’s diaries.

It’s because if we are going to say all the things that we would never say in public, we definitely don’t want our little sister giggling over them and sharing them with the kids down the street.

The thing is that fear can carry over into what we express in our journals.

Anne Lamott touches on our tendency to fear being completely honest in her book, Bird by Bird:

“We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you’ve already been in. Most human beings are dedicated to keeping that one door shut. But the writer’s job is to see what is behind it.”

Lamott goes on to say that you can’t peer behind the door and write honestly if you write like your parents are reading over your shoulder. After all, they are the ones who probably told you not to open that door in the first place.

Take the restrictions off when you journal. Be as honest, authentic, and free as you possibly can in its pages.

That type of journaling will draw you to it each day.

Perfectionism is the worst. You tell yourself that you are going to do something every day, but then your schedule gets irregular, or too many demands hit at once, and you don’t.

Then, when you skip a few days, you abandon the habit completely because you hate noticing that you didn’t do it perfectly.

Guess what? You don’t have to do that.

Just backfill the journal when you miss a few days. Or, let yourself ignore the lapse without recriminations and start up again.

Journals don’t judge. They are always there for you.

Besides, they pay you back, even when you’ve ignored them for a bit because things got crazy.

Why you might want to try journaling again…

Edison, Rockefeller, Hemingway, Twain, Rohn, Winfrey….the list of highly successful people who journal is long. There is something to the practice that pays dividends in how we live our lives.

Benjamin Hardy, author of Willpower Doesn’t Work, writes:

Journaling daily is the most potent and powerful keystone habit you can acquire. If done correctly, you will show up better in every area of your life — every area! Without question, journaling has by far been the number one factor to everything I’ve done well in my life.

There is something to getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper that allows you to process them more effectively. It helps you identify patterns, remember tasks, and draw meaning from what you are thinking.

In short, it helps you get what you want in your life.

5 ways to restart your journaling habit in less than 5 minutes per day:

If you’ve tried to start a journaling habit, but haven’t kept it up, here are some ways to make it easier to do it daily — even if you have less than 5 minutes to commit to the practice.

Erin Greenawald recommends journaling before you even get out of bed in the mornings. She writes:

Try grabbing your notebook as soon as your alarm goes off and writing for a few minutes before your feet even hit the ground. This way you know it will get done, and the activity first thing in the morning may help wake your brain up. Plus, you’re more creative when you’re tired, so ideas may come up through your writing that never would have any other time of day.

2. Don’t use sentences.

Leo Babauta, author of the wildly popular blog, ZenHabits writes:

I don’t write full sentences — just a bullet point for interesting or important things that happened each day. I only have to write 2–3, though sometimes I write 5–6 if I did a lot. I mix personal and work stuff together. By keeping each day’s entry short and simple, I make it so easy to journal that there are no excuses — it only takes a few minutes!

3. Narrow your focus.

Sometimes, we are just trying to cover too much ground with our journals. By narrowing our focus to a single thing to journal each day, it gets easier to build the habit. The focus could be anything, like gratitude, habit tracking, best part of the day, a random thought, the next day’s tasks, or anything that you can think of that would be meaningful to you.

Jessica Hagy of does a simple diagram every day to communicate what she is thinking about. Austin Kleon takes printed pages and uses a sharpie to block out all words but a single sentence.

What if you created a single doodle each day? Something that made yourself smile or reminded you of an idea. Or what if you drew a 2” x 2” square and filled it with a simple scene from your life?

Journaling is about capture on paper. And if it is easier for you, do it in images instead of words.

Sometimes, we are just afraid of a blank page. It stares at us and we have no idea where to start. What if you journaled by answering the same question each day?

Something like:

  • What am I grateful for?
  • How am I feeling?
  • What was the most important thing that happened today?
  • What do I want for tomorrow?
  • What do I appreciate most about my life?

Look at that journal filling up.

Remember those blank pages? When you simplify your journaling strategy, unfulfilled journals become a thing of the past. You wind up with a record of your life, and it only took you a few minutes each day to get there.

You have the data so you can look back and see patterns. You can grab meaning out of the things you’ve written.

Best of all, journaling isn’t just that thing that other successful people do.

Now, it’s what you do too.

//Want to use sketchnotes in your journal? Get the free Quick Start Guide to Visual Journaling

Deeply curious on why and how people engage together. Visual journal enthusiast. Get her QuickStart Guide to Visual Journaling:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store