Journaling has always been around as a way of documenting life events, storing secrets and feelings, or clearing the mind and organizing thoughts. For the many roles a journal can play, it is no wonder so many people set out with the goal of keeping one. The expectations and goals you set for your journaling can play an important part in sticking to the habit.
How often should you write in your journal? How often you write in your journal is unique to the individual and will vary based on your preferences and goals. Writing in a journal a few times a week, such as every other day or 3-4 times per week, is often an ideal amount for most people.
Journals are very personal and done entirely for oneself. So, no one, besides yourself, can know how often you should write in your journal. To find the right amount of journaling for you, start by setting goals and becoming more self-aware of your feelings towards journaling.
Determining How Often to Write in Your Journal
So, if the right amount to write is unique to everyone, how do you determine what your goal should be? When you are first starting a journal, it can be tricky to feel out how often is enough. There are a few important factors about your journaling to consider that will help you figure it out.
- What kind of journaling are you doing?
There are many different types of journals people can keep, each which can demand different habits to keep up with. For example, someone who wants to journal their thoughts and experience may journal a few days out of the week. Someone who wants to keep a gratitude journal may want to reflect on what they are grateful for daily. Someone keeping a dream journal may journal as often as they have memorable dreams.
Think about the kind of journal you want to keep and how often it makes sense to write journal entries. In the end, the choice is always up to you, but most journal entries reflect on an experience or will make the most sense when kept up with regularly. Use this to guide your journaling habits.
- How long do your journal entries take to write?
Following the previous examples, a gratitude journal may be a quick list of three things you are grateful for. A journal entry about your day may take upwards of an hour to write out in the detail you want. A dream journal may take a good amount of time depending on the vividness of your dreams and length of reflection.
The point is, different journal entries take different amounts of time. Two people with similar journals may write longer or shorter entries. One person may take more time to think out an entry while another’s thought flow easily and quickly.
Consider how long an average journaling session takes for you and how often you can incorporate that into your day. Being realistic about the amount of time you are able to journal each week can prevent feeling unnecessary pressure that robs the enjoyment of journaling. Further, budgeting your time well allows you to have a few quality journal sessions each week instead of more sessions that are rushed, less enjoyable, and produce poorer entries.
- What drives your desire to journal?
Some journals have a clear goal like helping to improve memory or keeping track of progress with fitness habits. These kinds of journals require regular entries to serve their purpose. How often they should be written in will likely be quite clear based on how your goals are progressing and the experiences they record and reflect on.
Most people though, are just journaling for enjoyment and stress relief. They reach for their pen and paper to get their thoughts out and feel a bit lighter afterward. If this applies to you, the center of your habits is to promote feeling good. So, when thinking about how often to write, ask yourself how often you enjoy writing in your journal and when does it begin to feel more like an obligation?
In the beginning of your journaling journey, you may make mistakes with a too demanding routine or one that is not enough and leaves you dissatisfied with your work. Trial and error are part of the process, and a plan you find yourself to dislike is the knowledge you have going forward, rather than a waste of time. Reflecting on these questions can help you make conscious choices and find that perfect amount of writing faster.
Do You Have to Journal Everyday? Planned Entries vs. Spontaneous Entries
One approach to journaling encourages no concrete goals and simply journaling when inspiration strikes. This may be a good fit for some and not so much for others. Others like the structure of journaling everyday, although it is not necessary.
There are positives and negatives to both planned and spontaneous journaling, which are explored in detail here.
Planned Journal Entries
Planned journaling can be a strict routine (I will journal in the morning Monday, Wednesday, and Friday every week) or a flexible goal (I will sit down and journal three times each week wherever it fits). In a journal that follows planned entries, the entries are consistent and often build off each other.
Many people need a concrete goal to hold them accountable and actually get them to sit down with pen in hand. For these people, planning journal entries is the difference between having a full journal and a blank one.
Planned entries can become daunting though, especially when expectations are overly demanding. Telling yourself you ‘have to’ write in your journal can take the feeling of enjoyment out of the practice if you do not plan sessions wisely and realistically.
Spontaneous Journal Entries
Spontaneous journaling is just what it sounds like, journaling only when you genuinely want to. Entries by a writer who journals spontaneously may be from varying periods of time and randomly spaced apart.
If you have a passion for writing, there is no need for schedule to remind you to pick up your pen. If you have followed a planned journaling routine for a while, you may be able to keep up that habit you have formed even while loosening any structured rules. If you are journaling to document a journey of some kind you may not need a rigid schedule because the events are random, but you are able to recognize when they need to be written down.
If these circumstances or others apply to you, taking the pressure of a schedule off of journaling can be freeing and reinforce the enjoyment you feel for it.
If you want journal entries that are cohesive and collectively tell a story, spontaneous journal entries that are spaced apart and don’t always pick up where the last left off can take away from that goal.
Spontaneous journaling is not good for those who procrastinate, as it can be a slippery slope to never picking up your journal again. Some positive habits, even those we enjoy, take a little push and commitment in the beginning as we break past our normal routine.
If you like the idea of spontaneous journaling, be realistic about what you will do. If you feel like you will not stick with spontaneous journaling, beginning with a flexible goal and slowly becoming more spontaneous is recommended.
Whatever kind of journal you are writing or plan to write, remember it is by you for you! Do not get caught up in what others do or let anyone impose pressure on your journaling. By allowing heavy expectations to weigh on you over a journal, contradicts the purpose of clearing the mind and feeling better in some way. Embrace the individuality and flexibility of journaling. No other journal will be exactly like yours, so it should be no surprise that journaling habits are unique to you too.