Micah Moss is on pace to cross the impressive milestone of 1,200 consecutive days of journaling in just a few more weeks. Micah is a software product manager and online course instructor from Los Angeles, California.
In this interview, we asked Micah about the importance of keeping a journal and for advice on how to build a meaningful journaling habit that lasts.
How long have you been keeping a journal?
After doing a decent bit of research to find the “best journaling app”, I ultimately settled on Day One, and I wrote my first entry (into Day One) back in 2011! I’ll say this though, when I first started out — I had absolutely no idea what to write about, so my entries back then were sporadic (at best), often separated by weeks and months.
What makes journaling important to you?
Towards the beginning of the pandemic, a feeling sort of hit me that I just couldn’t shake … it was this feeling that I needed to have a “positive outlet” in my life for my thoughts. I’ve actually been working remotely for about seven years now (so I’m pretty used to being “stuck at home”), but in early 2020, I came to the realization if I don’t impose some sort of structure on my life (even if it’s just a tiny bit for a few minutes each day), then my mental wellbeing could deteriorate. Everything just seemed very “tenuous” and “up in the air” at that point. So I leaned into the concept of “self care”, and I’ve always liked to write, so I thought “Hey, why don’t I give this whole journaling thing another shot?”
What later happened was a bit of a surprise to me: I finally discovered a workflow that “clicked for me” (more on this later) and as it turned out — this little time I carved out for myself everyday became “my favorite time of day”. It was amazing because this little slice of my day was “just for me” … in a world full of responsibilities and obligations, I began to look forward to this little island of peace in my day; not to put too fine a point on it, but I felt like I was “investing” in myself — and that’s a great feeling to have.
“This little time I carved out for myself everyday became “my favorite time of day.” It was amazing because this little slice of my day was “just for me” … in a world full of responsibilities and obligations, I began to look forward to this little island of peace in my day; not to put too fine a point on it, but I felt like I was “investing” in myself — and that’s a great feeling to have.”
What do you usually journal about?
I keep four different journals in Day One:
- My “personal journal”, where I write daily using writing prompts based on mindfulness principles
- My “business” journal to track business ideas, or to scribble down notes while reading books about business
- My “writing” journal, where I share thoughts about current projects I’m working on (whether I’m writing non-fiction prose, fiction, etc)
- My “photo” journal, where I’ve started posting cool memories from events, traveling, food tasting, etc.
When do you journal each day?
I usually write fairly early in the morning (for me, that’s around 6:30 am-ish), before my son wakes up and then I’ll need to get him ready for school, and before the demands of the work day start weighing in. (It’s also nice and quiet around the house at that time!)
What tips or advice would you give others who want to build a journaling habit?
- Try and set yourself up for success; by that I mean, try and prepare your writing environment so that it’s conducive for you to concentrate on this one task — and this task alone.
- Be merciless and remove all distractions from around you.
- Perhaps above all else — just cut yourself some slack. Don’t be too hard on yourself … if you miss a day, just write two the next day (and backdate one of them; don’t worry, no one will know — this is in your private journal, remember?) There are no rules here, and you don’t need to ask anyone’s permission to do this. You’re the one in charge here, all of this is beneficial, and finally — if for some reason you feel “selfish” about about stealing away a handful of minutes everyday to do this, just remember — if you’re not investing in yourself first and building yourself up, then you’re not going to have any additional margin or bandwidth to help other people. Or to look at it from another angle: if you’re trying to be the best version of yourself by investing in yourself everyday — then that makes you more effective to help other people.
What have you learned from keeping a journal?
Honestly, journaling has taught me so much (about myself, about persistence, about responsibility, etc) that I could blather on about this for awhile, but I’ll try to focus on a few points here:
- I’ve learned that “wins begat wins”! (Or to put it another way — the more I journal, the more confident I get about journaling — which essentially becomes its own sort of self-perpetuating cycle.)
- I’ve learned that once I build up some momentum and get a nice streak of daily journals under my belt — it becomes a “point of pride” (or maybe even a bit of a game) to “not break the chain” (to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld).
- I’ve also learned that what James Clear says about habits rings true: did you know that (based on research / statistically-speaking) it’s actually easier for someone to do a habit “100% of the time”, rather than just “part of the time”? (I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but this is one of the things I can now confirm.)
What is your favorite thing about the Day One app?
I think my favorite feature of the Day One app is the ability to create “custom templates”. Once I realized I could quickly create reusable templates (which I can later summon with a lightning-quick hot-key from my iPad’s keyboard) — I really started feeling good about my routine. This one feature is simple, intuitive, and time-saving, and it helps me (daily) “hit the ground running.”
How has Day One helped you journal more consistently?
Probably not a huge surprise, but the “Streak” part of the app really does have a subtle (yet profound) effect … seeing that “number go up” really does provide encouragement. Again, to quote James Clear (author of Atomic Habits, which is a fantastic book if you haven’t read it):
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”
It’s so true, because the more times you vote to become a person “that writes in their journal everyday” (for example), you then build up this larger and larger “body of evidence” that is unassailable proof that you are (in fact) a person that writes in their journal everyday.
Another thing I find fascinating about Day One is the “On This Day” tab. After you start using Day One for more than a year, prepare to have your mind blown! It’s pretty cool to click on that tab and it’s like an “Instant Time Machine” where you’re transported back to that same exact day one, two, five, maybe ten years ago? When you take the time to read these, it really does put your life into perspective and it’s kind of fun (and insightful) to read “A Younger Version of Yourself’s Thoughts”, and also see what was important to you at the time, or what was going on in your life back then …
What else you would like to share about your journaling streak?
So here’s where it gets pretty “meta” (and I don’t mean the overlords of Facebook and Instagram) … I hinted at this earlier, but (long story short) it took me about ten years of trying (and failing) to get “good” at journaling … I finally discovered a workflow that was perfect for me (that is based on mindfulness principles rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy), and by following this method — I have now journaled consecutively for over 1,100 days in a row! Since I realized I was able to solve this problem in my own life, I thought, “Why not share this method with the rest of the world?” So I built an online video course showing you how to do this same thing! I call it “Micah’s Guide to Journaling With Mindfulness”, and it’s available on the Udemy marketplace.
As a special “thank you” (to the Day One team for making an awesome app, and also to fellow Day One Friends for reading all the way to the bottom of this post), I’ve included the link here, and if you’re interested in taking the course — I’m offering it for $12.99 (which is the steepest custom discount I can offer off of Udemy’s price) for readers of this blog here or you can use this coupon code upon checkout:
FRIENDS-OF-DAY-ONE (This discount will remain active through May 24, 2023).
Thank you (and keep on journaling)!
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The Day One journaling app makes it easy to build and maintain a daily journaling habit. Daily reminders, daily writing prompts, and journaling streaks are designed to help keep you motivated and consistently journaling.