Journaling Tips

Trying to Establish a New Routine? Try Habit Stacking.

This year has not been kind to the habits, patterns, and routines you had previously established for yourself. Instead of waking up and going to the gym, you now do yoga in the front room. Rather than meet a friend for coffee at a shop around the corner, you brew your own batch in the kitchen. And that long commute you used to make downtown on the train? Now you simply go downstairs.

All of this is to say, if you had a journaling habit as part of your daily routine, it’s quite possible it has been altered or eliminated. Rather than wait for your previous routine to return, now is the perfect time to establish or reestablish a journaling habit as part of a new routine.

In Atomic Habits, James Clear teaches a principle called “habit stacking.” “Rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, you pair it with a current habit.” If during your old routine, after boarding your morning train to work you opened the Day One app, you were practicing habit stacking. If a train ride is no longer part of your day, you will simply need to stack journaling with another habit you have. For example:

After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will journal for one minute.

After I finish eating my toast, I will journal one photo.

After I get out of the shower and wait for my hair to dry, I’ll respond to the Daily Prompt.

James goes on, “The key is to tie your desired behavior into something you already do each day. Once you have mastered this basic structure, you can begin to create larger stacks by chaining small habits together. This allows you to take advantage of the natural momentum that comes from one behavior leading into the next.”

Up to this point, we’ve been talking about a morning routine, but this is just an example. In fact, the great thing about journaling in Day One is that it can be stacked with any habit, at any point during your day. Here are a few more examples:

When I sit down to go to the bathroom, I’ll open up Day One instead of Instagram.

When I clock out at the end of the day, I’ll respond to my custom template, “How was work today?”

When I sit down to sing and rock the baby to sleep, I’ll hit record in the Day One Apple Watch app.

When I finish my workout, I’ll quickly make a voice note of the exercises I did.

As you can see, these examples aren’t dependent on a particular time or location, but rather another habit. If you say, “I’m going to journal for 10 minutes every day at 10 a.m.,” you will most likely find the habit difficult to maintain for long because, depending on the day, you might be driving at 10 am, on a work call, or feeding your hangry toddler a snack.

If your journaling was stacked with a habit that no longer exists as a result of the pandemic, try jotting down other habits you still have or the new ones you’ve recently started. Pick one (or multiple) that feels like the best one to stack with, and then write the phrase “When I _____, I will _______.”

Habit Stacking is just one of the incredibly helpful tips James Clear teaches in his book, Atomic Habits. Pick up a copy, you won’t regret it. Also, follow @dayoneapp on Instagram for journaling inspiration and Day One tips.

Journal from here, there, everywhere.

Download the Day One journal app for free on iPhone, Android, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.

Journal from here there and everywhere mobile devices image.Journal from here there and everywhere mobile devices image.