Everyone pushes daily journaling, but what if I hate it?

The struggle to fit into a culture addicted to habits.

Wil Martin
Jun 19 · 3 min read

Everyone wants you to journal.

It’s true. Click around on any self-help blog and it won’t take you long to find a post about how keeping a journal can be good for your mental and emotional well-being. I’ve read hundreds of them. Each time getting excited about an innovative new idea for starting a journaling habit. Always optimistic that this time the habit will stick and I’ll be so much more self-aware and happy.

I’ve tried bullet journaling, gratitude journaling, creative writing prompts, sketch journaling, journaling apps, photo journals, post-it notes, index cards, and the list goes on. With each new idea, I felt like I needed to buy a fresh app or notebook, all destined to end up collecting dust on the shelf beside the other abandoned attempts at personal growth.

Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash (not my bookshelf, but close)

Why does it feel like journaling isn’t for me?

I want to be clear: journaling can be extremely helpful. It serves as a great way to get thoughts and feelings out of your head, onto paper so you can process them in a healthy way. Keeping a journal (or journals) is absolutely a good idea. I highly recommend it. So why am I writing this? Because the problem isn’t journaling, the problem is habit addiction.

Habit addiction

Let me explain habit addiction (a term that I just made up). We live in a culture that pushes self-care in the form of specific habits and disciplines. Meditate every night, exercise every morning, take a walk every hour at work, get 10,000 steps a day, read before bed, drink a glass of water before every meal. Listen, these are all good things to do. The problem is we’ve become addicted to regimenting them in an effort to force ourselves to do them.

This works for some people. Honestly, it probably works for most people. But, if you’re like me, it doesn’t work well for you and maybe you aren’t sure why, but as soon as something becomes a chore that has to be done, you lose motivation. Yep. Me too. On top of that, if it was someone else’s idea, I’m much less likely to stick with it after the shine wears off

So how do I journal?

Full-transparency: I actually do journal on a regular basis. I just don’t make it a forced habit. I journal when it will add value to my life. And, to be honest, there are days and weeks where journaling would just be a waste of valuable time. So I don’t do it during those times. Other times, when my brain feels overloaded and I’m having trouble processing things, I pull out my journal, get my thoughts out on paper, and I’m better for it.

My point is that journaling is a tool (one of many) to help you, and you don’t always need the same tool all the time. If you’re a gardener you may need a shovel to dig holes for planting one day, then shears to do some pruning the next day. You don’t make a habit of using the shears every day just for the sake of doing it. The tool you use depends on what you’re facing at that moment. So let journaling be a tool. Use it when necessary or valuable, and don’t stress out if you don’t need it every day.


Got thoughts about this post? Leave a comment below or get in touch with me.

The Post-Grad Survival Guide

We're confused twenty-somethings, but we know the 9–5 isn't for us. Tips on blogging, freelancing, and building your side hustle. A good bit of life lessons and travel tips thrown in, too. Living life on our own terms.

Wil Martin

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🖊️ a constant stream of nostalgia, marketing, and pro wrestling.

The Post-Grad Survival Guide

We're confused twenty-somethings, but we know the 9–5 isn't for us. Tips on blogging, freelancing, and building your side hustle. A good bit of life lessons and travel tips thrown in, too. Living life on our own terms.