Building the habit of journaling – a tool for mentees

Being in tune with how you feel and the challenges you’re grappling with will help you to get the most out of your relationship with your mentor. It will help you to bring the real issues to the table, so you can shine a light on them with your mentor and find solutions. This isn’t always easy! It takes ongoing practise to become and remain sufficiently self-aware. In our previous blog ‘Improving your ability to speak to how you feel – a guide for mentees’, we discussed journaling as an excellent tool for getting in check with what’s going on for you.

In this blog, Dzhulliana Nikolova, OneUpOneDown Co-Founder & CTO, shares learnings from her journey towards creating the habit of regular journaling. 

Building new habits

The challenge of using journaling as a tool is often creating it as a new habit. That is, setting and sticking to a regular time to put pen to paper. Creating new habits is something that I have taught myself to master with lots of learnings along the way. Here are the fundamental approaches to habit-building that I have picked up, which I hope you will find useful. 

Consistency is the name of the game

For many people, journaling is a challenging practice to keep up consistently. There might be some moments when you feel motivated and decided to make a start, but often the motivation fades away quickly and the practice does not remain consistent. Relying only on motivation as the basis for starting something is not the best approach. Motivation is not constant – it comes and goes.


Don’t set yourself up for failure

It is important to set yourself achievable goals so you don’t inevitably let yourself down. I used to set big goals such as ‘”start journaling every day” or “start meditating every day” until a mentor pointed out that doing something “every day” is destined for failure. My most prolonged period of writing and meditating every day was for four months. My goal was every day, with no endpoint. I could never get there. Putting a time frame on the plan would have made it attainable.

It’s also not realistic to start trying to build many habits all at once. Building habits requires willpower and attention to replace the old with the new. A mistake I used to make was having a picture of my perfect day in my mind and then working out how to implement all the new habits for this day at once. Not only was this difficult to do, but it also became boring. Once I was able to practice the new routine regularly, it became stagnant. I wanted to break the habits and do something different. Updating habits is an ongoing activity. It would be best if you approached building them with this in mind. 

Think about building habits like a game

Thinking about building habits like a game allows for gradual progression and acknowledges the stages of mastery.

In games, you start at Level 1, when everything is easy. For example, you could begin by journaling for one day per week and keep this habit for two or three weeks. Once you have mastered this you move to Level 2 which could mean journalling two days a week for 1-2 months. Next, it’s time for Level 3; three days a week for three months. Continue to level up until you reach your desired outcome; this might be six months of daily consistency in journaling. By this point, you may consider that you have clocked the game and built the habit. It will be there in your skillset as something that you can come back to and do well with more ease. However, without regular practice, you will become rusty. So it is up to you to decide how important this practice is to you and regularly you do it. 


Make time and a process for the new habit

When starting a new habit, it is essential to make time for this in your schedule which will mean planning other things around it. I usually write in the morning. At the beginning of the week, I plan out the days I will journal. For example, I will choose the days that I don’t have meetings in the morning so I can allow myself the time and headspace to journal. When I decide the time for doing this activity, I am very strict on myself to make sure I use the time as intended. Having a process that you guides your journalling is also very important as it makes the task easier to complete to a high standard. You can start by asking yourself three simple questions. The questions I ask myself are: (1) What mistakes did I make yesterday?, (2) How can I improve this?, and (3) What am I grateful for?

So. Are you ready to make journaling a habit of yours?

The challenge: 6 months of consistent journaling

Using the approach addressed in this blog post, below is a programme for helping you to build your journaling habit:

Level 1 (2 weeks): 1 day per week

Level 2 (8 weeks): 2 days per week

Level 3 (14 weeks): 3 days per week


Journalling is a habit that is worth building, not only because it will help you in preparation for your mentor sessions, but also because it’s a practice that will benefit you in all areas of life. Making it a regular habit, however, it not as easy as one may think. Avoid setting yourself up for failure by following the recommendations we’ve set out in this blog. Set goals that you can achieve; let yourself feel good about achieving them and acknowledge the benefits they are having in your life.

All the best,

Dzhulliana Nikolova


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