I have a long history of failed habit attempts. Yet with my Today I Learned Journal, it’s been a consistent habit for over two years now, without missing a single day. The difference between my failed habits and this one? I give myself easy options.
Why Make it Easier?
Setting high standards for daily habits (like “I will study for three hours every day”) is admirable. But no matter how well you plan your life around this goal, life will inevitably screw it up one day.
There will be busy days: Things come up, plans change without warning, and time runs out.
And stressful days: Emergencies to tend to, disasters to live through, and more important things take priority.
There will be tired days: You get sick, lose sleep, and you have no mental, emotional, or physical energy to work with.
And there are the lazy days: When even thinking about the habit is a repulsive, procrastinated effort.
If you don’t consider such days, your complicated, time-consuming habits will have to miss a day. And if you’re someone who thrives on keeping streaks—if missing a single day destroys your motivation—this can mean the death of the habit altogether.
Your life shouldn't be limited by your habits.
Your habits should be flexible enough to work with you, no matter how crazy life gets.
If I had made it a requirement to study complicated subjects every day, this journal would have joined the habit graveyard with all my other 2021 New Year Resolution attempts. It would have become overwhelming. A dreaded chore, rather than the beloved hobby it is now.
Five Ways to Make Your Entry Easier
1. Keep daily goals small
If your goal is something like “improve vocabulary,” that’s too vague. How much vocabulary is enough to learn for one day? Where do you start? How do you know when enough is enough for one day?
Instead, you can break it down into one clear, easy step: “learn just one new word today.”
When you simplify your day’s learning goal, you keep the habit approachable and easier to maintain.
And when your limits are clear, you can reach that satisfaction of having completed a task rather than wondering “Was this enough?”
Not every day has to be a baby step. But giving yourself the option to keep things small and simple is what keeps the habit going.
2. Ask a friend
There will be days that online searches are intimidating. Too many choices for what to learn and where to learn them.
But you don’t have to research online to learn something new. Sometimes a simple conversation can suffice.
There are plenty of people out there who love talking about what they know.You probably have a friend or family member who would be more than happy to answer any questions you have. Ask them to explain it to you. What do they know that you don’t?
3. Reflect your personal experience
There are some things that only you can teach yourself. And it doesn’t require any tools beyond your ability to think.
Your own perspective is worth understanding. What was your experience today? What mistakes can you learn from? What did you learn about your own life that you want to remember? And if you’re having trouble reflecting, try journaling for a page or two.
Sometimes it's not until we write that we learn what we're thinking.
Being aware and willing to learn from your own experiences is a valuable skill to practice. My post Today I Learned Journal: Remembering Life shows how you can bring your life into this habit of daily learning.
4. Keep a list of entry ideas
In your Today I Learned journal, designate a page for questions you want answered. Write down things you want to learn, and break them down into bite-sized pieces. What’s something that can take only a few minutes of your time?
My favorite way to keep vocabulary-building easy:
I keep a pencil with me as I read a book. When I come across a word I don’t know, I’ll lightly circle it.
And on a day that I’m stuck trying to figure out what there is to learn, I’ll have these unknown words circled and ready for me.
All it takes is a quick look in the dictionary.
5. Keep a list of reliable learning sources
When you find a place that has easy knowledge, save it!
Bookmark web pages. Write down knowledge-packed books. Keep in mind friends or family members who enjoy telling people what and how to do things. Make a playlist on Youtube with short videos that look like easy learning opportunities. Know where you can go for easy information. Even if what you manage to learn and write down doesn’t cover the whole topic, it’s better to walk away having learned something rather than nothing.
Here are some of my examples of easy learning entry sources:
For English vocabulary:
• Merriam-Webster Dictionary
For learning new words in a foreign language:
• Reverso Context
Youtube channels for quick learning:
• Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
• School of Life
I give myself no limit to easy-entry days. Sometimes a week will go by of “only” learning a new word a day.
But it’s because of these baby step days that I’ve managed to keep this practice consistent.
The aim of this journal is steady growth, in whatever pace is right for you.
Keeping it digital is just one more thing that’s helped me to keep this habit easy. If you’d like to start your own, you can check out my free template of the Today I Learned Journal in Notion, where you can duplicate it and make it your own.
If you have your own ideas for how to make daily learning easier, feel free to share in the comments below!
What do you want to learn today, and remember tomorrow?