How to Upgrade Your Life & Change Your Habits with Your Journal

‘I want to change but I don’t know how.’ Sound familiar?

Many of us want a lot of things, but it feels so overwhelming and it’s hard to know where to start. That’s why this article will look into the life-transforming effects of developing high quality keystone habits, and using your journal to upgrade your habits to upgrade your life.

This article is for you if:

  • You want to change your life but don’t know where to begin.
  • You need habits to be easy and non-time consuming.
  • You have some good habits but other areas of your life need work.
  • You want to fine-tune your current habits.
  • You’ve tried a habit journal, but want to try something else.

I’m going to take you through what keystone habits are, why they can transform your life, and how to use your love of journaling to identify current habits and change them to align with your life goals. 

You’ll come out the other side with a better understanding of what your habits are and a clear plan to start upgrading your life. Sound good? Let’s go.

What are keystone habits?

Keystone habits are your main habits that have a knock-on effect on the rest of your day and therefore, your life. They are things you do automatically without thinking and can be positive or negative.

For example, turning off your alarm in the morning and immediately opening Instagram. The first keystone habit is turning off the alarm which propelled into the second, clicking on Instagram. You can see how this has a knock-on effect. You lay in bed, scrolling, thinking, ‘I should really get up.’ Before you know it you’ve spent half an hour on social media, you rush to get ready for the day and feel frustrated about how your morning started. Okay, who am I kidding? I’m describing my habits!

That one keystone habit (turning the alarm off on your phone) follows you throughout the entire day. 

It’s scary how one tiny thing has such a great effect, but you can use the power of a single keystone habit to your advantage. 

Why positive keystone habits are life-changing

Positive keystone habits induce long-term gratification because they actively help you work towards a bigger goal. That can be anything from becoming financially secure to taking charge of a long-term health condition.

I want to really hammer home the impact of positive habits with a true story about a man who had Type 2 diabetes and was going blind. He didn’t want to change his lifestyle and even going blind wasn’t enough motivation. 

This man drank liters and liters of Pepsi every day. However, he was too stubborn to give it up. So instead his nutritionist said, ‘Why don’t you switch to Diet Pepsi?’ He agreed and made the tiny change from Pepsi to Diet Pepsi. It was easy. If he could do that, why not something else? So he got an exercise bike, which he rode while watching TV. One day, he realized he could see his TV program a little better. That spurred him on until eventually, he reversed his Type 2 diabetes.

The man’s keystone habits were drinking Pepsi and watching TV on the couch. Switching to diet soda sparked a chain reaction, which motivated him to continue making keystone habit changes leading to long-term positive effects. You can see how adjusting something tiny can have a huge impact on your life.

How to use bullet journaling to identify your keystone habits and change them to suit your life goals.

Now you’ve heard the inspirational story of a man who reversed diabetes, it’s time to figure out what YOU want to change in your life. 

Enter: journaling. Using three steps, I’m going to walk you through how to use your journal to create organized and visual keystone habits to achieve your life goals. I’ve included spreads that you can use as templates when figuring out your keystone habits.

Step 1. Determine what you want

Take out your bullet-style journal or planner and separate your day into three sections, ‘morning’, ‘afternoon,’ and ‘evening’. 

Ask yourself, what are the key things you want to be, do or feel during those different sections of the day? 

For example, in the morning I might want to do a morning routine, feel calm, and be productive. If you’re struggling to be that specific, think about your overall life goals. Some common areas include:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Financial Freedom
  • Relationships

Pick one key area and hone in on it. My spread might look like the below:

Journal spread showing daily routine goals as part of a how to blog post about how to upgrade your life

My ideal life split into morning, afternoon, and evening.

Step 2. Start creating your new keystone habits by identifying your current ones.

If you want to focus on your morning routine jot down what you currently do automatically. Be honest with yourself. Seeing it written down can feel confronting, but by becoming aware of your habits you have the power to change them.

morning routine journal spread

My current morning routine (rough notes).

Now that you’ve got an honest and factual account you can create a page or a spread in your journal

My current morning routine looks like this: 

current morning routine journal spread

My current morning routine.

On the next page, create a rough spread of what you WANT that morning to look like. For me, I want to be the type of person who watches the sunrise, while I serenely sip green tea. Dreamy. My ideal morning routine will look something like the below: 

ideal morning routine journal spread

My ideal morning routine.

Step 3: Upgrade your life by making tiny changes to your current routine

Flick back to your current morning routine. Take one habit and make one small, easy change. Add it to your present routine spread. 

morning routine journal spread showing small steps to upgrade your life

Spread of how I will switch out current morning routine to ideal morning routine.

Looking at my keystone habits an easy change is moving my alarm to the other side of the room. Now I have to get out of bed, making it harder to roll back over and go on social media. That’s an improvement already because I’m automatically getting out of bed. 

You’re essentially using your journal to set goals and visually see the changes you’re making.

Keep going until your old keystone habits have been changed into positive ones that supercharge your life. You can also try tracking your habits as you go to keep up the motivation!

Keystone habits can be life-changing and identifying your current habits will help you create new and positive ones. Before you know it you’ll be climbing Mount Everest before returning to your million-dollar home. But in all seriousness, start small, one step at a time. The tiniest change can lead to ultimate keystone habits that last a lifetime.

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Emma Carey
Emma Carey
Emma Carey is a freelance blogger. She writes about mental health, personal development, and wellness. Readers relate to her life struggles while being offered practical and compassionate advice to become a better human. Emma has a passion for organization, mainly to tame her chaotic life, but also because she thoroughly enjoys pens.