July 13, 2022

13 Reasons Why.... You should use lists in your journal

And a few tips to make list-making feel easier!

The are no "rules" in journaling, but if there was to be a rule, it would be to "date every entry.

This morning,  I sat down to do my morning pages (which is three pages of long-hand stream of consciousness writing as recommended in The Artists Way by Julia Cameron), but when I wrote out the date....


 my first stream of consciousness thought was that my attention was drawn to the number


13 Reasons is what I wrote at the top of the page.  My mind was drawn back to that show 13 Reason Why that was popular on Netflix a few years back. 

And so instead of the traditional morning pages, I had an idea to use today's date as a journal exercise.

How could I use today's date as inspiration for my writing practice????

13 Reasons....

13 Lessons...

13 Things...


List-making is a popular journaling intervention.  It is really good for brainstorming.  It can help you  get really creative about ways to solve a problem or help you get past a mental block. You can make a list about anything!

I learned about list-making as a journaling intervention from Kay Adams, founder of the Therapuetic Writing Institute and creator of the journaling course, Journal to the Self (which I am certified to teach....learn more here).  It's not rocket-science though - everyone makes lists. You can even make a list about lists.  (There's lots of them out there if you google it!)

A List About Things to Write a List About
  1. Ways to make money
  2. Ways to Save money
  3. Things to write about
  4. People I am grateful for
  5.  Places I want to go on vacation
  6. etc...

The most helpful tip about list-making in your journal is to NUMBER FIRST.   You don't want to writing numbers to take away from the mental sprint of jotting down your ideas.

Write the numbers down first. THEN go back and fill out the list. *In general, write more numbers that you think you will need.  30, 50, 100!




Jen Taylor

13 Reasons to Blog More Often

What I settled on was a list about 13 Reasons to publish blogs DAILY.

Even as I wrote it, I thought "boy, that feels impossible. I don't even know if I WANT to do that."  Nonetheless, the list:

  1. I will get better at blog writing.
  2. I can finish ideas I have.
  3. I never know what will be popular.
  4. I like writing.
  5. It is a challenge.
  6. I have never done it before.
  7. It's hard.
  8. I would fail faster (failing faster is a topic for another blog)
  9. My blogs might get noticed.
  10. I will have more blogs on my website.
  11. There really is no reason to do this.
  12. Other people blog daily. 
  13. I am writer. 

Review the list

You might notice a few trends in your lists:

The obvious:  
  • The first few items are typically things that you think all the time.  Get those out of the way fast!
The should's:  
  • Some of the list might be things OTHER people have told you, the things you are "supposed to do" or that you feel obligated to do/try, etc.
The random: 
  • Some of the things seem like they come out of left field. They are totally random and unexpected.  Notice that.  These are probably worth a closer look - what is it about this random idea that has merit? The longer your list, the more likely you are to throw these things in (and they usually come in towards the end...pay attention to the last third of your list).
The repeats: 
  • It is 100% okay to repeat things on the list.  Notice what keeps popping up or is a variation on the same idea.  These patterns have meaning that you can think about more later. 

As I look at my list of 13 things, what stands out to me are  

"It's hard.  There is no reason to do this. It would be a challenge."

As I think about those three reasons, I find myself considering the idea - do I accept the challenge?  

The thought seemed ridiculous when I started the list, but now....what I notice is that I might do it just to say I did it - 

Journal Exercise: Today's Date + Reasons To

I wrote this blog on July 13th.  You might be reading it on ANY other day of the month.  

Just take the numbers in the date and turn that into your list for today.

*Note, if the date is a small number, get creative and add the numbers together until you get a total that feels inspiring. 

For example, January 1, 2023, might easily turn into 1+1+23= 25 Reasons...

Number your page from 1 to 13 (or 25 or whatever number you have chosen). 

Choose a topic for your list. 

Start writing anything and everything that comes to mind. 

Don't worry about repeats.

After you have finished the list, go back and review the findings.  What is obvious? What are the should's? What is unexpected?  What comes up more than once?

Just notice those things. 

How did this work for you? 

What do you notice about your list?  Is there anything there that  you find helpful or interesting??

Let me know if these techniques worked for you by leaving a comment below. 

If you found this helpful, subscribe to the journaling mailing list for more tips and prompts and get another simple, but effective technique that will help you get the most out of every month of the year. 

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About the Author

Jen Taylor, LCSW-C, RPT-S is an EMDR Approved Consultant and Certified Journal to the Self Instructor.  She is a therapist specializing in complex trauma, an international play therapy teacher and a published writer of multiple play therapy chapters.  Jen is the creator of the original 2017 Play Therapy Summit and many other innovative programs for mental health professionals.  Jen uses writing therapy, play therapy and expressive arts for her clients and for other mental health professionals so they can lead more joyful and meaningful lives.  Jen encourages people to try new things and create daily habits that allow for incremental progress towards previously unimaginable results.   Jen is a travel enthusiast, an avid reader, and a girl who lifts weights and runs for fun.  

  • SUCH great ideas! And a good call to number the list first. I get side-tracked by small things like that and it can really easily derail my train of thought.

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