Even the best kept habits require a break. Regardless of how well you think it’s working for you as a habit, it’s only when you step back from it, breaking the habit, that you can see the true impact and value of it.

If you’re like me, you’ll have tried to introduce hundreds of habits in an effort to improve your health, your career, your finances or even your relationships with people. For me some of them have truly stuck over the years. Keeping a journal is one of them and something I do on an almost daily basis. Whether it’s a family event, work or even a thought, it gets written down and saved for a future review or reflection. It took me a number of months to get this habit down on a daily basis and while I can see the benefit of it, I’ve never taken a break from it.

Last week though I decided to drop the journal tools for a few days and just enjoy the time off I had with the family. It was a real eye opener. In that time I realized that although keeping a journal is a good thing for posterity and also for remembering where I was with some work, I was missing something.

Looking back at my journal entries over the years and months, there has been a subtle trend in my journal entries. In the past I would journal once a day with a review of the day, now though I’m logging journal entries multiple times a day. Whenever I complete a bit of work, whenever I have the inkling of an idea, or even when a link catches my eye but I want don’t want to just read it later, I want to read it from a particular angle. Every day I’m working I’m writing multiple journal entries as I’m working. When the weekend rolls around, the context of my journal switches and I focus on one entry for the weekend if I did something with the family that was fun.

Before I didn’t recognize the pattern of my journal activities and how I was switching between work and family journals. Having stepped back from the habit of keeping multiple journals, I can see that the shift in change is better for me. When I read the last month’s worth of entries I found it so much easier to read the frequent updates per day rather than the single monolithic update done on a daily basis.

I also realized something else. I put too much emphasis on writing a journal entry every day when it wasn’t necessary. Having not kept a journal for the best part of a week, I can see that it’s okay to miss a few days here and there. It’s taken a break in my habits to see the true value I’m getting from keeping a journal.

Sometimes we end up switching to automatic-pilot when we habituate processes that we think will make us better people. Truth is though, we need time away, a holiday from these habits so that we can properly evaluate and review their value. Only when we can do this can we see how that habit is truly working for us.