Journaling is about a lot more than keeping a diary. Journals can help you get—and stay—organized, help you track your spending, map your progress toward a goal, or stay on top of your daily tasks and assignments. According to an article in Psychology Today, journaling can improve mental and physical health. In one study cited by the article, patients with rheumatoid arthritis who journaled for just 20 minutes a day experienced improved health in just four months. From developing an attitude of gratitude and living mindfully to keeping track of your daily spending, journaling pays off in surprising ways.
Whatever your reason for starting a journal, it’s a lot easier to think about doing it than it is to actually start keeping a journal and then stick to it. These tips can help you get journaling off your mind and onto your daily calendar with a minimum of effort.
Choose the Right Journal
One of the most important factors in actually using a journal is—go figure—the journal itself. There are dozens of different types of journals available, from simple assignment agendas to complicated multipurpose journals that help you create a roadmap for your entire life. The first step in getting started is finding a journal that fits your needs.
What Do You Want to Accomplish With Your Journaling? Consider what you actually want to do with your journal, and pick one that’s designed for that task.
- If your purpose is tracking your spending, consider a budget planner to help you set your budget goals and track your progress toward them.
- Do you just want to write down your thoughts? A lined notebook with a fancy cover—and refillable pages—may be perfect for you.
- Do you like to color outside the lines? If you’re looking for total freedom, you might be happiest with a small sketchbook with unlined pages and a hard cover that you can fill with whatever your heart desires.
- Goal-setting/productivity planners are designed to help you define your goals, make a plan to reach them, and track your progress. They include all sorts of bells and whistles, different types of pages, and exercises to help you decide where you want to go with your life.
Where Will You Use Your Journal? If you want to journal on the go, choose a pocket notebook, like a Moleskine Cahier, that you can tuck into a pocket or purse. If you’re planning to start a daily journaling habit for focus, a journal with prompts and inspirational quotes can help reinforce the ritual and get you in the right mood to write down your thoughts.
Start With a Small Commitment
The idea of keeping a journal every day for a year or the rest of your life can be intimidating. Take some of the stress off by making a smaller commitment. You’ll find dozens of journaling challenges online that can help get you started. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Seven days of prompts toward self discovery
- 10 days of self love
- 14-day gratitude journal challenge
- 30-day budget challenge
Pick the Best Time for You
Pick a time of day to write in your journal, and make it part of your daily habit. There are benefits to both morning and evening journaling habits. If you’re journaling as a planning or productivity tool, journaling first thing in the morning lets you start your day off with a fresh to-do list and feel accomplished when you check off “make a to-do list” off your list immediately. If you’re journaling for reflection, evening allows you to look back over the day and put things to rest before bed. Whichever you pick, stick to it for a while to see how it works for you.
Use Journaling Prompts to Get Started
Not sure what to write about? Here are some favorite places to find journal prompts.
- There’s an app for that: Penzu is a free journaling app that provides daily prompts. You can journal online, but you don’t have to.
- Daily journal prompts from Quo Vadis
- Journaling prompts for anxiety
Be Gentle With Yourself
You will miss days. Accept it, forgive yourself, and start again. You’re not perfect, and you don’t have to be.
Just for Fun—Journaling Accessories You’ll Love
Journaling is more than writing down your thoughts. More and more, it’s a creative pursuit of its own—and there are journaling accessories that can support your creativity and make it more fun to keep track of your thoughts, challenges, and accomplishments.
- Gel pens for colorful journaling (you can color-code your entries or freestyle just for fun)
- Colored highlighters to help organize entries
- Washi tape to decorate pages and edges
- Planner stickers with inspirational quotes, holiday reminders, and more
Make it easy on yourself with an all-in-one journaling kit from Tophatter.
Taking the leap to actually writing in your journal can be intimidating, but you’ve got this. Find the right journal and stock up on some fun journaling accessories, then dive in and start recording your thoughts, plans, and accomplishments. You’ll really appreciate your work when you sit down with your planner to reflect on your journey.
Shop your journal needs here:
- Budget planner
- Lined notebook
- Sketchbook with unlined pages
- Goal-setting/productivity planners
- Pocket notebook
- Journal with prompts
- Gel pens
- Colored highlighters
- Washi tape
- Planner stickers
- All-in-one journaling kit
Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer who specializes in home, education, and lifestyle topics. She draws on her experiences as a teacher, mother, grandmother, and all-around creative spirit to help others achieve their own goals.