You want to journal, but the thought of keeping a daily record of your life seems daunting. You’ve heard about micro journaling and bullet journaling, but can they hold all the ideas and feelings bursting from your soul? Or, heck, maybe you just want to doodle, post pictures, or make a collage of stickers to express your creative side.
Good news! No matter your goal, you can find a way to keep a journal that works for you.
How to decide
Before the writing starts, you need to pick the best
method for you. As you explore your inner muse, stay flexible. Don’t hold
yourself to your first or second choice. Give yourself two weeks with whatever
you try, but if it doesn’t feel right, try something else.
Things to consider
When you journal, what do you want from the experience? Do you have some trauma or a deep-seated hurt that you need to work through? Do you just want a quick memory of the day’s high points?
“If you simply want a record of what your day to day life looks like, no need to spend thirty minutes journaling before bed,” Nicole Gulotta says. “If you’re sorting through difficult circumstances, pay attention to your dreams.”
Types of journals
The Classic Journal
Most of us think of this when we think of a journal. The dear-diary style uses long paragraphs and in-depth explorations of what you have on your mind. Or it can follow your churning mind, raw, unedited, and unfettered. You chase your thoughts down rabbit holes and through the dark tunnels of your mind.
While the classic journal makes a good therapist, friend, and shoulder to cry on, don’t make the mistake of using it only as a sounding board for the negative. Write about the happy times, too. Describe the happy times in detail. Describe your emotions and the way you felt using all five senses. Draw a word picture that brings those feelings flooding back any time you read the entry.
You can even write a bland entry about not feeling it that day. The lack of feeling and drive can speak as strongly as sadness or joy.
One Line a Day
From three words to three sentences, you decide the length of the line. From something as simple as Got the job! to The day started rough. A flat tire made me late, and I got in trouble, this style uses a few words like little sticks of dynamite to open the dam holding the experiences of the day and send all the joy, sadness, or irritation of the event flooding back.
“For anyone who hasn’t journaled in years and needs a low barrier to entry, these journals are also easy to maintain and form habits around,” Nicole says.
Short, sweet, and to the point, this method works well for those with limited time or no real desire to write, but it can fall short on feelings, especially before you develop the skill of writing tight.
Nicole describes this as “a to-do list, diary, notebook, and sketchbook, all in one.”
Like the name says, you write your entries as a list of bullet points. It works well with micro journals, with entries like:
- Tried the calamari. Yuck!
- Cried remembering my grandma
- Sore from workout
Or you can use it to make you feel good about what you have accomplished in a busy world that can leave feeling like nothing ever gets done:
- Folded laundry
- Cooked dinner
- Walked dog
Think of this one a bit like a company’s vision statement. A vision journal takes this idea one step further, Nicole says.
Kayla Hollatz explains that a vision journal helps you set intentions, track your goals, and break them down into daily action steps.
“While the journal focuses on outcomes, it does so in a nurturing way.”
“In a dream state, your mind creates new neural pathways and connects ideas in different ways, handy for enhancing creativity and problem-solving skills,” Nicole says.
Writing down your dreams gives you insight into the things weighing on your mind and can add clarity to issues and allow you to find patterns to your happiness, stress, and sadness.
Keep a pen and paper or your phone and favorite app handy for this style.
“If you’re unable to recall your dreams within the first 90 seconds after waking up, the memory will likely be gone after breakfast.”
Which one will work best for you?
The best journal for you depends on your style and personality. Emily
Baseman provides a little insight into some of the different methods of
For the Processor
If you need time to think about how you feel and process it, a classic journal will probably work best for you. It gives you the space you need to work through things, follow stray thoughts, and ramble. You can write one sentence or dozens of pages. It doesn’t require you to stay on point. In fact, the classic journal encourages mental wandering if you need it.
For the Storyteller
If you like to tell tales and express your life as a story, consider video journaling. Sit down in front of your computer or phone with your camera on and tell your day’s story. On your phone, the camera app usually has a button for photos and another to record. If you don’t have the right software on your computer, OBS Studio
provides a free piece of software for video blogs and journals. Once you have a
few entries, you can make them into a movie using an editor like iMovie.
For the List Maker
If you feel most comfortable with lists, go for the bullet journal. It’s as simple as making a shopping list but records the high (or low) points of your day.
For the Busy Bee
Here, you have a few options:
The Gratitude Journal
List three to five things you feel grateful for and make them specific, Emily says.
“For example, instead of being thankful for your sister,
list that you’re thankful that she made you smile with a fun text on that day.”
One Line a Day Journaling
“That’s it! Write one sentence each day about what happened, how you felt, and/or what you observed,” Emily says.
She recommends doing this at the same time each day to build the habit.
Jot down your intentions for the day the first thing in the morning. “This type of journaling helps get you in the mindset to crush the day without overtaking your time.
Just do it!
Don’t agonize too much over which method will work best for you. Make your best guess and try one. Give it about two weeks for a fair evaluation, but change any time if you don’t like it. Try a couple at once. Maybe you need to vent and explore something one day, but just want to jot a line about last night on the next. Do what works for you.
Follow Nicole’s advice and, “Make it so easy you can’t say no.”