How To Start And Keep A Journal: My Personal Entries, Techniques & Ideas

If there’s one magical tool that can transform your entire life, it’s your personal journal.

Benjamin Franklin, Marcus Aurelius, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Anaïs Nin — they all had one thing in common. They practiced the art of journaling.

Yet only a few people practice journaling because most people are unaware of the potential of it. According to PsychCentral, the benefits of journaling include clarity of thoughts and feelings, more self-awareness, stress reduction, effective problem solving, conflict resolution, and tremendous growth.

And that’s just scratching the surface. If you look deeper side effects of journaling, it can get you anything you want, heal your relationships, increase self-love, feel less overwhelmed, find your passion, become who you want to be and much more. The possibilities are endless.

Another reason most people don’t journal is that they don’t know how to journal.

While there’s no wrong way to journal, there are a few ways you can journal to make the most out of the practice.

So if you’re confused about how you should start and keep a journal, I’ve got you covered in this post.

You can use your journal for different purposes as you see fit. Here are 8 journaling ideas:

8 Journal Ideas For Writing Journal Entries

Table Of Contents
1. Journaling For Creating A Life Vision
2. Journaling For Planning
3. Journaling For Tracking
4. Journaling For Deep Thinking
5. Journaling For Managing Oneself
6. Journaling For Creative Expression
7. Journaling For Taking Notes
8. Journaling For Documenting Life

1. Journaling For Creating A Life Vision

This is where the LoA (law of attraction) comes in. Some people love it, some hate it. While I see it as a tool. It’s not a law, but it’s a method. It activates your Reticular Activating System (RAS) to look for the things you desire. The more you pay attention, the more likely you are to manifest them in your life.

To do this: Define what you want in each area of your life. The more specific you can be, the better. Then, collect as many pictures as you can that represent your dreams (the internet is your friend). Now place it all on a board or a digital journal (you can print this later). Write a few sentences about each thing you want to achieve. And finally, visualize achieving them every time you visit your life vision.

How I do it: I’ve created a digital vision board for myself with a few bullet points for each area of my life. Here, I also define the values I want to live by.

Journaling Ideas

2. Journaling For Planning

Most people don’t plan because they beat themselves up when they can’t follow their plans. But planning is more about setting intentions than it is about following the plan itself. Life isn’t perfect and you can’t follow your plan 100%. Plan to set directions and course-correct as you go.

To do this: Put weekly, monthly, yearly reminders on your calendar to review the past and plan for the future. The reminders will create a system in your life. The more systems you create in your life, the more it frees up your mental energy to focus on the things that matter. For each review, check with your previous plan and examine how you did. What went well? What didn’t go well? What lessons did you learn? What will you do to improve? While the weekly reviews can be quick, you can spend more time on the monthly reviews as you tie them down to your overall life vision.

How I do it: I’ve scheduled weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly reviews where I review the past and plan for the future. I do a little postmortem and course-correct my direction. I also plan the most important task(s) for tomorrow the night before.

How To Write A Journal

3. Journaling For Tracking 

Tell me what you’re tracking and I’ll tell you what you will achieve in the future. Tracking gives you the raw data to reflect upon. When you put in the effort to track something, you’re making sure you don’t ignore your goals. As you pay more attention to the data, you find ways to improve it. 

To do this: You can track things on the macro or micro level. Macro is the overall picture of an area of life that you can visit once in a while (maybe in your weekly or monthly reviews). Micro tracking requires more effort, and it’s best to do it daily when you’re intensely focusing on an area of your life. Examples: a) Managing finances (watching monthly statements — macro; tracking every penny — micro) b) Managing a healthy weight (watching your waistline — macro; tracking every calorie — micro)

How I do it: I use my daily success checklist and I track the data on a macro level during my weekly and monthly review. And when I’m specifically focusing on an area of life, I track it on a micro-level for some time to raise my awareness.

How To Keep A Journal
Thanks to my buddy Arthur for inspiration

4. Journaling For Deep Thinking

Deep thinking is about letting your useless thought come out first so you can reach a deeper level of thinking. A lot of times, we’re stuck in the drama of everyday life that we forget to think about what’s truly important (or useful) in life. It’s about thinking out loud on paper and coming up with great thoughts in between the useless thoughts. The point is to keep writing without stopping until you come up with better thoughts. And when you feel stuck, you can ask yourself some deep questions and answer them in your journal.

To do this: Pick a physical journal and start writing from your stream of consciousness. You can write nonsense, but you can’t stop. When you arrive at a deep thought, dig deeper as you think on paper.

How I do it: This is my favorite journaling method because it’s where the magic happens. I bring myself to a peak state and start writing from my stream of consciousness. On most days, I come up with mediocre thoughts. But then every once in a while, I get magnificent insights that make the practice worth doing every day.

Journal Ideas
I originally wrote this in my physical journal

5. Journaling For Managing Oneself

Rumination and staying in a negative state is one of the biggest problems of mankind. That’s why we need to learn and practice managing our thoughts and emotions. And journaling is one of the best ways to raise your awareness. It’s only after you become aware that you can do (or not do) something about it. But if you aren’t aware, you aren’t in control.

To do this: You can take the emotional energy you’re feeling and take it out in your journal. As you do this, re-frame it or replace it with positive vibrations. You can also write how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking in the third person to become more aware.

How I do it: First, I notice my thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Then, I re-frame or replace those negative thoughts or difficult emotions to feel vibrant again. 

Journal Ideas

6. Journaling For Creative Expression

Writers write, painters paint and singers sing. But no matter which form you take, you’re a creator as well. It’s up to you to find your creative expression. Journaling is the most accessible tool for that as it doesn’t require skill or talent to do it. 

To do this: You can express your emotions on a piece of paper through words, ideas, positive affirmations, doodles or whatever your heart wants to do in front of a blank paper.

How I do it: I do this when I’m writing an article. But when I don’t have an article to write, I could write positive affirmations or ideas down. I may even draw doodles if I feel like it.

What To Write In A Journal

7. Journaling For Taking Notes

If you want to survive in the upcoming world, becoming a lifelong learner is a must. And if you want to better comprehend what you learn, it’s best to take notes while you’re learning something. You can also use techniques like spaced repetition and active recall to remember and internalize better. 

To do this: Take notes as you learn or read. It may take more time, but active reading will help you learn much more effectively. Highlighting text is also a form of active learning. But if you want to use the power of spaced repetition and active recall, you can use Readwise to remember what you learn.

How I do it: I do it when I’m learning something or when I want to capture random thoughts.

How To Start A Journal

8. Journaling For Documenting Life

Seneca once said, “Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life”. Every day is a blessing. Set intentions each morning and reflect upon your day each evening to make the most of it. Fill each day with stories and lessons in your heroic journey as you live your epic life. As Anne Frank puts it, “If at the end of the day they were to review their own behavior and weigh up the rights and wrongs. They would automatically try to do better at the start of each new day. And after a while, would certainly accomplish a great deal.”

To do this: Start each day with intentions and end it with a story. Each day, try to get a little more aware and better.

How I do it: I start each day by writing my intentions and expressing gratitude. At the end of the day, I give each day a title and write a few lines along with it. I could write about the lessons, stories or the good things that happened that day.

Journaling Techniques

How To Start Journaling

Now I know what you’re thinking.

“How the hell do I find the time for all of it?”

It may seem daunting, but trust me, it’s easy to do it once it becomes your habit. Create systems and put reminders for the journaling techniques you want to practice.

You don’t have to set aside insane hours to do it. Start with a few minutes a day and notice the impact it has on your life.

As you start your own journaling practice, feel free to change and personalize your approach. Make it easy and simple so you can build the journaling habit.

Even if you have 2 minutes a day (1 minute in the morning and 1 minute in the evening), you can start journaling. It’s all a matter of commitment and sticking with the habit.

If you want more journaling ideas and proven frameworks to journal your way to more happiness and success, here’s a list of the best planners and journals.

How To Keep A Journal: The Bottom Line

Journaling is one of the best practical self-improvement tools to turn knowledge into wisdom and insights. It can make you calmer, healthier, wealthier, wiser and better one journal entry at a time.

You can use the journaling techniques mentioned in this post or modify them to create your own journaling method. It doesn’t take a lot of time to practice journaling, but it does take a lot of commitment as you start.

I hope you’ll pick up the journaling habit. I hope you’ll see its impact. I hope you’ll turn back pages in the future and thank yourself for starting today.

Prakhar Verma

Prakhar is the creator of Design Epic Life. His mission is to help ambitious people design their epic lives so more people can truly live before they die. Sign up to the DesignEpicLife newsletter to stay up to date!
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