The benefits of journaling are clear: peace of mind, improved mental health, focus, and productivity.
But what do you do when you don’t know what to write or where to start? If you’re anything like me, a blank journal can be pretty intimidating.
Enter: Guided Journals
Guided journals are full of prompts, structure, and direction – perfect for those not sure where to start or, like me, often overwhelmed by 150 blank pages.
Every guided journal has different benefits. Some are focused on helping you reach goals while others are aimed at improving your productivity. Some help you become more creative and others are intended to make you more mindful. Some prioritize self-improvement and mindfulness while others prioritize capturing memories.
A Blank Journal Just Doesn’t Cut It
Let’s be real, a blank journal isn’t for most people. When I first decided I wanted to start journaling, I bought a blank, lined journal from CVS (they’ve got some nice ones if you’re looking to spend less than $7.99), and I went home. I opened it up, grabbed my pen, and… nothing.
It’s tough to know what to write on a blank page!
If you can relate, don’t feel bad, and don’t beat yourself up. Just grab a guided journal to help you get those thoughts from your brain onto paper. No shame in it.
Choosing the Right Prompted Journal
But it’s really not a huge choice because – thankfully – most of these babies are under $30.
Guided journals are like your personal coaches in book form, each with its own specialty. If you’re all about getting things done, productivity journals are your go-to. They’re like your personal planners on steroids, helping you sort out your daily chaos with time management tricks and habit trackers. Want to get to know yourself better? Reflection journals are your best friends. They’re filled with questions and prompts that make you think and dig deep into your thoughts and feelings.
There are a few main types of prompted or guided journals on the market these days:
- Journals for Goal-Setting / Self-Improvement
- Journals for Mental Health, Overcoming Anxiety, and Mindfulness
- Morning or Daily Journals for Reflection / Capturing Memories
Now, if you’re into setting and smashing some big goals, self-improvement and goal-setting journals are where it’s at. Dealing with some unneeded anxiety or stress, and want to prioritize your mental health? Check out the journals that focus on mindfulness. If you’re just looking to get into the practice of journaling and make it a daily habit – check out the morning / daily journals.
So consider your journaling goals. If you don’t need all the guidance, you may be better served by a blank journal for writing. Or if you’re focused on gratitude, check out these awesome gratitude journals. And if you want to be more organized, try bullet journaling.
Our Favorite Guided Journals for Self-Improvement, Growth, and Goal-Setting
The Best Self Journal has exploded onto the guided journal scene in recent years. It's expertly crafted ("backed by both science and psychology") to help you prioritize goals, achieve what matters, and well, become your best self. It's beautifully structured to help you accomplish the most important things in your life.
Best Thing About It: I've used this journal for two 13 week rounds, and two things stand out: First, the science and psychology around their goal setting structure is brilliant. A master class in goal setting. Second, the structure. It's perfectly structured for everything you need in a daily journal: gratitude, goals, reflections, calendar, and a small section for free-form drawing or doodling. This guided journal is the real deal – especially for those ready to check off some serious goals.
Two journals on the same best-of list?! The crew at BestSelf really know their stuff when it comes to guided journals. Their Core Values Journal is a research-based 13-week guided journey to discovering your core values.
Best Thing About It: I've used a lot of journals, and I've never used one quite like this. The prompts here are second to none if you're trying to get your life into alignment and nail down your core values. It's really something.
This is a super detailed guided journal focused on setting and achieving goals over the course of the year. It asks weekly about milestones, accomplishments, and failures on your journey to achieving your goals. It includes some unique prompts around self-assessment, doubt, and emotions.
Best Thing About It: This journal really encourages you to set and chase big dreams. If you need a kick in the pants this year to really go after that thing on your to-do list, this journal will help!
A growth mindset (Google it if you're not familiar, shoutout Carol Dweck) is crucial for any kind of self-growth or self-improvement, and instilling that mindset starts early. This journal gives boys the tools to develop a growth mindset for themselves. It's got daily prompts, challenges, and inspiring quotes. It's a really great tool for young people. (There's also a Growth Mindest Journal for girls.)
Our Favorite Prompted Journals for Mental Health, Overcoming Anxiety, and Mindfulness
The Five Minute Journal is the easiest way to start your day on the right foot. Its daily prompts include: gratitude, prioritizing your day, 3 amazing things, inspiring quotes, daily affirmation, end of day self reflection. There’s a reason it’s one of the best sellers across the web.
Best Thing About It: My favorite thing about the Morning Sidekick is the consistent structure, and the fact that it truly only takes five minutes each morning. It’s no doubt one of the best guided journals on the market for daily reflection, gratitude, and productivity.
One Line a Day is a FIVE YEAR journal of – you guessed it – one line a day. Each page asks one question and contains 5 lines for answering year after year, allowing you to reflect on change and progress. No need to spend an hour each day reflecting, just a few sentences will do the trick.
Best Thing About It: I think the best thing about the One Line a Day journal is the fact that you get to watch yourself change and make progress over time. The next best thing is that it’s the perfect journal for someone who can’t seem to get into journaling. One line a day makes it super approachable and really easy to develop the habit.
Getting to Good is a “road map to feeling better, happier, and more present with proven-effective therapeutic exercises and journaling prompts.” It will help you let go of bad thoughts, increase positivity, and live a more joy-filled life. The prompts in here are truly helpful.
Best Thing About It: It has some unique prompts – one is a weekly review of the best thing that happened in each day. A close second is the fact that the creator is a PhD. She knows her stuff.
This journal is hilarious. Ever felt thrown off by all the zen, quite meditation, and koom-ba-yah of journaling? This journal is probably for you. Monica Sweeney shoots you straight. And curses. A lot. Each day looks a little different, with some pages dedicated to coloring unicorns and others full of nothing so you can get out what you need.
Best Thing About It: The best thing about this journal is really plan: it cuts through a lot of the sh*t of the self care industry. The second best thing is the variety. I don’t think any two days are the same. I think the unpredictability is a really great way to start your day.
Note: There's some cursing in this one. Don't gift it to your 11 year old neice.
This journal is full of really thought-provoking and introspective prompts. I'll be honest, I didn't quite finish the whole thing last year – but I did pick it up now and then for some zen and peace. The questions are full of depth and do a great job of building mindfulness.
Best Thing About It: The best thing about this is that it was written by a Zen expert, Bonnie Myotai Treace. You can tell she knows a thing or two about zen and peace.
Our Favorite Daily and Morning Journals
The Morning Sidekick Journal is the perfect guided journal for owning your mornings and building a habit of waking up early. Own the morning and win the day, right? Each morning, it guides you through helpful content, planning your morning, and visualizing your day.
Best Thing About It: My favorite thing about the Morning Sidekick is the daily content. Each day is full of expert tips, actionable strategies, daily challenges, affirmations, links to awesome videos, podcasts, and more – all around building habits that last. It also helps you set metrics to track your progress and keeps up with streaks to build momentum.
Last note: Morning Sidekick has a whole line of journals designed to help you build certain habits or improve in certain areas. This is the only one I've used, but if the others are anything like it, they're dope.
The All About Me journal has been on the market for over twenty years now. It’s a timeless classic – but it has been updated in the last few years. The journal literally guides you all the way through your life. Each page is a checklist, question, or set of questions about you. If you’re on a self discovery or self actualization journey – or you’d just like to document how you recently decorated with rubber duckie bathroom accessories – this journal is for you.
Best Thing About It: I love how thorough this journal is. The book really does cover EVERYTHING about you. From likes and dislikes to views and beliefs and from values and principles to experiences and memories. It has it all.
Similar to the one line a day journal, this is another simple guided journal that asks one question each day, to be answered on the same day for five years in a row. It's a really creative way to both self-reflect and watch as your thoughts and perspectives change over the years.
Best Thing About It: It literally gives you a snapshot of your inner life (and inner growth) – and for just a few minutes each day.
Our Favorite Journals for Men
Okay okay, this is more of a planner – but still a journal. It's perfect for men who want to live a more productive life. This planner includes daily / monthly goals, inspirational quotes, a section for morning gratitude, a habit tracker, space for self-reflection, and a whole lot more. True to planners, it also has an undated monthly calendar and a daily schedule.
This is a guided journal focused on building gratitude and mindfulness. A bulk of its pages are for daily gratitude – just a few lines you can use to jot down things you're thankful for. The rest of the journal is full of more specific guided prompts, organized by topics like meditation, volunteering, relationships, and more.
Our Favorite Journals for Women
This journal is a companion to Michelle Obama's memoir – and it's awesome. This journal is really about capturing your voice and taking note of your journey. It will make you feel thankful for the experiences that led you here today and empowered to keep taking steps forward. It's a really special journal.
Best Thing About It: Michelle Obama, right?
This journal is full of five months of journal entries that you can tackle at your own pace. It includes 30-day reflections, daily gratitude, and affirmations / quotes to inspire your practice. It's beautifully designed and made from high-quality materials. Pages are 85gsm which isn't as thick as they come, but good enough!
This isn't the most popular journal on the market, but it's a great one. It's got 150 undated prompts focused on self-care and self-love. One thing I love about it is that it's written by mental health expert Judith Belmont, so each prompt is backed by science and years of experience walking with people through personal, emotional, and workplace-related situations.
8 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Guided Journaling
Buying your journal is just the starting point. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your new guided journal:
- Set a Regular Schedule: Consistency is key. Try to journal at the same time each day, whether it’s first thing in the morning or right before bed.
- Find a Comfortable Spot: Choose a place where you feel relaxed and undisturbed. It could be a cozy corner in your home, a park bench, or your favorite café.
- Be Honest with Yourself: The journal is your private space. Be as open and honest as you can in your responses.
- Use the Prompts as Starting Points: Feel free to expand beyond the given prompts. If a prompt leads you to a different thought or memory, explore it.
- Don’t Rush It: Take your time with each prompt. Reflect on your thoughts and feelings before jotting them down.
- Reflect on Past Entries: Regularly look back at your previous entries. This can help you see your growth over time and provide new insights. And many of the journals above will encourage it.
- Set Goals and Review Them: If your journal is goal-oriented, regularly review and update your goals. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small.
- Keep It Private or Share When Ready: Your journal is your personal space. You decide if you want to keep it private or share parts of it with others. Sharing can be a way to connect and get support, but it’s entirely up to you.
How We Evaluated and Chose These Journals
Our criteria for choosing this list of journals is primarily based on first-hand experience. I (Brooks) have spent a lot of time with journals, and have – at minimum – poked through the majority of the journals on this list. I’ve worked all the way through our top few picks, I own 3 others that I’ve occasionally written in, and for the others – I’ve relied on reviews from verified customers on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
That said, I’ll admit I have not used every single guided journal that’s out there on the market. Which shouldn’t surprise you. So if there’s a really great journal that I missed, please let me know! Contact info is in the footer!