So you want to get into journaling, but you aren’t sure where to start.
I get it. My journey started six or seven years ago after listening to a podcast. The guest said that journaling is the single most impactful habit in his life – and I wanted to be like this guy.
So I said, “Sweet, let’s do it.”
But where to start? Do I just start writing?
That was an option, but I wanted to know all my options. Should I follow some prompts? If so, what kind? Should I check out this bullet journaling thing I’ve heard lots about?
Well, it depended for me, and it depends for you, too.
What Are Your Goals for Journaling?
First let’s address why you’re journaling. We do this in more detail in How to Get Started Journaling, but here’s a primer.
There are a handful of goals you might be after in journaling:
- Mindfulness and Self Awareness
- Reduced Stress / Anxiety
- Organization and Structure
- You want to achieve a specific goal or grow in a certain area
- You want to document your life
- You want to get better at writing
You can certainly have multiple goals and there are plenty of other reasons you might want to pick up journaling. But note which resonate with you most – it will help you pick a type of journaling to start with.
What Are the Types of Journaling?
To help you get started, we’re going to walk through the basics, the benefits, and the best journals for each type of journaling:
- Stream of Consciousness Journaling
- Gratitude Journaling
- Bullet Journaling
- Guided Journaling
- Theme / Goal-Based Journaling
- Visual / Artistic Journaling
- Memoir Journaling
Stream of Consciousness Journaling
Though it’s the simplest form of journaling, it can be difficult to get started with. Staring at a blank page can be intimidating. But once you get rolling, stream of consciousness journaling can be one of the most beneficial types.
It works just like it sounds: you pick up a pen and journal (it can even be a blank piece of paper) and you start writing.
You don’t think about what you’re writing. You just write.
And it doesn’t matter what you write. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be formatted or pretty. Just write whatever comes to mind.
When you start writing in a stream of consciousness journal, you don’t stop until the words stop flowing. This can lead to some really long entries, but the point is to get out whatever is on your mind, whether it makes sense or not.
Once you’ve cleared your mind, you can look back and get a feel for what’s going on in your mind. Look back over weeks and months to identify patterns in your thought life.
Benefits of Stream of Consciousness Journaling
- Clear your mind. One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to clear your head and visualize your thoughts on paper. This is what stream of consciousness journaling is all about.
- Process events. Michael Hyatt says “What happens to us is not as important as the meaning we assign to it. Journaling helps sort this out.”
- Make better decisions. This type of journaling is a great way to make big decisions. As you’re journaling, you’ll start to see pros and cons appear to help you make big decisions.
- Become more self aware. As you begin to look back through your posts, you’ll learn more about yourself, your leanings, triggers, emotional swings, and much more.
Best Journals for Stream of Consciousness Journaling
Gratitude journaling is a great way to – you guessed it – grow in gratitude. It’s also one of the easiest types of journaling to get started with, since you have a built-in prompt that never changes.
Most people start gratitude journaling by jotting down between three and five things you’re grateful for in your life. The goal should be to be as specific as possible.
After you write down your three things, you can freestyle a bit. Write about how those things make you feel, how they impact your life, or how you came to be grateful for them. You can also reflect on areas of your life you need to increase your gratitude.
The idea is to get into the habit of being grateful, and being thankful for the good things in your life.
Benefits of Gratitude Journaling
- Increase your gratitude. No surprise here, gratitude journaling helps you to become more grateful. It’s one of the most impactful gratitude practices there is.
- Lower stress. Not only will gratitude journaling lower your stress and improve your mood, it may improve your physical health as well.
Best Journals for Gratitude Journaling
You can just use any of the blank, lined journals above, or you can check out a guided gratitude journal with daily prompts:
Bullet journaling is a very systematized type of journaling. It’s a great way to keep track of your daily life, your goals, and your schedule.
Bullet journaling follows a system of taking notes called “Rapid Journaling.” By using symbols, you can forego having to write out directives like “don’t forget to ____ by the end of the day” or “you need to be in ____ by 5pm on Saturday for the event.”
The idea is that you can use your bullet journal to keep track of everything from your daily schedule to your goals and even your daily tasks – much more efficiently than just jotting everything down as it comes to you.
Benefits of Bullet Journaling
- Keep track of everything. As you can see in the image above, there are tons of different sections you can set up in your bullet journal. Some people even set up their own sections for specific goals or projects. This is a great way to keep track of everything from tasks to schedules to ideas.
- Manage your time. One of the most important aspects of bullet journaling is time management. If you’re trying to use it as a daily planner, it can help you keep track of how much time you spend on different things throughout the day. If you’re trying to use it as a planner for a specific project, it can help you stay on track with that project and make sure that it gets done on time.
- Track habits and goals. This is one of the biggest benefits of bullet journaling – it helps you stay accountable for the things that matter most to you. You can set up specific sections for specific goals or habits, and then you can keep track of whether or not you’re doing them every day.
Best Journals for Bullet Journaling
Most bullet journalers prefer to use dotted journals, but you could probably also get started with a lined journal. Here are some of the best dotted journals on the market:
- Lemome Corked Eco Friendly Dotted Journal ($13)
- Jumping Fox Dotted Journal ($18)
- Moleskine Dotted Journal ($17)
- Minimalism Art Dotted Journal ($9)
Guided journaling simply refers to using a journal with prompts. It’s a broad category of journaling.
These journals can be set up in a variety of ways, but they all have prompts and exercises to help you get the most out of your journaling. Some help with building habits, others are for self reflection or discovery. Some guided journals come with pre-written prompts. Others have blank pages for you to fill in.
The idea is that by following the prompts, you’ll get the most out of your journaling experience.
Benefits of Guided Journaling
- Helps you get started with journaling. Guided journals are a great way to get started with journaling because they give you a structure to follow and prompts to answer. This can help you get used to writing every day, and can help you see how beneficial journaling can be.
- Great way to start a new habit. As with any type of journaling, using a guided journal can help you start a new habit. If you pick a guided journal that’s focused on something specific (like gratitude or mindfulness), it can help you focus on that specific thing and keep track of your progress on it.
- Get organized. Guided journals are also great if you want to use them as daily planners or organizers. Some of them have space for different tasks or appointments every day, while others have room for long-term planning or goal setting.
Best Journals for Guided Journaling
Theme or Goal Based Journaling
Theme or goal based journaling is a great way to use journaling to help you achieve a specific goal. You might also call this an intention journal.
The idea is that you have a specific goal or area you want to grow. You set a specific goal for your journaling, then you use your journal to help you achieve that goal.
For example, let’s say you want to lose weight. You can buy a blank journal, write your goals on page one, and journal about your progress each day. You could also buy a guided journal designed specifically to help you lose weight.
Another example – let’s say you want to grow more empathetic. You buy a blank journal, jot down some goals, and record your journey to empathy. The daily discipline will keep you mindful of your goal and help you process how you’re growing.
Benefits of Goal Based Journaling
- Set Goals. One of the best things about theme or goal based journaling is that it helps you set specific goals. Rather than just writing down everything that comes to mind, you can use theme or goal based journaling to set specific goals for yourself and then use your journal to help you achieve them.
- Stay focused. It’s easy to lose focus on your goals and dreams. This type of journaling keeps you aware of them and accountable to yourself.
- Keep track of your progress. One of the big benefits of theme or goal based journaling is that it helps you see your progress and helps you see how far you’ve come. This can keep you motivated when you’re struggling to reach your goals.
Best Journals for Goal Based Journaling
Visual / Art Journaling Journaling
Visual or art journaling is a great way to get started with journaling if you want to incorporate some art into your journaling, or you’re looking to grow artistically.
The idea is that you incorporate something visual into your journaling. This can be a sketch, a doodle, a collage, a watercolor, an oil painting – anything visual. You can even include photography or videos.
One of the best things about visual journaling is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be an artist – you just have to use art to express yourself.
Benefits of Art or Visual Journaling
- Improve artistically. If you have an artistic bent, this is a great way to get started with journaling. It’s a fun way to express yourself and it can be very therapeutic.
- Express your creativity. Art is a great way to express yourself, but it’s also a great way to relieve stress and tension. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or you’re having a hard time
Memoir Journaling is all about chronicling your life – usually so that you can have something to look back on. It’s a great way to record your life in a way that you’ll be proud to read later. It’s probably the closest thing to keeping a diary (of the journaling types we’re covering here).
It can be difficult to look back at your life and pinpoint the important moments, but with a memoir journal, you can use your journal to do just that.
Benefits of Memoir Journaling
- Capture important events. It can be easy to forget the details of an event, but if you take notes in your journal, you’ll be able to look back and remember all the important details.
- Keep track of your life. Memoir journaling is a great way to look back at your life and see what you’ve accomplished so far.
- Reflect on impactful moments. Sometimes catalytic events take place, but we just let them go by. Memoir journaling helps you reflect on the moments that shape us.
Best Journals for Memoir Journaling
- If you just want to use a blank journal, try Lemome’s Corked Eco Friendly Notebook or the Rhodia Webnotebook
- If you need some guidance, check out One Line a Day or The Book of Me
Don’t Stress Over Your Choice
Listen, most of the benefits you receive from journaling will come by just getting started. If you’re having trouble picking a type, I’d suggest going with stream of consciousness journaling or picking up the 5 Minute Journal for some guidance.
Here’s to your journaling journey.