Do you journal? What do you like the most about the activity? And how many journaling techniques are you familiar with?
Journaling can mean different things to different people. It can be used to improve your mental wellness, productivity, or act as a window into facets of your personality that have yet to be discovered.
An understanding of different journaling techniques is beneficial in several ways. It keeps your diary writing habit from getting stale, and it can provide lots of fun and stimulation if you’d like to try something new.
Remember that there’s no right or “only one true” way on how to journal. It’s a highly personal, introspective activity that can take different forms or purposes throughout your life.
Here at OLD, we’ve featured many experts and bloggers who’ve shared why they journal and what they do to maximize their efforts. Their journaling techniques on how you can do more effective journaling are included below.
One of these tips might give you your next big idea the next time you journal! 📝
Grab our journaling worksheet featuring templates from Optimal Living Daily episodes!
1. Leo Babauta: “3 Journal Rules”
Leo Babauta wanted to streamline his journaling process to make sure he turned up for the task.
To stay on track, here are three rules that he followed:
1. Write a small number of bullet points instead of long paragraphs.
2. Place your journal in a spot that you can visibly see it. It’s easy to forget about it when your journal is lost amid stacks of books, clothes, or hidden away in a drawer out of sight.
3. Journal regularly — try not to go more than a couple of days without writing in your journal.
2. Michael Mehlberg: “Discovery Journal”
Michael Mehlberg’s approach to journaling involves dividing it into a simple question and answer format.
The purpose? To rediscover a sense of wonder through experiencing and looking at life with a fresh perspective.
Whether you approach journaling through pen and paper, or digitally, Michael recommends that you think of your own answers to questions that you write down (i.e. don’t link to an online article which gives the answer — formulate it on your own for deeper understanding and learning).
3. Steve Pavlina: “Journaling for Problem-Solving”
Steve Pavlina considers journaling to be one of the most powerful tools you can use for self development.
While many people use a journal to record thoughts and emotions, Steve approaches it primarily as a means for problem solving. Writing five to ten journal entries per month helps him to explore complex situations and find clarity in the process.
It’s a systematic way to help improve your mental discipline.
4. Cal Newport: “Bullet Journal Pro”
Cal Newport shares his thoughts on what a BuJoPro version might look like. (BuJo stands for “bullet journal” in terms of lingo.)
A BuJoPro approach marries the simplicity of traditional BuJo, with its bulleted list of tasks, with the complex pace of modern jobs.
For example, weekly plans, blocking out time daily for specific tasks, and tracking deep work hours are some ways to upgrade a basic bullet journal if you’d like to use it to increase your productivity.
5. Neghar Fonooni: “5-Minute Holistic Journaling”
If you’re perpetually short on time and seeking to journal as a way to improve your mental and emotional health, Neghar Fonooni's approach might be something that works for you.
Best of all, it takes just five minutes.
Neghar divides her journal entry for the day into the following sections:
- Emotional State
- Physical Check-in
- Actions (one or two actions you can take to improve how you feel)
- Intentions (what you want to manifest or release from your life)
- Gratitude (list a few things you’re grateful for to end your journal entry on a positive, uplifting note)
These few minutes spent daily on being aware with your thoughts and feelings can make a huge difference in your energy levels.
6. Benjamin Hardy: “Means. vs. Ends”
Benjamin Hardy writes about the many ways journaling can change your life.
One way to journal is to focus on your end goals. End goals answer the “why” behind the goals that you set.
Getting a good job is a means goal, whereas getting a good job to be able to better provide for your family is an end goal.
Knowing that difference can be crucial with what you choose to focus on to derive a deep sense of meaning and purpose.
7. Jennifer of Simply Fiercely: “Journaling is about Self-Awareness”
Jennifer defines journaling simply: it’s all about self-awareness and is a powerful tool for your self-care.
If you’re periodically hard on yourself for mistakes you’ve made in the past, journaling is a wonderful way to explore self-forgiveness.
Jennifer’s tip is to write about it and think about it from a third person perspective. What advice or feedback would you give to a friend if they were the ones who told you about these bad experiences?
8. Kristine Klussman: “Journal to Deepen Your Self-Connection”
For Kristine Klussman, journaling deepens experiences — including your sense of connection to yourself.
One way to amplify the meaning in your daily activities is to journal in the evening. Spend a bit of time reflecting on the most meaningful activities during the day.
Recalling experiences helps you to relieve them, which influences your mind to release chemicals associated with positive experiences. You can improve your mental and emotional state simply by focusing on positivity.
9. Brain Tracy: “SMART Goals Journal”
A SMART goal is a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Brian Tracy says that setting goals is just half of the picture, with the achievement of them being the part that many people struggle with.
Using a SMART goals journal helps you stay organized and motivated. Writing down your thoughts, dreams, and progress in a journal serve as motivation, especially when you do this diligently and take daily action to make achieving your goals a reality.
10. Courtney Carver: “Journaling Prompts for Morning and Evening”
Do you have a different method for journaling in the morning versus evening?
Courtney Carver shares a list of morning and evening writing prompts in her post, Journaling Prompts to Relieve Stress (10 for Morning + 10 for Evening).
- Morning Prompt #9: Make a list of ten things you can do to take really good care of yourself today.
- Evening Prompt #2: Write about the most peaceful place you’ve ever visited or heard about.
Instead of ignoring your problems, journaling is a simple way to handle stress in a thoughtful, effective and budget-friendly way.