Best starter guide to journaling ...?

I see lots of people talking about the benefits of journaling, the best app for journaling, etc., but I haven’t seen any good recommendations for how to start journaling.

Any books / courses / guides y’all recommend?

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I think a good starting place is this MPU episode.

When I got started, the Day One blog had a bunch of good “How I journal” entries. For example, this one by Shawn Blanc.

Lots of good entries from their blog.

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This Zine:

This guy named @mikeschmitz has a course called Journaling Bootcamp. Cheap at 17 bucks, if you ask me. I did it maybe three years ago and found it pretty useful.


Just try deciding to write ONE sentence. In all likelihood, you’ll want to write more once you get started. I love to write but it works for me if I don’t have any grand expectations.


Indeed, sometimes even one word will do - the most important thing is to get it going until daily journaling becomes a habit. After that one can start to put more thoughts into journaling, e.g. intentions/purpose, and design the workflow accordingly (e.g. templates, journal structure etc.).


I do intermittent journaling with day one on my iPad, iPhone, and Mac. Throughout the day, I’ll just type whatever comes to mind. A reminder about something that caught my interest. I’ll record a quick observation while I am still in the moment and the memory is still fresh. I’ll capture a photo in Day One and then write something about it.

Having Day One on all my devices makes it easy to capture. I could be on my Mac or iPhone or iPad. It’s easy to journal something. Even if it’s just a couple of sentences.

At the end of the day, I look at today’s entries and then write a brief summary of what I encountered, thoughts, feelings, or create new projects or tasks based on what happened today.

The more I kept capturing moments, the easier it was to keep the habit.

But now you have to ask yourself “why do you want to journal?” Everyone will have different reasons. No one reason is better than the other.

I’ve used journaling as a way to go through my emotions after seeing an insane social media post. Instead of posting in public, I’ll put it into Day One to let it all out. I’m not worried about responding to some nutty tweet or an insane Facebook post. Some others are better left unsaid.

I’ve also used journaling to record memories. Memories are so fleeting, I’m on to the next moment. I can look back on my journal entry and remember a precious moment and why I thought it was worth capturing in my journal.


Start with a daily task in your task manager and make it a priority. I love Day One, it is my ideal journaling app and I find it an absolute joy to use. I tried Obsidian but it didn’t have the same attraction as Day One.

It takes a while for it to click, but it is really (at least for me) the ultimate review. I think back every day as I’m writing it and it helps me reenforce important things that happen. I also journal whenever I have a moment, often throughout the day, not at a set time. I check off the task at the end of the day. Therefore, I review what I’ve already done constantly. I think this is called interstitial journaling, someone correct me if I’m wrong!

I also scan my journal as part of my weekly review.

The result has been that I think about everything more, and this has provided many benefits.

I found this article, The Right and Wrong Way to Journal (January 18, 2022) to be insightful. Below is an excerpt from this article.

Interestingly, he also wrote, Why I Stopped Journaling (June 4, 2020). He must have restarted per the Jan. 2022 article or simply wanted to give advice to those who are interested.

I use my journal to capture events and memories, not to do release my emotions. Emotions are fickle things. I’d rather focus on clarifying my thoughts and perspective on things and on keeping track of significant events that have meaning to me and my family. Certainly my emotional state will to some extent be reflected in what I write but I don’t consider by journal to be a therapeutic tool.

Eurich argues that the way most people journal isn’t conducive to gaining insight and self-awareness and instead leads to blinkered self-absorption.

When most people journal, they sort of vomit their thoughts out. Their journal is like a metaphorical toilet bowl in which they discharge all their mental and emotional waste.

But Eurich and other psychologists posit that thinking of your journal as a psychological crapper will lead to having crappy, unproductive thoughts. It might feel good to cathartically release your pent-up angst and anxiety on paper, but there’s a danger that you’re just stirring up more stress instead of resolving the issue that’s causing it.

When I journaled regularly, this was the trap I found myself in. I would vomit out my thoughts on paper in a William Faulkner-esque, stream-of-consciousness torrent. All my entries were just emotive ruminations. Sure, it felt good to release those feelings, but nothing ever got better. I finally realized that journaling like this on the daily wasn’t doing anything for me, so I stopped …

How to Journal to Get the Most Out of It

I couldn’t have started journaling every day if it weren’t for the Due app to remind me every five to 10 minutes at first. Now it is a habit, and I’m less reliant on Due, but I still have the reminder every night just in case.

I attempted journaling many times, but always as some form of self-absorption or navel-gazing. Looking for deep thoughts. Most of this was during my time as a christian, where it is closely related to prayer, meditation, etc. The vast majority of these journaling attempts produced nothing of value whatsoever.

When I finally began to journal regularly I did so primarily because I shifted away from introspection and just simply logged daily events, things I accomplished, even to-do tasks. I used Day One for awhile but now just use plain text, either with Markdown or, more recently, TiddlyWiki. I strive for the structure referred to as ‘interstitial journaling’ which is an attempt to combine note-taking, tasks, and time tracking, even though I’m not coding anything or tracking time, per se.

So that’s my suggestion (see link I shared) - probably not what you were looking for, but I’m of the opinion that it is better. YMMV.

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Software isn’t necessary for journaling. It might hinder the practice, because software is always built upon the fancy of the designer -– maybe informed by a focus group, but never fully informed by what you need.

In fact, everyone already knows how to start a journal and no one needs a guide to journaling. Like software, a “guide” is never what you need. In fact, we all know what sparks our interest or sadness, what ideas we don’t want to vanish, and we all can write about it. Start with a few words. See where it goes.


I agree though I do use software. I had Day One but realized I am fine using Apple Notes for journaling. I’m able to access my journal anytime, anywhere, I can embed all sorts of media, I can type or write, I can utilize Quick Notes, it has OCR essentially built in, I can tag, and more. And, I can also lock my journal if/as desired. Notes is not as nice as Day One but on the other hand, it is free with plenty of features. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Many people, myself included, find Morning Pages helpful. It’s stream of consciousness writing. Every morning, pick up a pen and a notebook and, without stopping, fill 3 pages (I use A5). Don’t think, just write whatever comes to mind.

It’s not intended to be writing you review in the future, but rather provides a release for ideas, thoughts and feelings that may be lurking which won’t be revealed through focused journaling. I’ve had some amazing insights appear during the stream which I’ve been able to turn into writing, project ideas, todos or even prayers. It’s not led by writing prompts which inevitably help writing but also set the direction.

It’s certainly easy to start… just write!

I did, and the guide I used was really helpful.

Another source you make take a look at is The Theme System, created by Myke Hurley (RelayFM co-founder) and CGP Grey.

I use it myself and I have found it to be pretty helpful. I use a gratitude journal-style for the smaller blocks (AM/PM) and then a general “Thoughts” section for the larger block.

@webwalrus , just want to say I appreciate so much you started this discussion. There are a lot of very insightful thoughts on this thread and many links to great blogs and other resources. The key takeaway for me is not about app but about why and how we journal.

Thanks everyone for sharing

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In addition to the Journaling Bootcamp mentioned above I would strongly suggest you think about not just the Why you want to journal but the When. I tried to develop a daily jpurnaling habit for years by attempting to do the then current thing of summarizing the day in the evening. It never worked. I flipped it so that each morning after checking the weather and reading no more than 30 minutes of news I start to journal the day before. So my journal dated today is actually about how yesterday went. That does make extracting stuff out a bit more problematic but a consistent journaling habit is more important.

I did all my journaling in paper notebooks unil November 2021 when I decided to try Obsidian for my journal and to write an essay every day as my version of NaNoWriMo. For November I actually wrote in Obsidian, then copied it into a LibreOffice file that I printed and pasted into my paper journal. I stopped the paper copy in December. I am still exploring ways to print a paper book of my entries but haven’t done much on that other than check out a few scrapbook and publishing sites and add it to a list of someday/maybe items.

The daily habit of journaling is well set though. On a very few occasions I end up writing my journal either during the day or later but most of the time I get it done in the morning.

I have started to keep my daily journal entry open and also the one for the next day using the periodic Notes plugin in Obsidian and I am getting some of the things written down during the day they happen. I still go back and clean up and finish them the next morning.

Agreed. My tendency for a long time was to do it in the evening, but after the novelty and some of the early enthusiasm wore off, it sometimes became that thing I still had to do when I really just wanted to go to bed. That’s when neglect would set in, and the journal suffered. Like anything else, the preference will vary from person to person, but it can make a big difference in the success of the project.

Here’s a neat take on journaling for those who don’t have time for/lose interest in journaling… Microjournaling.

I’m going to give this a go. Strikes me that it would work well coupled with a daily note such as in Logseq or Obsidian.