Getting Into Journaling

Hi guys. I’m looking into getting into writing things into my journal daily. I’ve heard that it can be really useful. I just have one question, what are you supposed to write? Do you write what you did that day, or do you write any ideas you have and stuff that crosses your mind? I guess I just don’t get it. If you guys could give me some help, it would be much appreciated.

I use this question as a conversation starter. (I ripped it off from …)
What’s on your mind? Then work on shutting up and listening.

This question is an effective way to start a journal conversation too. The shut up & listen part is also important. Action ideas may be included. But I also put them on separate categorized lists.

It really depends on what you want to get out of the journaling experience. If you want to journal about your quest to brew the perfect cup of espresso, well, then your journal would be about coffee… the beans, the grind, the temperature… but maybe you want to journal about the books you read or the competitions your son went to or how you’re managing to fight off boredom in Covid… it’s all up to you… I have five or six different journals for different parts of my life that I try to add to regularly…

Hope this helps!

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I’ve been journaling nearly every day since March. My goal is simply to mark down the notable events of the previous 24 hours. I have a list of prompts: Review outgoing email (not incoming), Messages, Facebook Messenger, inboxes, and entries from the last day, a month ago, and the same day every year going back about nine years — I’ve been journaling sporadically all that time.

Answering the same few simple questions from “The Five Minute Journal” every morning and evening could be a good start:

(they also explain why it can be transformative to keep such a gratitude journal)

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Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life might be a useful read.

I read it several years ago now after Merlin Mann recommended it, and found it interesting, although it turned out to be bad timing as my world ended up imploding, so it might be time to read it again and get back into some of the habits. And hope that the capital-W World doesn’t implode :crossed_fingers:


I agree with @joefaber: It’s entirely dependent on what you want to get out of it.

Not quite two years ago, I started keeping a gratitude journal. Every day I wrote down at least one thing I was grateful for and one thing that went well that day. That served me well for the better part of a year. It was a good way to keep me in a slightly more positive frame of mind, particularly at the end of the day. No matter what went wrong that day, I still finished the day thinking about and articulating for myself what went right.

But at some point I knew I wanted something more, and so I shifted gears a little bit and tried to make it more intentional — a combination of recording my progress on things I want to improve and making notes about things that didn’t go well that I want to change for the better.

I used @mikeschmitz’s Journaling Bootcamp as my guide for getting started in that direction. He’s got some really helpful examples of the types of questions or prompts you might want to employ each day and some strategies for using reviews of what you write in your journal to move forward on your plans and goals.

It may be that you’ll need to just jump into it and, through your own experience, learn what you do or do not want out of your journaling practice and then refine how you do it based on what you discover.

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I journal first thing in the morning, and summarize the previous day, and my feelings about the day. Sometimes, if too many things happened during a day, or I otherwise worry I’ll forget a topic or a detail, at night I’ll punch out a quick list of topics to journal about the next day. My entries are usually anywhere from 400-900 words.

I tried journaling at night but found I was tired (as I am now) and wasn’t really enjoying it. Journaling in the morning has had the effect of refocusing my mind on what I’d done and need to do, and let me close the door on the previous day’s events.

I know a couple of people who find that works best for them at night, however, and gives them more peaceful relaxation before bed. :man_shrugging:


Wow! That’s such an incredible question, Mr. Mac! A journal can be anything you want or don’t want it to be. It can change from day to day, hour to hour. It can be open ended or closed. Do you enjoy writing? Taking pictures? Drawing? Making lists? Are you structured? Laid back? Does it run the gamut? Will it be on paper? In an old fashioned journal? A digital journal, I’m assuming, that’s what you intend. Will it be password protected? How often do you intend to write? What is the purpose? For yourself? For posterity? You’d be absolutely amazed how much we forget. Even jotting down words can trigger our memories a few years later. Would you be interested in getting books about journaling? Any topics?
I taught primary students. Most people don’t like to write. It’s true of adults as well. It’s a much more difficult skill than reading typically is. My students LOVED to journal. I made sure they readily understood they were writing just for themselves nobody else and that even I wasn’t going to read it nor correct it, they let loose. Their writing improved: A LOT! I never again had reluctant writers. But I got a new batch every September (and it was September, for a long time, LOL!).
I find I can analyze far better on paper. I can be more objective. Writing can open up lots and lots of doors for you. If you look at it that way, you will LOVE it! I can guarantee it. You make the rules! Sounds like fun?


Sounds like tons of fun! Thanks for explaing it more in depth for me, this really helped. I think this will help with a lot of things, such as my blog. Thanks so much!:grinning:

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You’re so very welcome!
Can you share your blog, if you might? I’d love :heart: to see it! I promise to be invisible, if you’d prefer!

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Yeah, it’s

Ps, if you want to leave a comment, you’re free to, the feedback really helps🙂

Mr. Mac, I read your entire blog but couldn’t figure out how to add a comment. That’s ok. Obviously, I found it most interesting.

Have fun with your journaling! :shamrock:

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Thanks for checking it out, I’m glad you found it interesting! :blush:

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I agree with @joefaber what you write will depend on your desires. I started regularly journaling 23 June 2019. I’d had a sporadic journal/diary since I was a kid but could never get into the write in the evening mode consistently. I switched to morning and have been pretty much constant since then. I think I’ve missed only 1 or 2 days during lambing. I’ve been tracking what time I go to bed and get up, my sleep, I’ll write a synopsis of what I did the day before, I’ll sometimes write what I plan for today, it can be feelings sometimes I draw or paste in a quote that inspires me or thought I’ve had. I occasionally record dreams, sometimes code. Lately I’ve been tracking our virtual and socially distanced visits with friends and also writing about COVID and how it’s affecting us and how I think it will affect society as a whole. It’s part diary, part venting, part planning, part just a relaxing ritual and more.

I also keep a separate journal of all the books I read, author, title, when I started and when I finished and then a bit about it. Did I like the book or not, if I learned something I may add that, is it a keeper, possible re-read eventually. Did it make me think in a new way or did I learn something new?

What I wish for is a way to then OCR my handwritten journals and add each day’s entry or each book review into DEVONThink as a note with cross references. I’m exploring how to do that by taking a picture and passing the notes through GoodNotes for OCR as I think that might work but haven’t had time to do more than add it as something to investigate. I like the act of writing on paper and prefer that for the input mode but I also want the benefits of a computer search and linking system to connect thoughts and themes.

won’t indexing (I mean, having the index of a notebook in a text file - like “Pride and prejudice” notebook xyz page n) and tagging the scanned page file do the trick? I don’t feel like handwritten recognition is yet up to the task (but I don’t write in English, so this may be something to factor in)

FWIW, I typically start my daily entry with a photo from my camera roll and start writing the story about it. The entry can go pretty much any direction from there. If there’s something that you want to work through or record for yourself, those things come easy, as you already want to write them. If nothing else, you can just write what happened that day, and possibly how you felt about it. If it’s the mere act of writing you’re after, that tends to be a good starting point. Just don’t lay too much, if any, expectation on yourself. For me, my bar is “did I write today?” and that’s it. I don’t have a set word count in mind, or that I need to write something particularly witty or even useful. Writing is a lot like any other hobby… if you can just start, then the rest will follow if it’s there, and if it’s not, you simply start again tomorrow.

It is worth it. I wish you much good luck! :slight_smile:


Today’s update:

GoodNotes can only do handwriting recog on its own notes.

HOWEVER, if you are willing to deal with google I did the acid test:

iPhone photo of my hand written scribbled journal at 90 degrees from the correct orientation.
Upload into Google Drive
Right Click and open in Google Docs
automatic handwriting recognition with about 70% accuracy. Given my handwriting that is a roaring success.

More testing to follow with the text in the correct orientation at least, maybe tomorrow.


Sometimes I can’t even recognise 50% of my own handwriting :flushed:. Maybe should upload mine to Google to get 70%!

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My best links to useful stuff are when I search within the content. That’'s not always how I index things initially. Often what seems like the main subject and part of an index (which is a controlled vocabulary system) turns out not to be the way I actually find what is useful later.

Handwriting recog. isn’t great, but you can edit it later if need be. For me from GoodNotes with notes I hand write in there I get 90% or better recognition. Through Google as described above I am getting less but that I got any at all was amazing. I tried some more google version testing and am running between 60-75% accuracy of whole words that way.

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