Journaling Ideas For Beginners: 2023 guide

Wandering for journaling ideas for beginners? You are in the right place!



Plenty of times when I read about the habits of individuals who manage to accomplish many things in life, they all have one thing in common: Journaling

But for the beginner, the idea of journaling can a bit overwhelming.

From the ‘Queen of Talk show’ Oprah Winfrey, brilliant inventors: Leonardo Da Vinci & Marie Curie, to more recent, productive YouTuber; Ali Abdaal, Matt D’Avela & Nathaniel Drew; all of them rely on journaling.

So, as a beginner of course I asked myself,

Why do all of these great individuals incorporate journaling as part of their daily routine?

What is the role of journaling in shaping their idea and productivity?

My first encounter with journaling experience is back when I’m 10 years old. I have this bad habit of reading my sister’s diary. Of course, I’d get reprimanded for my behavior, but I must say it is interesting to read about other people’s real-life experiences based on what they had written.

What’s behind The Idea of journaling?

Journaling is free writing of your thought on what had happened, your plan, and anything that cross your mind at that particular time. The idea is that by writing everything down, you are able to inspect your thoughts and feeling more clearly.

In the current fast-paced world with lots of things that we consumed on daily basis -the news, politics, the social media left us with disorganized and scattered minds.

In other words, we are here and everywhere

We need more mental clarity to perform any task, be it in academics or career, and that’s where journaling plays a role.

What journaling can do for you?

Various experimental study, and meta-analysis data report has shown the numerous benefits of journaling or free writing.

  • Journaling or Writing therapy can help manage stress, depression & anxiety 
  • Journaling provides a check and balance system in your daily life. Whether you move away or towards your goal. By documenting the progress, you can always look back and see how much progress you did so far. This will give you that boost to keep going rather than giving up.
  • Journaling is like creating a guide for your future self. You are able to learn from your past mistake and experience. This allows you to grow and develop as an individual. Additionally, tracking our progress in a journal will help in encouraging us to do our best each day.
  • Journaling helps enhance memory function. The idea of writing something requires your brain to recall, analyse, and process important information. As a neurologist, Judy Willis says, journaling stimulates the brain’s highest function and the source of conceptual development by incorporating the element of reflection and promoting the brain’s attentive focus.

In the fast pace living, we tend to forget to pause and reflect which gives so much fundamental value of being more stable and grounded as an individual.

Journaling can help with documenting the stillness.

Type of journal

There are various ways to journal based on your preferences and intention of journaling. Often, people use a combination of several types of journaling in the same medium or book.

  1. Dream Journal: To track your dreams, and emotions after waking up
  2. Workout Journal: Track workout performance to reflect on & improve the training
  3. Bullet journal: Track your works, organize your work and habit
  4. Gratitude journal: List all the things that you feel grateful for on that day
  5. Food Journal

To quote Matt D Avela, the keyword in all these journaling methods is TRACK

“By tracking what we do, charting our progress, we might see the growth that might not be evident. Day-to-day growth can be very elusive. 

And as we easily get knocked off course, journaling is a powerful way to get the bird’s eyes view of life”- Matt D Avella

The thing with us, humans, we strive for growth.

When we see progress even tiny progress, it’ll give us a sense of achievement that will further perpetuate in other aspects of life.  

As a result, we realize that we are capable to achieve things and make a positive change in ourselves.

How to begin journaling For beginners in 5 simple steps

Journaling as a beginner can leave you feeling lost and stuck on where to begin

The thought of a teenager writing down in a pink notebook scribbling “dear diary…” might cross your mind and you start to feel the idea is funny and not fit for you.

I had the same thought. And I always fear that if somehow, someone reads my journal, they might judge me. Worry not, most people don’t bother. They have plenty of stuff going on in their life.

The best advice I have received for basically every sort of situation: Just Start.

1. Choose the medium to journal

There is no specific medium needed to journal.

It can be either in the form of digital or handwritten form. It can be as basic as the lined pages notebook, the dotted or the blank version. 

Or you can use any apps that are designed to document your thoughts. It doesn’t matter.

Just pick one medium that you feel you are comfortable with and will help ease your journaling journey

Personally, I prefer handwritten journaling in a blank notebook. It allows me the flexibility to write and doodle on that blank paper. Because sometimes, I find it difficult to write my thoughts, so I just draw them instead. 

If you have that tiny notebook, you can use that as well. Austin Schrock have this interesting idea of replacing his phone with 0.99$ notebook. Sounds crazy? Hear him out.

2. Start with writing one sentence per day 

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits introduces the concept of writing one sentence per day. It’s easy, doable, and gives high chance to make the journaling habit stick.

Writing only a sentence per day will nudge beginners to start writing. 

Sometimes, when we write that one sentence, the idea overflows and we end up writing a whole bunch more than what we expected to write.

But again, there is no specific or correct way to journal.

If one sentence is what fits you, then journal with one sentence.

3. Use journaling prompts to ease the process

Journal prompt is the journaling ideas that help you to focus on what to write. 

This will give a sense of direction as you journal and works like a Q&A, where you answer the specific question.

Example of journaling prompts:

  • What have I achieved today? – Productivity
  • What is my energy level after breakfast/lunch/dinner- Food Journal
  • What am I thankful for today? -Gratitude Journal

To start with journaling as a beginner you can use any journal prompts that you deemed suitable and related to the aim of your journaling. 

Write one simple sentence each day as you keep on building your journaling habits.

4. Finding the right time for you to journal.

The biggest hurdle of journaling for both beginners and experienced people is to find the time to journal and not feel forced to do it.

There is no specific time to journal. You decide what is the right time for you to write.

For me personally, it is in the early morning or right before I sleep. But to be honest, I will just grab my journal whenever I feel overwhelmed or overthink about certain things. 

The act of just writing everything inside my mind helps me untangle everything that is going on inside my head.

But forming a new habit like journaling needs to be anchored to certain things that you do on a daily basis to make it stick.

For example, if you’re a morning person most probably the first thing you do is make coffee. So, once done with coffee take the journal and start writing. 

Now, you are anchoring the action of making coffee with journaling. Making a coffee now become the cue for the Habit Loop (Cue-routine-reward, Charles Duhigg)

5. Enjoy the process.

Rather than a chore, journaling should be a fun writing process

To enjoy the process, the journaling theme should be accommodating to your personal preferences. It shouldn’t be complex that you will abandon it halfway

Allow yourself to make a mistake and be vulnerable as you journal. 

Be honest as much as possible and you will get to know some part of yourself that you never know exist before.

Do not bother about disjointed sentences, imperfect grammar, or funny-looking sentences.

It’s okay.

journaling supplies for beginners

Journal or Notebook

Based on your type, preferences of journaling as well as budget, you can select any kind of notebook as your journal.

The price variation depends on the brand, the quality, and the weight of the paper. At the beginning of my journaling, I just use random notebooks I found scattered in my house.

As I get more serious into journaling, I purchased the moleskin journal and been loving the quality of the paper so far. 

Pen for journaling

Journal accessories

  • Washi tape
  • Watercolours/crayons
  • Stickers

How I journal

As someone who has lots of thought, I rely heavily on journaling to slow down my thought process and be accepted towards my feeling, both good and bad.

For me, I separate my planner from my journal. In my planner, I will just list out the task and to-do list without any additional remarks and it is mainly focusing on work-related things.  

Whereas my journal is more personal input which I include three important aspects

  • daily gratitude
  • weekly review
  • monthly reflection

Every morning, I will write down my big-picture goals and the objectives or thing to focus on that particular day. 

Then I will usually brain dump whatever crosses my mind which includes reviewing my to-do list as well as daily gratitude.

For weekly review and monthly reflection, I added the ‘Note to self/ Realization ‘section in my journal.

This section is me advising myself based on what had happened in my daily life, the conversation I took, and whatever it is that I think will be beneficial in shaping who and the way I think, that will get documented it in a simplified manner. 

Reflection is one way to growth

One of the things that I’m still struggling with is the habit tracker. I will get disappointed with myself whenever I’m unable to maintain the habit.  But I just write it down whenever I feel like it.

As of now, that is what works for me. I can see myself improving the way I journal in the future, but the core concepts will remain the same

Final words on journaling ideas for beginners

Journaling is for everyone. There is no right or wrong.

Just start with the imperfection. Whenever you will find yourself drowning in your thoughts, grab a pen and paper and write it all out.

The key is to just start.

“Keeping a journal will change your life in ways that you’d never imagine.” – Oprah Winfrey

FAQ on Journaling ideas for beginners

Qs: What is the difference between a journal and a diary?

A diary is a recording of daily life activity from a personal perspective whereas a journal recorded more elaborated feelings and thinking processes.

But technically speaking both is quite the same as it’s derived from the same Latin word diurnal which means daily.

But journaling usually has a reflective component and sometimes it has more specific intentions like having a dream journal to understand the subconscious mind or an art journal to explore your creativity and so on.

*The journal I mentioned here is not to be confused with a technical journal which is a scientific or industry-related journal publication

Q: What should beginners write in the journal?

A:  As a start, just spend 5 minutes of whatever thoughts cross your mind. Or write one sentence in your journal

You can write about anything.

But for more structured  journaling, you can follow this step

Step of journaling for beginners

  • 1)Top 3 priorities
  • 2)Setting an intention
  • 3)daily affirmation
  • 4) Daily reflection
  • 5) Gratitude list


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