How To Start A Daily Journal

April 08, 2022

How To Start A Daily Journal

Finding the right notebook makes a world of difference.

There are scores of notebooks available in the stationery marketplace, each with their own advantages and drawbacks. Finding the right one for you can be daunting. It may just come down to trial and error, but there are ways to narrow down the right journaling notebook for you.


Your writing style may determine which style of notebook works best for you. If you’re just jotting notes down freestyle or sketching ideas quickly, an unlined pocket notebook may be right up your alley. If you have bigger ideas or want to write out your thoughts in a more cohesive form, a larger lined notebook is probably more your style.

Flip top pocket notebooks, like the kind reporters use, are great for scribbling down quick ideas that you can elaborate on later. More traditional left spine bound notebooks are more suited to longer journal entries where you can fit more information and elaborate on goals or ideas. 


You’ll want to determine what your goal with your journal is before picking a size. If you’re planning on writing out long journal entries where you can expound on your day or craft ideas into real projects, a larger notebook that stays in one place is ideal. That way, you can give your creative mind room to breathe.

If you’re more likely to do short brain dumps or need a place to remember events and ideas, a pocket sized journal is more likely to be a good fit. You can literally fit these in a pocket or bag and keep them with you so that when genius strikes, you’re ready to record it all.

A good pen makes all the difference

No doubt you’ve been to the pen aisle of your local office supply store and been inundated with the selection of writing instruments plastered on the wall. Ballpoints, rollerballs, fountains, gels, #2 pencils, mechanical pencils, permanent markers, crayons…the list is endless. 

So what writing tool is right for you? Much of this comes down to personal preference, but for my money, a good fountain pen or rollerball is the best way to go. While you don’t have to spend a fortune for a good quality fountain pen, many times you do get what you pay for.

A fountain pen is best for writing longer journal entries because of the way you write with it versus a ballpoint. A ballpoint works by using a strangely large amount of pressure to move the little ball bearing in the tip of the pen to deposit ink onto the page. We’ve all had to write long essays in high school with ballpoint pens, after which our hands are so cramped you’d think we had crippling arthritis.

Fountain pens—and to a certain extent, rollerball pens—don’t rely on heavy pressure to release the ink. Rather, gravity brings ink down the pen and into two little tines (or a pressurized tube and ball, in the case of a rollerball), where the ink flows onto the page. Almost no pressure is needed for this to happen, so writing for extended periods of time is much more comfortable and satisfying. 

Choose the best location for creativity

Now that you have pen and paper at the ready, it’s time to find a place to write. Journaling is a very personal experience, so choosing a location for this experience is important. If you’re jotting down thoughts and ideas on the go, obviously location is less of a consideration. But when it comes time to flesh out those thoughts, you’ll want the right setup. 

The two main considerations for your journaling spot are quiet and comfort. Your mind needs space to breathe, so having a quiet place is ideal. Choose a spot where you can close the door and minimize distractions.

In order for your brain to churn out the words for your journal, you’ll want to be physically comfortable. Whether that means at a well-lit desk with a high-back chair and a cup of coffee, or in your favorite lounge chair with a lap desk and reading lamp, finding the most comfortable place that you can return to time and again for journaling is key. 

Write what inspires

Sometimes, choosing what to write about can be the biggest hurdle to starting a daily journal. There are hundreds of writing prompts on the internet waiting to be discovered, but let’s first decide what format you want to journal. 

  • “LIve” journal - I think this is probably the most common type of journal. Essentially, you write what has happened during the day and reflect on your thoughts and ideas. You can expand on that great idea for a food truck, or note the funny thing your kid did, for posterity. This type of journaling tends to be more freeform and flowing, written like prose. 
  • Bullet Journal - a type of journaling based on bullet points. Started by Ryder Carroll in his book Bullet Journal, Bulet Journaling—or BuJo, as it’s known among aficionados—combines a daily planner with a daily journal. It’s actually a really flexible way to journal, but be warned: some people do go overboard with their designs and setups. Don’t be discouraged. Start simple and tailor the BuJo to your needs
  • Daily Diary - Diaries and Journals are very similar, but a diary is more like record keeping than a deep dive. Short, sweet, and to the point, a diary is “a record of your life - what you did that day, where you went, what you ate, what goals you accomplished, etc.” (Rachel Evans on Quora)
  • Gratitude journal - Many of us could use more gratitude in our lives. The idea behind a gratitude journal is to not only think of something you’re thankful for, but to dig deeper into the why and how of it. This type of journal is a great way to reflect on your life and its privileges. 
  • Goal Journal - If you’re more interested in setting yourself up for success, a goal journal can provide a roadmap to get you there. Set your goals and examine the steps it will take for you to achieve them. 

Whichever format you choose for your journal, the main thing to keep in mind is to write what inspires you. Without that inspiration, you’re writing for the sake of writing, and journaling won’t be much help at all. But taking a few minutes a day to expand your ideas into something deeper and more profound can help make all the difference. 

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