Journaling is an excellent tool for self-management and general life-enrichment. However, with so many possible uses, it can be overwhelming to figure out what kind of journal (or journals!) to keep. To help you figure out which type of journaling best suits your needs, in this article, we have compiled information on all the different purposes and approaches you can take.

Those who are new to journaling may find themselves unsure of what to write about. This list covers a variety of journaling categories and goes into the details of specific kinds of journals. Purchase suggestions for guided journals are also included. From creative outlets to forms of self-therapy, you’ll be able to find your inspiration for putting pen to paper!

What Kind of Journal Should You Keep?

Journals serve a myriad of purposes—from helping you sort through your innermost thoughts to eagerly planning your next summer vacation. There is no absolute right way to journal or type of journal to have. Keeping a journal truly comes down to your needs and desires. Journals assist with personal growth, and you should use them to aid you in accomplishing your goals.

If you are having trouble choosing what kind of journal to keep, try asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do you hope to accomplish or gain through journaling?
  • How often would you like to write in your journal?
  • What types of activities would be elevated by journaling?
  • Are there any topics you would like to explore or spend more time thinking about?
  • What aspects of your life could benefit from planning or organization?

Knowing the answers to these questions and others like them will help you figure out what types of journaling would best suit your needs and enhance your life. So, without further ado, let us get right into exploring the kinds of journals you can keep.

1.  Routine Journals

Routine activities are essential for mental health and can benefit you in many ways, such as lowering stress, increasing sleep quality, and encouraging self-care. Routine journaling refers to types of journaling that you practice habitually. As such, the goal is to make journaling a natural and ingrained part of your life.

Types of routine journaling include:

  • Morning Journal: Start your day off right by writing about your daily goals. Like morning meditation, an early morning journaling session can get you in the right mindset to tackle the challenges to come. You can also get organized and inspired by writing about your plans for the day.
  • Night Journal: Journaling before bed can be a great way to reflect on the events of the day and commit them to memory. Studies show that learning new material shortly before sleeping is beneficial for recall.
  • Daily Journal: Pick a time during the day to set aside a convenient chunk of time for writing in your journal. Daily journaling is versatile because you can choose when and how long you would like to journal for. Sit down and write in your notebook to decompress after work or jot down some ideas during a lunch break.
  • Weekly Journal: If you find yourself too busy to write daily, try lessening the commitment to once a week. Use your journal to reflect after a long week of work or to tackle broader ideas. Weekly journaling is a great way to form a low-maintenance routine while maintaining flexibility.

The critical part of regular journaling is that you commit to it, practice it consistently, and integrate it into your lifestyle.

Try picking up a structured journal to encourage regular journaling, such as Erin Condren’s Petite Planner for weekly intentions and goals and building habits or Power Place’s Daily Planner, which provides space for weekly and daily journaling. The Day and Night Reflection Journal from Insight Editions is a short and sweet way to digest your day.

2.  Recollection Journals

Recollection journals focus on preserving or notating events or time periods. Write down your memories before they fade away or record history—personal or otherwise.

Journaling can be an especially useful medium for documentation because it allows you to take note of memories from your perspective or with your thoughts attached. When you look back on things, you can retain what happened as well as your ideas and emotions at the time.

Types of recollection journaling include:

  • Event Journal: Write about any events in your life, big or small. Take considerate care to record significant moments or accomplishments, such as traveling out of the country for the first time or receiving a hard-earned promotion.
  • Time Capsule Journal: Think of it as a personal and less messy version of the class time capsule you and your peers buried in high school to dig up at a reunion 50 years later. Write down iconic memories or ideas that you would like to remember. Perhaps there is a fad you would like to look back on and laugh about it in the future. What would you like to tell your grandchildren someday?

Recollection journaling is all about preserving moments in time and documenting change. Try to note your emotions or reactions alongside the factual details, as that is the information you cannot find in a newspaper clipping or digitized archive.

If you are looking for a guided journal to write about significant historical or worldwide events, such as the 2020 pandemic, check out Lava Creek Press’ Diary of Strange Times or My Pandemic Time Capsule by Shannon Simoneau.

3.  Organization Journals

One of the most productive ways you can utilize a journal is to organize and keep track of your crazy, busy life. Dedicate a journal to a specific area you wish to maintain or keep something a little more general. Seeing everything on paper can also help you plan out complicated items on your to-do list.

Types of organizational journaling include:

  • Daily Planner: Use a daily planner to sort your schedule, ensuring that you prioritize correctly and get everything done that you need to. Make a simple to-do list, break down plans, or make a note of things you do not want to forget for the day.
  • Finance Journal: For a lot of us, finances can be one of the most challenging and complex aspects of our lives to stay on top of. A finance journal can be a valuable tool for crunching or recording the numbers and staying abreast of daily transactions. Tracking your expenses can help you stay within a budget or pay off debt.
  • Study Journal: Use a study journal to track the hours you have spent studying for various tests as well as provide a space for those all-important test dates. Take note of need-to-know information and additional requirements. According to experts, writing by hand improves your memory by forcing you to coordinate verbal and fine movement systems. Furthermore, handwriting, as opposed to typing, allows you to process information more deeply.

Identify what areas in your life could benefit from a little organization and use your journal to sort through it.

4.  Creative Journals

Journaling is the perfect opportunity to embrace your creative side. Whether you are looking to make a career out of it as a professional or simply want to find a way to express yourself, keeping a creative journal can be the ultimate outlet.

Types of creative journals include:

  • General Writing Journal: Creative writing can be a great way to stretch and exercise your imagination. If you are having trouble getting started, try picking a random sentence from a book or article and go from there. You can also try describing an event that happened recently in vivid detail or the scene outside your window.
  • Free-Writing Journal: Set a timer for anywhere from 10–30 minutes and start writing. The goal is for words to flow like a stream of consciousness. With free-writing, aim for quantity over quality. Do not worry about grammar or writing conventions. Just pick up your pen and go.
  • Quotes or Poetry Journal: If you are not interested in long-form writing, consider keeping a quote or poetry journal. Write down your poetry when you get inspired, even if it is just a line or two that comes to you out of the blue. Alternatively, you can use your journal to collect interesting or inspiring quotes from others that you see or hear.
  • Art Journal: Journals are not reserved solely for words. Feel free to sketch, draw, or paint, whatever your creative mind desires. Practice still-lifes or scribble down your latest invention. You can purchase art journals with different types of paper suitable for pens, markers, or even watercolors.

If you are discovering an artistic streak, do not hesitate to let it out in whatever weird or quirky form calls to you. You can keep your journal utterly private if you want to!

If you are an aspiring creative, try Lorna Scobie’s 365 Days of Art or 365 Days of Creativity Journals.   

5.  Hobby Journals

Hobbies are a great way to unwind from work or your daily routine, and many can add enrichment to your life. According to research, taking up a hobby will also make you less likely to suffer from depression and stress. While journaling can be a hobby in itself, you can also use it to supplement your other hobbies.

Types of hobby journals include:

  • Project Journal: If you are into DIY projects and fixing stuff around the house, you can use a journal to track and document your steps. Scrapbook inspiration for decorating your living room or list necessary materials before you get started. Capture the process by gluing in before and after pictures.
  • Arts and Crafts Journal: If you like partaking in arts and crafts, a journal can help you keep track of projects you have tried. Document your successes and less than graceful attempts. You can also take notes of mistakes you make or ways to improve the project the next time you try it out.
  • Garden or Nature Journal: For seasonal planting, it can be incredibly helpful to document your flowers and plants. Write down the names of different plants you would like to try growing as well as their care requirements. You can also track the growth of your garden and the changes you see. If you are a nature lover, write down or sketch the wildlife you see as you spend time in the great outdoors, noting any new or unusual species.

Get more enjoyment out of your hobbies by recording the process and results. Any hobby can be complemented by some detailed and creative journaling.

Check out Amazon’s suggestions for scrapbooks or find something more specialized, such as The Naturalist’s Notebook, which serves as a detailed observation guide for tracking the natural world around you.

6.  Progress & Goal Tracking Journals

A life of fulfillment includes a plethora of objectives to help self-improvement. Tracking your progress toward achieving such goals is an excellent way to stay motivated. You can also break down your goals into smaller steps, making them easier to handle and, therefore, follow-through on.

Types of progress journals include:

  • Exercise/Workout Journal: To stay healthy, you must embrace some form of physical activity. Experts suggest that you aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day. Use a journal to map out your workouts and rest days, helping you to balance out your activity. Scheduling your workouts ahead of time may also help you commit to them. Regular exercise can improve your mental health, so try documenting your emotions to see if there is a noticeable difference.
  • Personal Development Journal: Growth and maturation are a big part of embracing your best self. Journaling about how you can improve yourself and the steps you take to get there can be a great way to push your personal growth. Write about moments that help you build strength of character.
  • Sobriety Journal: During the struggle for sobriety, it can be challenging to manage the noise in your head. Journaling is an excellent alternative for channeling the energy that might otherwise lead you to drink. Whenever you feel tempted to pour a glass, pull out your journal instead and write about why you feel the need for potentially self-destructive behavior. Understanding the underlying reasons that drive you to drink will help you stay sober. Not to mention, you can give yourself a written clap on the back as you reach certain milestones.

Whatever your goals may be, you can move forward and keep track of them through journaling. Keeping a journal can also be an excellent way to hold yourself accountable.

There are also many useful sobriety journals on Amazon, such as Sarah Ordo’s Sober as F*** 28-day workbook, C.W. V. Straaten’s Addiction Recovery Journal with 366 days of transformation, and a 365-day Recovery Journal with guided questions from 21 Exercises.

7.  Therapy Journals

Not everyone can afford a therapist, but everyone can engage in a little self-therapy. Many therapists encourage therapeutic journaling or even incorporate it into their own treatments. Research suggests that journal therapy can help HIV and cancer patients and is also useful in treating trauma and grief, among other mental conditions.

Types of therapy journals include:

  • Dream Journal: No matter how vivid a dream may be, they are often forgotten soon after waking. For some people, dreams hold a lot of meaning and can yield valuable information when analyzed. Keep your dream journal by your bed to capture them while they are still fresh in your mind.
  • Junk Journal: Contrary to the name, there is nothing trashy about keeping a junk journal. A junk journal is simply a place to write down all your negative thoughts and emotions. Think of it as a method for releasing all the negativity you have inside so that you can focus on positive and productive concepts instead.
  • Letter Journal: Letter-writing can be an encouraging format for writing about things that are hard to say out loud. You can write a letter directly to a specific person if you have something you would like to tell them. Or you can pick someone special to you and unload the various troubles you may be going through. You can also address letters to past or future versions of yourself for a boost in self-reflection.

Journaling about situations can help you look at them from a different perspective or sort through complex thoughts.

There are a lot of excellent self-therapy journals. Our favorites include Karen Salmansohn’s Instant Happy Journal, Positive Soul’s Soul Therapy, and GG Renee Hill’s Self-Care Check-In.

8.  Adventure Journals

Everyone can benefit from a little adventure! Plan out a trip or document your travels with an adventure journal and revel in the memories long after they fade.

Types of adventure journals include:

  • Trip Journal: Before you embark on a complicated day trip, conduct some pre-planning so you can freely enjoy your activities with minimal stress. Write down important information such as movie times, admission rates, or directions. Use a pocket-journal so you can bring your plans with you.
  • Travel Journal: Documenting your travels is a great way to keep the adventure alive even after returning home. Try taking a few notes after your daily experiences to retain positive memories for years to come.

Journaling can also be a great way to appreciate the good times as you have them, increasing the enjoyment of your trip even further.

9.  Short Form Journals

Not everyone can dedicate a lot of time to journaling. Luckily, there are short journal formats that do not require much dedication and can be useful for journaling on the go.

Types of short journals include:

  • Bullet Journal: If you are a fan of lists, bullet journaling could be what you are looking for. You can use bullet journals to write down potential ideas or simple grocery lists. Bullet points are a convenient and quick way to log relevant information.
  • Word Journal: If you are looking to expand your vocabulary, consider keeping a word journal. Jot down new words and their definitions as you come across them or practice writing exercises by using your new vocabulary in a sentence.
  • Pocket Journal: Keeping a small notebook in your pocket or purse can be convenient for whenever you need to write something down. Maybe you have an idea that you want to remember later or an important piece of information. In either case, a pocket journal can undoubtedly come in handy.

There are plenty of quick and easy ways to get your journaling fix, so do not be discouraged if you have a busy lifestyle.

Chronicle Books Staff’s One Line A Day Five-Year Memory Book is the ultimate journal for those who want a small commitment. If you are looking for a high-quality leather notebook, try Wanderings Leather Journals.

10.      Food Journals

You do not have to be a diehard foodie to love or write about food. In fact, there are many aspects to write about. You can use a journal for meal-planning or dietary purposes. Track your calorie intake and make sure you are getting the fiber and vitamins you need. You can also use your journal to brainstorm healthier eating habits.

If your ultimate goal is weight loss, studies have shown that people who keep food diaries have an increased likelihood of losing weight and keeping it off. Not only will journaling encourage you to eat fewer calories, but it also increases your overall awareness of how much you are eating and why.

Eric Condren, Clever Fox, and BookFactory offer excellent meal planners, and Kunitsa Co. has a 90-day food and exercise journal for women that tracks meals, nutrition, and weight loss. You can also check out Amazon’s list of Best Food Diaries for Your Fitness Journey.

If you have a deep love of cooking, try writing down interesting or favorite recipes and ways to tweak them. The Keepsake Kitchen Diary by Lily and Val is an expensive but robust customizable cookbook that can serve as a heritage piece to pass from generation to generation.

11.      Media Journals

Sometimes it can be fun or exciting to view media with an analytical lens. While you watch a movie or read a book, try writing down thoughts or ideas you have so you can revisit them later. This is especially useful if you are part of a movie group or book club that likes to have in-depth discussions. Take note of significant plot developments or interesting details that you might want to point out.

You can also use your journal to write about or respond to interesting news reports or articles you read online. Journaling is a great way to organize and internalize all the new information you intake.

12.      Parenthood Journals      

Most people can agree that parenthood is a precious and beautiful gift. What better way to appreciate it than to document the experience? Pregnancy can be an especially challenging time, and journaling can help you deal with the added stress and anxiety. A pregnancy journal is also useful for writing down symptoms to relay to your OB/GYN.

Having your baby does not mean you should stop journaling. Document your child’s life as they grow and experience new things. Describe special moments, such as their first words or steps. Write down any observations you have regarding your child’s development.

Some of the best parenthood journals include:

For even more options, check out Amazon’s article on Best Pregnancy Journals.

13.      Gratitude Journals

Giving thanks is not just for Thanksgiving! In a chaotic world, it is essential to take the time to appreciate the positives in our lives. It can be profoundly gratifying to concentrate on what you have and give proper thanks. Try writing daily about specific things you are grateful for or occurrences that made you happy. To get started, check out Amazon’s list of Best Gratitude Journals.

A prayer journal provides a safe space for you to divulge your deepest desires and prayers from the heart. Crossing off prayers as they are answered can help you keep your faith when times are rough. A prayer journal can help you appreciate and connect with your spiritual or religious side. If you are looking for guidance, take a look at Lettering Design Co.’s 3-Month Prayer Journal or Christian Art Gifts’ Lord’s Prayer Journal.

Final Thoughts

Keeping a journal can be deeply satisfying and even life-changing. Journaling provides many benefits and can serve as an ultimate coping mechanism or a simple, fun activity. Whatever your inspiration may be, there is a kind of journal for you.

Scott Megit