Journaling is a great activity to promote mindfulness, track large changes, and introduce a menagerie of different healthy activities to a lifestyle. When getting started, it can be difficult to choose between handwriting a journal or typing it on a computer. Both have pros and cons, and either method can help for whatever reason you wanted to start journaling in the first place.
Choosing whether to write or type a journal is really a personal preference. Many people enjoy the slow and methodical form of handwriting journals. Others enjoy the ease of access and speed afforded by typing a journal. Generally, people starting out should determine what they hope to get out of journaling and choose accordingly.
Because methods of journaling are a matter of personal preference, going into the benefits and negatives of each method should help you make a decision on where to start.
Can You Journal On A Computer?
You can absolutely journal on a computer or other electronic devices. In fact, some people swear by these methods as a way to keep their journals organized and effective.
Due to how much newer electronic journals are than pen to paper ones, it can feel almost wrong to go this way. However, there are many benefits to using technology for journaling purposes. Some of these include:
- Multimedia capabilities
- High accessibility
While none of these are benefits that written journals cannot achieve, they simply become much easier to focus on and allow through a digital journal.
How To Journal On A Computer
Journaling on a computer will often feel strange when starting out. Do not worry! After a few attempts, you will find your process and potentially gain some of the many benefits journaling can provide.
Journaling, in general, does not have a set series of steps to do. Consider what you hope to get out of journaling. This will guide you through the process of journaling on a computer. Remember that the process can always be changed and should feel as comfortable as possible.
To make journaling on a computer handy and easy, it is important to take some initial setup steps. These are:
- Choose a platform or organization method
- Identify your goals for journaling
- Create a schedule
Choosing a platform on which to journal is arguably the most important step to take. There are an abundance of options available digitally, and often your choice will depend on a number of factors. Some common choices include:
- Google Docs or Microsoft Word
- A private blog
- Any simple text editor, such as Notepad
All of these are used with the intention to simply write. If you want to be able to access your journal from multiple devices, consider OneNote or Evernote, as they sync to an online app and can connect to your computer, phone, tablet, and other devices. If privacy is a concern, a simple text editor or an offline program like Word is the best bet.
As you choose a method, be sure to organize your files and journal entries. This way, you can reference back easily and track how your journaling has improved. Some programs, such as OneNote, have built-in tracking systems that can make life in this regard significantly easier.
With an initial platform chosen, identify your goals for journaling. This is a rule whether you are journaling digitally or by hand, and will most likely change over time. As you identify why you are interested in journaling, you will be able to create systems through easy programs that support that.
For instance, if you were interested in journaling a weightloss journey, integrating your digital journal with a health app would be an easy task that would improve usability instantly. Connecting different apps and trackers to your journal is one of the largest benefits of journaling on a computer.
With some initial goals set, it is time to establish a schedule. Especially in the beginning of journaling, it is easy to forget to add an entry and lose all momentum. To establish the habit of journaling and see its true benefits, establish and stick to a schedule, such as writing first thing in the morning or right before bed.
The Benefits of Journaling On A Computer
Technology makes life easier in a variety of ways, and journaling is no exception. With the wide variety of apps available to journal digitally on, digital writers have a host of capabilities and technology at their fingertips. Along with the ease of typing, other benefits such as organization, speed, multimedia capabilities, and ease of access are all great benefits from digital journaling.
The improvement in organizing journals digitally over handwritten cannot be overstated. Many programs and devices allow for journal entries to be renamed, organized by date, edited in the future, color-coded, and on. If you are interested in keeping a journal that is easy to track and go back to, computer-based journaling is most likely your best bet.
One of the best tools that digital journals have when it comes to organization is linking to references or previous journal entries. Documents can link to previous journal entries that covered a similar idea or situation, allowing you to organize thoughts and exercises into individual categories while still allowing the whole journal to keep a consistent look.
In addition, most digital journals can be searched by keywords, title, date, or last edit. This robustness allows for an easy organization method that can be edited to fit the specific user easily.
For almost everyone, typing journals is quicker than writing them by hand. As technology continues to improve and children are introduced to typing even earlier, the difference in speed for most people is only likely to increase. If you are interested in fast journal entries or updates, digital journals are definitely the winner.
With the speed of typing, it can be easy to fall into the habit of not being deliberate with writing. If you are interested in journaling to improve your writing, reflect on life events, or relax, be sure to not fall into this trap.
On the flip side of the same coin, those interested in quick daily updates, tracking statistics about their life, or small notes to remember later will almost certainly benefit from the speed of digital journals.
In addition, the speed of setting up different pages or types of journal entries is almost cut in half when compared to handwritten journals. For instance, setting up a sort of spreadsheet could be a pain when done by hand. However, for a digital journal, it is as simple as opening a new document.
The multimedia capabilities of digital journals is an incredible tool to track almost everything that happens in life. Journal entries about a nice day with the family can now be accompanied by an easily linked picture of the outing. Days when a new, exciting song was found can include a quick link so that you can listen to it again during later visits.
The more media comes together to tell a story in a journal entry, the better it maybe if you decide to revisit the entries in the future. In addition, this is a great way to keep journal entries unique and fresh.
The addition of different media can essentially turn a digital journal into an easier to use scrapbook. This is a huge boon to creative types who want to expand the bounds of journaling, but do not let it overwhelm you. Even if you do journal digitally, do not feel pressured to include a fun extra media type with every entry. Otherwise, you could lose the fun of journaling in the first place.
Accessibility comes in many forms when journaling on a computer. The ability to access a journal entry from a large variety of devices such as a phone, computer, or tablet ensures that you will almost always have access to previous entries, or the ability to make new ones. In addition, you can always backup your journal in case of an accident, a protection that you would not have when journaling by hand.
Journaling digitally is also a great option for people who may not be able to write by hand, or who have disabilities that make it difficult to journal. Technology around accessibility is always expanding which allows even more people to journal when they want. Text-to-speech is a great example of technology that allows more people than ever access to journaling, and it is only available digitally.
Journaling By Hand
Many hardcore writers swear by journaling by hand, citing a wide variety of pleasantries that come with keeping it low-tech. The benefits and their strength vary from person to person, but there are some general things about writing a journal that many people would enjoy. Some of these include:
- Getting away from screens
- Nostalgia and Concentration
While some of these benefits are concrete and understandable such as privacy, many of the benefits that come with journaling by hand are harder to quantify in simple definitions. Truthfully, much of the appeal of handwriting journals comes from the very feeling of putting pen on paper.
Many writers also argue that handwritten journals allow them to become less distracted and focus more on their thoughts, which is another large bonus. This is especially important if you are writing a journal with the intent to become more mindful or learn your habits and feelings.
To bring a deeper understanding of what each of these benefits means practically, more explanation is required.
Disconnecting From Screens
In a world where more people than ever are spending an enormous amount of time looking at screens, it can be nice to have some guaranteed time away every day. Writing a journal by hand can be an incredible avenue for those looking to disconnect from the virtual world and become more in tune with what is happening immediately around them.
Stepping away from screens can also change the way you write, and how much weight you put into individual words. For many people, writing at a computer means composing emails or writing documents that are meant for other people. This is in stark contrast to journals, which are inherently mainly for the writer. Moving away from the screen to do this type of writing can help it feel more natural and focused.
Depending on the time when you normally journal, not looking at the screen can be beneficial in another way as well. If you tend to journal either right when you wake up, or right before bed, it is often best to give your eyes time to get used to being open or rest. Journaling in a notebook can help start and end your days without using screens, providing a whole host of other benefits.
While handwritten journals are almost always slower to write in than digital ones, they win handily when it comes to customization. When handwriting, you gain the ability to format your journal entries however you see fit, including making space for photos, adding drawings anywhere, writing in any direction, etc. - there are a lot of options!
This customizability can allow each journal entry to feel unique and really capture feelings and moments however you see best. This is also a great avenue for injecting some creativity into daily life if you feel that you do not have enough opportunity to do so.
However, heavy customization of journals and entries generally comes at the cost of time. Once again, writing is almost always slower than typing, but setting up things like excel sheets or drawings takes much more time than if done digitally. While many people take pleasure and comfort in the process of customization, this is not the best highlight for those who are interested in speed.
A large concern that many people have about digital journals is their privacy. Due to the nature of journal entries, most writers want to keep them away from all eyes but their own. While this is possible through a digital notebook, it is often much easier when in physical form.
The guaranteed privacy of a notebook is simple; no one will be able to read or even see your journal unless they find your notebook. Generally, this would only happen if you share the notebook or if it is stolen, which is not something to worry about. Digitally, you need to worry about companies gaining the rights to your work, cloud storage getting hacked, your computer getting stolen, etc.
Nostalgia and Focus
This is a category that is the hardest to define, but also the most important for many people who journal by hand. Touching on all points made so far, the act of handwriting a journal itself provides many benefits for people.
Disconnecting from screens, taking the time to be methodical with pen strokes, and knowing only you can know what is written in a physical journal are all vital to the experience. Simply put, the largest reason that people choose handwritten journals is that they feel more connected to their work.
With this connection often comes a sense of nostalgia. As handwriting and notebooks become marks of the past, people who grew up engaging in these activities often want to revisit and bring these skills into the modern era. Journaling is a fantastic avenue to do that, as it builds upon creativity and allows for a more visceral experience.
The amount that handwriting a journal effects its contents will change dramatically per person, but it is worth trying out for yourself. In addition to generally feeling more creative, plenty of notebook journalists swear that their journal entries are deeper and more meaningful when they take the time to handwrite them.
This may be due to the nature of handwriting in the modern era. Most professionals will not use handwriting in their day to day duties, leaving journaling as the only consistent area where they write. Inherently, this changes the way people view their journal and can often turn the process into a more important one for them.
When To Handwrite Your Journal
Choosing to handwrite your journal inherently comes with some downgrades, including accessibility, organization, and speed. However, if those qualities are not vital to you during the journaling process, handwriting your journal may be a good option.
When choosing between handwriting and typing a journal, it is important to consider your goals for journaling. There are a host of reasons why someone becomes interested in journaling, and each reason is better suited to one form than the other.
If you are on the fence about handwriting your journal, consider the following questions:
- Do you spend a lot of time looking at screens?
- How important is quickly adding to your journal?
- When do you normally add to your journal?
- How creative do you want to be with journal entries?
Providing a quick answer to all of these, even if you are unsure, will help greatly to decide which method is best for you. If you have the time and space to handwrite your journal, you should give it a try. The largest factor in choosing between the two methods tends to be how much time people want to devote to their journal per day. Taking more time with your journal will almost never be a bad thing, and handwriting your entries tends to encourage that.
Of course, if you later learn that you have less time or the process simply does not feel right, change it up! There is no reason to lock yourself into one form of journaling for a long while. It is an activity that, inherently, is made to make you feel better.
Good luck, and happy journaling!