7 Ways To Keep A Personal Journal

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how to keep a journalJournaling is an exercise for the mind and it has several proven benefits, but it can also seem difficult to do. This is primarily due to the overwhelming feeling of having to journal – it shouldn’t be like that. Instead, it should be something you look forward to doing every day. It should be a task that inspires you for the day ahead and/or relieves you of the day you have just had.

Also, there’s no precise form to journaling – you should structure it how you want and to your own lifestyle. Perhaps you want to start the day off with it or maybe end the day with it or even both! How you organize your journal can vary too. The most important thing about journaling is to actually journal and be consistent if you’re going to do it. The methods of journaling that we’ll cover in this article will allow you to do all of these things.

Use A Word Processor Or Notepad Application

Let’s start simple. One of the easiest ways to start journaling now is with something you already have and we all have a word processor or notepad application.

Your local options

how to keep a journal

To specify, I’m referring to the local applications on your computer and not web apps . When you think “word processor,” I can almost guarantee that Microsoft Word comes to mind, but there are several alternatives which are simpler and even free. Some free alternatives include LibreOffice (which we’ve also reviewed individually), OpenOffice, FreeOffice and Kingsoft Office Suite Free. To read more about them, take a look at the article 9 Of The Best Free & Low-Cost Alternatives To Microsoft Office.

keep a journal

Notepad applications are also an excellent way to journal. Although very simplistic, when staring at a blank screen with no other distractions, you already feel compelled to write. You can use the default program that came with your system or check out any of the notepad alternatives we’ve written about.

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For either of these, the idea would be that you use one file per day (or week or month). But be sure to keep them organized in some fashion. For more info on organization, see –  Creating Order From Chaos- 9 Great Ideas For Managing Your Computer Files. For an added benefit, sync your journal entries with a program like Dropbox or SugarSync so you can access and edit them from anywhere, even if you don’t have your computer with you.

Your options online

keep a journal

There are a lot of web apps for journaling (we’ll explore those more in a bit), but this is specifically concerning online office suites. We know most of them already: Google Docs, Microsoft Web Apps, Zoho Office, etc. The purpose that these would have over your local options would be that it’s all online, so you can journal anywhere. Also, it’s about what works for you – if the web, specifically a certain service like Google Docs, is the primary place where you do most of your work, then that should be where you journal too. This is because you want to make it as easy to do it as possible.

Just before the “online office suites” section started it was mentioned that a workaround for accessing your local files was to use a cloud synchronization program. Google Docs and Microsoft Web Apps both have local programs that provide a similar effect: Google Drive and SkyDrive.

Organize Your Journal Entries With A Note App

The problem with word processors and notepad applications is that your journal entries (files) aren’t organized in the sense that the said program provides easy access to them via its interface. Instead, you have to navigate away from your “journal page” to look in a folder for previous entries that you’ve logged. This is where note applications, like Evernote or OneNote, come in handy. Both come in local applications, although Evernote is also known very well for its cloud-syncing and mobile capabilities. You should know, however, that OneNote also syncs to the cloud through SkyDrive and has both a web and mobile apps as well.

keep a journal

However, Evernote and OneNote aren’t the only ones in this category. So if you’re looking at all your options look at the alternatives, specifically Evernote’s. Also, if you’re interested in a visual note app for your journaling, Springpad is an excellent option.

Set Up A Private Blog

why keep a journal

When we think “blogging,” we often think of something public, where the world can see everything about us – at least everything that we tell it about us. But blogs can also be made private. Often at times you can set it up with a password that any visitors must enter to be able to access what you’ve posted. But if you don’t want to share anything with anyone, that is fine too. In fact, that’s why it makes such a great method for journaling.

The blogging platforms which I feel are the best for this are WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous, Blogger and Livescribe. If you already have a blog or website using one of these platforms, then just create another private blog on that same platform so you can have it all in one place.

Create A Private Twitter Account

why keep a journal

Usually, I wouldn’t recommend using social networking to journal. For those of you who’ve read other articles which cover any realm of social media might find the following phrase familiar:

Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t shout into a megaphone on a crowded street corner.

And perhaps for that reason, online journaling shouldn’t be done. However, that advice is mostly for people who share too much and contribute to our social media annoyances.

All of that aside, Twitter is a great way to privately journal online. You obviously can only share entries of 140 characters, so it isn’t for everyone and it depends on your journaling style.

For more info on this, read the Twitter page about public and protected tweets and check out the MakeUseOf article 5 Ways To Use Twitter As An Online Private Diary.

Use A Web Service Specifically For Journaling

why keep a journal

There are several services out there that are great for journaling. What makes them so great is they cater to that precise use. There is something about using something that is only for that. It helps you separate everything else from that task, in this case journaling. We’ve shared about some ways to quickly and simply journal online. However, that article certainly doesn’t cover them all. Below is a list of three excellent services to try, along with a link to their MakeUseOf article:

In addition to those, there is one more service that isn’t technically a journal-specific service, but it can definitely be used for it (and I this is the closest category it falls into, to be honest). This service is iDoneThis, which is a tool to log your productivity and track your progress. However, don’t let that scare you away. If you just want something to type out what you did while you reflect on your day, this is an excellent tool for that.

Having Trouble Focusing? Try A Distraction-Free Writing App

If you’ve been in the boat where you seem to always struggle with getting distracted whenever you sit down to journal, perhaps you should consider a tool that is aimed at a distraction-free writing experience. We’ve covered several of these tools already in articles like Write In Peace With These Distraction-Free Editors where Saikat covered excellent tools like Q10, Ommwriter, WriteMonkey and FocusWriter, as well as others.

If you prefer an online option, there are many to choose from, such as:

Lastly, another excellent distraction-free online tool is Writer, which I mentioned in the article 5 Web-Based Tools For Any Browser That Every Writer Should Use.

For more help on overcoming the distractions when writing, I’d like to refer you to following articles:

Also, get away from people while writing and journaling. Nothing ever gets done whenever a pillow fight is on.

Last, But NEVER Least: Pen And Paper

As much as society is pushing everything to go paperless, there is still a need for pen and paper occasionally. And journaling is a prime example of that. In the previous section we talked about distraction-free writing. Well… you can’t get more distraction-free than away from a computer altogether – in a quiet, cozy and dimly lit little corner somewhere. As much as we’d like to argue that technology has more benefits than not, one thing that is a fact is that it can be very distracting. And in this day and age we are reliant on it, which might not be a good thing if it is a weakness for you.

Nonetheless, if you need a break from the overwhelming number of bright-screened devices that you have, journaling with a pen and paper just might suffice and fill that gap.

Conclusion

how to keep a journal

Journaling isn’t an easy task and I don’t want to make it out to be so. It requires purpose to consistently write every day. You might (or might not) be thinking “This guy sounds like an avid journaler.” But I’ll be honest, I’m not as consistent as I should be. So if you’re that type of person who’s had trouble – I can relate.

If you are an avid journaler, what method (or methods?) do you prefer? Have you found one is exceptionally better over the others? And if you aren’t an avid journaler, what do you feel would help you become one? Share your thoughts below!

For more info about journaling, be sure to check out the following MakeUseOf articles:

Image Credits: Wooden Tablet Notebook With Pages via Shutterstock, Notepad With Pen via Shutterstock, Notebook, Pen And Tablet via Shutterstock, Distracted Young Boy At Computer via Shutterstock, Happy Playful Students At Home And Smiling via Shutterstock

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Comments (65)
  • Elliott J.

    This is my personal reason why I would never have an online journal. Above all else, the feeling of insecurity, etc…this is my #1 reason:

    OhLife has shut down as of October 19, 2014.

    We started OhLife to help people remember what’s happened in their life. But since then we weren’t able to grow our user base or make OhLife financially stable. Because of both these reasons we decided to shut OhLife down. We appreciate everyone that’s used OhLife and supported us.

    We’re extremely sorry for shutting the site down.

  • Gerhard Tinned

    What about MacJournal … better then a Notepad Application!!

  • Guy McDowell

    This Aaron Couch kid is going to make waves. Just watch. He writes more thoughtfully than writers twice his age. Very fluid learner as well.

    Keep it up Aaron. Good job.

    • Aaron Couch

      Ha! Guy, you just made my day! Thank you for that! I like your work a lot too, just so you know.

  • Peri Allen

    Love this information i am really into journal and this helps a lot now I have other ways to journal till my hearts content.

  • Ross

    Here is one that has been around since 1996. Not a freeby but feature rich:

    http://www.davidrm.com/

    • Aaron Couch

      Ross,

      Thanks for this suggestion. It is unfortunate that it’s not free, but I really like the idea of providing discounts for all sorts of people. I was pretty surprised to see a few of them on there. So it’s actually quite intriguing from that standpoint.

      Thanks for reading.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.