Most productivity experts agree that if there is one habit you should take up, it’s journaling. Steadily tracking your life has multiple benefits, such as meeting goals and new year resolutions, as well as being more aware of what makes you happy and grateful. If you haven’t started yet, these are five of the best journal and diary apps to ease you into the practice.
These apps introduce journaling in different ways, from gentle reminders to harsh goals that take your money away if you miss your journaling deadline. By some way or other, you will learn the art of journaling here. And remember, we have an entire beginner’s guide to digital journaling, which tells you how to go about it.
1. Life Calendar (Android, iOS): Color-Coded Weekly Journaling for Beginners
Daily journaling is a difficult habit to form, especially if you have other resolutions to keep. Life Calendar takes a weekly approach to journaling, and adds a few color-coded tricks to make a dotted visual dashboard of your life.
At the end of each week, give it a color based on how the week went. You might want to have green for happy, red for angry, blue for sad, and so on. The app’s built-in reminder will also ask you to write a note about the week that went by. And your birthday week has a different diamond-shaped icon to mark it separately.
As you start adding each week’s big events and mood, you’ll start seeing a snapshot of your life. Suddenly, you might find that you are happier in the summer and winter gets you in the doldrums. And you can take action accordingly.
2. Journal Jerk (Email, Web): Takes Away Your Money If You Don’t Journal
Sometimes, you need a kick up the rear to get things done. Journal Jerk is a subscription-based service that gives you a money-based motivation to never miss journaling.
Here’s how it works. You sign up for a $5 per week subscription. Journal Jerk will send you a daily email. Reply to that email with a note to count it as a successful journal entry. Every week that you meet your journaling deadlines (based on how frequently you want to journal), the price drops by 50 percent. So keep at it and it will go down to a paltry $0.09 per week. Miss a deadline and you’re back to $5 per week, so there’s that added motivation to keep going.
It’s a variation of Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break The Chain” productivity method to form a good habit. You can also export your journal at any time, and stop the subscription if you want to.
3. Journaly (Android, iOS, macOS): Making Journaling Easy by Getting Data Automatically
Journaly is among the best full-fledged journaling apps that we’ve seen. It can give heavyweights like Day One a run for their money, without ever costing you a penny.
It supports all sorts of journal entries, such as photos from your phone camera, emojis, GPS locations, and so on. Of course, you can add notes to everything to maintain a proper journal. Importantly, Journaly is a smart app that fetches a lot of data about your life automatically. It tracks and updates your time, date, place, activity, sleep, and weather, to eventually give you a comprehensive data plot of your life.
If you’re new to journaling, such automatic updates make a big difference in forming the habit. Even on days you missed actually writing anything, Journaly has tracked some data that you forgot about. At times, that’s all you need to keep going.
4. Gratefulness (Web, Email, Phone): Daily Gratefulness Journal
Maintaining a gratitude journal is one of the best mental health practices you can adopt. It builds a greater appreciation for the world around you and squashes the human mind’s inclination towards negativity. To get started, try out Gratefulness.
The app works via either SMS (U.S.-only) or email. Sign up and you will get a daily reminder in the morning or evening (or at both times), asking what are you grateful for today. Reply to it and forget about it. Gratefulness tracks all your replies to prepare your journal, which you can check out any time on the site and download or export too.
The simplicity of Gratefulness is what makes it stand out. There isn’t anything more to do than add 5-10 words a day about something you are grateful for, in an easy format by replying to a message. You might not even open the app for months, but a simple reply to a text message gets the job done. The trick to a journaling habit is all about making it easy to write every day, and that’s what Gratefulness excels at.
5. Dream Journal Ultimate (Android, iOS): Track Your Dreams (and Read Others’ Nightmares)
What did you dream about yesterday? Most of us forget what we dreamed about in a short while after waking up. But what if you could remember all your dreams? Dream Journal Ultimate asks you to track your dreams for a whole new perspective on life.
The app will automatically remind you to write your dreams every morning, so you don’t forget what you still remember. The more you do it, the stranger the picture gets. A few weeks down the line, you’ll be surprised by what goes on in your mind, and you’ll actually get better at remembering your dreams too.
Dream Journal Ultimate also has a built-in social network so you can share your dreams on the public “Dream Wall” and read what others are dreaming about. It can even be fun to have strangers jump in and interpret your dreams, giving you insights you never thought about.
Should Journals Be Digital or Paper?
For ages, people maintained journals in the form of books, but there is a shift towards journal apps now because of how we always carry our smartphones everywhere. But there is a movement that says journals should be about paper because part of its therapeutic effect lies in writing by pen on paper. The templates are the same, only the method changes.
If you enjoy journaling, you might also appreciate the benefits of keeping a food diary.