Thoughts on Journaling

travel expedition journal

I’ve noticed, just over the past month or two, that everywhere I turn on the web, people are advertising journals. These are different than the lined journals that I have been using for 30 years or so. Instead of lined page after lined page, these new journals all have their own format, designed, they proclaim, to help us become more effective in moving our lives forward.

I am a huge believer in journaling as a power tool for progress in our lives. My mother got me started when I was stalled out just after graduate school, and I have been writing in journals ever since. I find it therapeutic, but science has shown that it’s a lot more than therapeutic. Journaling makes us more mindful of how we are living. It gives us perspective on our lives and choices. It helps us sort through struggles and decisions and helps us make better decisions. People who journal become better communicators at home and at work. Journaling improves our self-discipline, sparks creativity, self-confidence and improves memory. There are even studies that show journalers have better health than non-journalers.

A lot of people start journaling and fail. This spate of new journal manufacturers go on the premise that one of the reasons many of us fail to keep a journal is that we don’t really know what to do with the things. All these empty pages and no structure. What do I write? What’s the right way to do this to get the most most effectiveness?

I spent some money and bought some of them, and in a few cases, downloaded some sample pages. Each one is a bit different from the others, but in general, they follow the same approach: Build a journal that has questions and quotes and a structured approach that often have elements of gratitude, big picture thinking, day to day scheduling, and a review of the day to prepare us for the next day. Leave a section for free form notes, and maybe a little patch to do some sketching in.

I’ve tried journal pages from One Book, Best Self, The Go Journal, the 90X Goal Planner, the Full Focus Planner by Michael Hyatt, the My Era journal, and half a dozen others. Which one to choose?

You know what? They are all good. I can see any one of them working for most anyone. I can promise you this: You can buy any of them (most run between 25-35 each, good for 3 months or so.) and get to it and they will have positive effect on your life and goals.

Whatever you do though, don’t spend a lot of time and energy deciding between them. Seriously, the difference between one and another of these journals is small. Picking the perfect journal for you, and picking one that is a tad less perfect won’t change the outcome because the specifics of what journal you use is the smallest part of the equation. The big question is our commitment. Will we stick with it? Because they all work. Mostly, it’s not the planner or diary that makes the difference. It’s us..

If we are disciplined enough to journal, we will reap the effects. If we aren’t, we won’t, and we can’t blame it on the planner, the pages or the system. Because they all work. Even the blank one works, if we use it. Or an online journal,

We sweat the details too much. Or maybe we use sweating the details to keep us from doing the work, or giving us something else to blame if we don’t keep up the journaling. But it’s us. Will we or won’t we? Are the benefits worth it? (They are.)

Just pick one. Any one. Yes, I have a favorite, but it doesn’t matter. Just pick one and write. A few minutes every day to transform your life. Pretty good deal in my book.

Be well. Travel Wisely,


PS- Whenever I write of journaling, I inevitably asked what I use. In my case, I use Life Journal software (they also have an online version) for my day to day, free form writing and sorting out emotions, and the My Era paper journal for planning and holding myself accountable.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s