an open journal ready for writing

4 Journaling Ideas to Become a Bit Better Each Day

Journaling is a powerful tool, but it’s such a broad term it’s hard to know what journaling is and where to start. So why don’t we start with a definition? Or, if you’re ready for the journaling ideas, skip down a few paragraphs.

What is Journaling?

Journaling is capturing thoughts in a way that lets you revisit them later. This can be through writing, typing, recording audio, or something similar. All that matters is the ambiguous thoughts floating around in your head are transferred into concrete language and captured in a format you can easily revisit later.

Why is Journaling Powerful?

Almost all of the happiest and most impressive people, both throughout history and today, keep a journal because it’s a powerful tool to examine ourselves. It transforms wispy thoughts into concrete ideas and clarifies your thinking to help you better understand yourself.

It’s estimated that 95% of our brain activity is unconscious. We have a lot going on beneath the surface of conscious thought. Buried in the unconscious are new ideas, gut feelings, hidden emotions, unique perspectives, and so much more.

To unlock the treasure trove of the unconscious mind, we need the help of journaling to lure out the right ideas and understand our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

A Helpful Resource

When I first started journaling, it helped me tremendously, but I didn’t sit down to write nearly as much as I should have. I read lots of interesting books and newsletters and always wanted to journal about the ideas I was learning, but I never made the time to do it.

The ideas below made it much easier for me to journal consistently, but I still felt something was missing from my journaling practice, so I created a newsletter called Prompted. Every Sunday, I deliver one framework surrounding personal growth along with 3 journal prompts to hundreds of subscribers so they have an easy way to contemplate a new idea and journal about becoming a bit better each day. You can check it out here if you’d like.

I’ve realized over the years that the most important factors in journaling are getting yourself to sit down with a pen and having something to write about when you do. The ideas below will help you do both of those so you can journal consistently about what’s relevant in your life.

4 Journaling Ideas

To harness the power of journaling and become a bit better each day, leverage these four frameworks to get started:

  1. Build a Daily Template to fill out in the morning
  2. Ask yourself questions
  3. Complete a Monthly Review
  4. Identify Journaling Triggers

Create a Daily Template

Creating a template to fill out every morning is one of the easiest ways to build a journaling habit. The hardest part about journaling is figuring out what to write down on the dreaded blank page. A template removes the intimidation of an empty page staring back at you and tells you exactly what to write down. Instead of creating ideas from scratch, you can just fill in the blanks.

Apart from lowering the barrier to entry to journaling, using a template also makes it easy to steer your brain to journal about specific topics. To help yourself become a bit better each day, the template you create should point you toward journaling that will help you improve.

You might include a list of 3 things you're grateful for, a goal for the day, rewrite a long-term goal, create a plan for the day, review yesterday, check in with how you’re feeling, set intentions for the day, or any other number of quick exercises. Make it short and sweet. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to complete. If you can’t think of a few relevant items to include, steal my template below or try The 5 Minute Journal.


Wednesday, 11/22/23

Gratitude List

How am I feeling right now?

AM Focus:

PM Focus:

Ask Questions, Write Answers

Journal prompts are just questions. Questions trick our brains into creating answers. If you ask yourself questions, your brain will begin itching to respond and soon enough, journaling comes pouring out.

Asking yourself questions is also great because the questions are relevant to you. If you’re struggling with something in your personal life or you’re angry with someone, you can ask yourself why. Even if you’re unsure, as you begin to answer the question, the truth will slowly make itself clear.

You might find the original question misguided, but it served its purpose of getting your pen moving. Asking a relevant question is more important than asking the right question. The main benefit of asking yourself questions is the same as creating a template: lowering the barrier to entry. The magic of journaling happens once you get into the groove of writing and your unconscious thoughts start flowing out onto the page. Asking questions can help you get to that point faster.


Why am I feeling stressed right now?

Why do I always disagree with my boss?

How can I create conditions so the habits I want to create are the path of least resistance?

What am I doing that’s holding me back from the life I say I want?

Why do I keep procrastinating on this project?

Complete a Monthly Review

When you have something impactful going on in your life, it’s an easy topic to journal about, but most of life is pretty normal so journaling topics are harder to come by. Just because nothing is immediately consequential doesn’t mean you can’t learn from examining your thoughts, actions, feelings, and ideas.One great way to journal is to complete a long-form monthly review at the end of each month. This provides a great excuse to examine what’s happening every few weeks and creates an opportunity to identify trends and patterns at a larger scale.

You can use journaling to complete a monthly review by recapping everything you’ve done in the last month. It’s helpful to pair this with a review of your calendar so you can remember everything that happened. After refreshing your memory of the last few weeks, you can examine how everything went. Did it go according to plan? Did you exceed your expectations? Did you fall short of where you hoped to be? What actions or circumstances led to that outcome?

With a stronger grasp of what happened, why it happened that way, and how you feel about it, you can now extract lessons from the previous month and use those learnings to create a better plan for the month moving forward.


What’s happened in each area of my life in the last month? Have I hit the goals I set for myself?

What areas of life am I proud of my commitment to over the last month? Which ones need improvement?

What can I change to do a better job next month?

Identify Triggers

Journaling is similar to working out. Once we get to the gym, the hard part is usually over and we can execute our workout plan. The most difficult part of exercising is getting to the gym.

The most difficult part of journaling is stopping the rest of your day to sit down with a pen and notebook. Once you’re sitting down, it’s much easier to start writing, especially if you use some of the ideas above.

The final journaling idea I’d like to touch on today is creating journaling triggers. In the same way an empty fridge triggers you to go to the grocery store, you should identify things that trigger you to journal. The most basic trigger is a morning routine or the end of the month, where you can utilize the daily template or monthly review format discussed above, but creating other triggers to dive deeper into timely issues helps unpack important events and feelings.


Every morning while having coffee, I will fill out my daily journaling template.

Whenever I can’t sleep because my mind is racing, I will journal to clear my mind.

After getting into a disagreement or a fight with someone else, I will journal about the confrontation to better understand it.

After a big life event (moving, starting a new job, end of a relationship, etc.) I will take time to journal and reflect on the transition.

Journaling Ideas are Great, but Words on the Page Are Better

The ideas listed here should be more than enough to kickstart your journaling journey or reinvigorate the lost habit if you’ve journaled in the past. Different journaling ideas or techniques are not better than one another. The only thing that matters when journaling is getting words down on the page.

So, before you go, pick an idea above and do it. Doesn’t matter which one, it doesn’t matter if it's perfect or sloppy, just give it a try and make a plan.

Hope this helps!

Thanks for reading!

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