Setting up a journal

Ready to explore journaling but not sure how to get started? Here are some guidelines to get you on your way.

The type of journal you use should reflect your own needs, preferences and style. There are lots of choices. To begin, do you want to write on paper or type into a computer?

Computer journaling differs from paper journaling in significant ways but both are acceptable. Writing is a more natural form of expression that we’ve used for generations. The form of our freehand script can both bring out and show emotion. It can be interesting to watch how our script changes as our topics and emotional involvement shift. Writing offers more opportunities for graphics, colours, spaces and artwork.

Typing, on the other hand, is more mechanical, linear and standardized. Fonts don’t convey our unique style of expression or emotion, although for some of us at least, they are much more legible! Typed words don’t reflect emotion except in what is written, and it’s more difficult to use colour and different sizes, shapes and patterns.

On the positive side, skilled typists can transfer their thoughts onto the screen much more quickly than they can write manually. With typing, we use both hands, which means we are accessing both hemispheres of the brain. And computers, particularly with good journaling software, allow us to more easily search for, categorize and change our entries.

Personally, I notice a higher quantity and quality of creativity when I journal by freehand writing rather than typing on a keypad. Explore for yourself which form suits you best.

If you choose to journal on a computer, you can use a standard word processing program or you may want to purchase software specifically designed for journaling. Personally, I can recommend Life Journal.
If you choose a paper-based journal, here are 3 popular ways to set up your journal:

1. Use a basic hard cover journal book or scribbler and write in it in chronological order. We recommend numbering pages or putting the date at the top of them so you can quickly find what is important to you. Leave a few pages blank at the beginning so you can gradually create an index by writing the topic and page number or date. To get the most out of your journaling experience, create memorable headlines for insightful and important entries. These will also support you in finding material later. If you like to journal in different places, then a hard cover or coiled journal may prove most portable.

2. A 3-ring binder offers most flexibility until you decide what format best suits your specific needs. A binder allows you to organize your notes with tabs for your favorite topics and/or tools. Consider setting up different journal sections for different reasons, e.g., dreams, meditation, life planning, daily events, gratitude, relationships, projects, spiritual growth.

3. Set up a 3 ring binder to manage both your everyday, chaotic life and your inner life. Use dividers to create different sections to serve your different needs. What do you most need to monitor? Consider phone calls, meetings and appointments, projects, customers, prospects, staff, ideas, etc. Set up sections accordingly or use this simple system. To manage everyday activities and control chaos, add your own calendar system to write down your commitments and appointments. I recommend a commercially available week-at-a-glance calendar. For the serious journaller, try a Chronolog. This is where you record your reactive chaos, in chronological order as it happens. It is a real time, running ‘to do’ list and audit trail. This section could also contain your Focus/Hot List Page that links short term action items with longer term, important, big picture items.

The beauty of journaling is that there really aren’t any rules. Choose what suits you best and get going!

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