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How to (Re)Start Your Journaling or Notebook-Keeping Journey

Have you considered getting a journal or keeping a notebook but need help figuring out where to start? Are you overwhelmed by the many different types of journals and journaling styles available and need help figuring out which ones to choose? Or, have you been keeping journals for some time, but they start to feel like a chore instead of a relaxing and pleasant way to express your thoughts and feelings? Are you discouraged by a collection of unfinished journals sitting on your desk?

Whether you’re just starting or need a fresh restart for your journaling/notebook-keeping practice, this 30-day challenge may help you unlock some insights and inspirations to find a journaling process that will work for you!

1) Begin by selecting a notebook and pen that you genuinely enjoy using.

Choose something affordable so you’re not too precious about it, but also something you enjoy seeing or touching—something that will make you feel good when you see it or carry it around and inspire you to put pen to paper.

2) Carry this journal with you everywhere for the next month (to work, on a commute, to a cafe, to the beach, to your bedside table…).

Whenever a thought, idea, or feeling pops up, write it down without overthinking it. Be sure to note the date, day, time, and location—these details can provide valuable context as you look back.

So, maybe on Day 1, as you wake up, a thought pops up in your mind about your upcoming vacation. Grab your notebook and jot it down.

Upcoming beach vacation.

Then, as you’re drinking your morning coffee, you may have more thoughts or ideas about this, and you can write them down quickly. Remember, things don’t have to make sense, and you don’t need to write them in perfect or correct sentences. Just have fun to explore and capture your thoughts and feelings!

Need to finalize a place to stay.

Are there stationery shops here?—need to research! How? Ask friends on IG?

What to pack? Create packing list for a week.

Anxious anxious anxious but excited!!!

Oh, this is my first vacation after a year, and I am so looking forward to it. Maybe that’s why I’m so anxious: I really want everything to be smooth.

And maybe once you arrive at the office, when you’re sitting at your desk, you remember that you will have a performance review in a month. So, you write your thoughts down.

Performance review next month.

What to prepare? Am I ready?

To-do list:

– complete the evaluation feedback form

– choose an available date and book it from the calendar

– what else? hmm…

I think it will go well, I meet all my deadlines, my supervisor is happy with me (she never criticized my work!!! should I be happy or worried?)

And then you have the urge to doodle your worries, so you doodle it.

After seeing your doodle, you want to calm yourself down, so you write in big bold letters underneath:

IT’S OKAY, YOU’LL BE FINE!!!

IT’S OKAY, YOU’LL BE FINE!!!

IT’S OKAY, YOU’LL BE FINE!!!

Then, as you’re about to leave the office, you remember that you need to buy groceries, so you write them down:

celery

carrot

milk

egg

yogurt

Continue this process daily, and you may be surprised with what you find out after 30 days!

3) After 30 days, reflect on your journaling process and consider the following questions.

Did you find joy in the analog experience?

If not, it’s okay, too. You may be more of a digital person, and journaling on your computer or phone feels more comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with it. At least you’ve experimented with the analog system and discovered it’s not for you.

If you enjoy the analog experience, how does it complement your digital system? Are there overlapping things?

When there are overlaps, there is redundancy. You end up doing the same thing twice, which will tire you down in the long run. Sort through your entries and see which ones are better to be kept digitally (synced with your app, emails, digital calendar, or note-taking system) and which ones you want to do the analog way.

Which types of entries did you most enjoy writing during these 30 days?

To-do lists? Feelings you are trying to process? Tracking your habits? Deep thoughts and reflections? A recap of your day? Random/inspired collages and doodles? These entries usually take up much space in your journal or appear repeatedly. List down the top 3-5 types of entries that you love. The answer can be your starting point on what to fill up your next journal/notebook with!

From these three types of entries you want to keep in an analog way, which ones do you want to keep for the next ten years or more, and which ones can be disposable after one year or less?

This question will help you to see which ones of your journal entries are temporary or everlasting. If you feel overwhelmed from keeping several notebooks or don’t have much time to journal or take analog notes, focus your time, resources, and energy on journal entries or notes you want to keep, remember, or revisit after ten years.

What is missing from this 30-day analog experience that you wish you could incorporate more?

You may want to see more photos or pictures as a visual reminder. You want to have more entries about your deep thoughts and reflections. You have always loved cute stationery and want to play more with stamps, stickers, or washi tapes in your journal. You regret not writing down your favorite quotes from the book you read. Do you wish you had kept that birthday card with a lovely note sent by your best friend? Please take note of these answers; you can incorporate them in your next journal!

Knowing yourself, do you want separate journals for different entries, or is it better to keep one notebook for all?

There is no right or wrong answer; you know yourself best. Do not get pressured by the way other people use their journals or notebooks. If you are trying to decide whether to separate your journal entries into different notebooks, postpone doing it until the need naturally arises—and stay with one notebook for now.

We hope answering the questions after this 30-day restart process will help you clarify what kind of journal or journal entries you like and what sort of notebook-keeping practice will suit you. The key is finding a process you genuinely look forward to—one that is enjoyable, helpful, and meaningful for you!

Don’t force yourself to journal in a way that doesn’t resonate. Your journal should evolve alongside you, reflecting what’s most important in each stage of your life. The entries you enjoy writing and revisiting may also change over time, and that’s perfectly okay. Don’t be afraid to experiment and adapt your approach as you grow.

The beauty of journaling or notebook-keeping is that it’s a deeply personal practice. So be kind to yourself, and don’t worry about perfection. Focus on finding an approach that sparks joy and helps you connect with yourself. The perfect journal for you is the one you enjoy using when you’re alone, and nobody’s watching! Sure, it’s lovely to share snippets of your journals with someone or publish them on your social media platform, as long as your joy and authenticity are not affected by the pressure to perform.

Trust your instincts, embrace what works for you, and don’t worry about fitting into any mold. Your journal is a reflection of your unique journey, and that’s what makes it so special and beautiful.

paperhugs,

Hanny

photos via Unsplash/Canva Pro

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