How to Write in a Journal Effectively

Note: This is a guest post from Jonathan Beebe of Develop Minds

You may know all the reasons why you should keep a journal, but if you’ve never written in a journal before, or have limited experience with it, you may not exactly know how to get started. You’ve got your notebook out, and a blank page staring back at you… now what?

Of course, there’s no set rules to writing in a journal. You can write in it however you like and it’s effective either way; however, if you need just a little guidance to get you started on the right foot, I’ll show you an effective journal “template” that you can use day-to-day, and modify as you wish to suit your needs.

Remember, none of the “sections” listed below are required to be long. They can be as long as a few paragraphs, or as short as one sentence… it’s all up to you, after all, it’s your journal 🙂


A good way to start any journal entry is to begin listing a few of the things you’re grateful for. If you do this on routine, it helps to write a few words as to why you’re grateful for each particular item, so you really feel grateful, rather than just writing from memorization.

Even if you only name one thing you’re truly grateful for, what this will do is help bring you into a positive mindset for not only your journal writing session, but for your entire day. Gratitude is one of the best ways to ignite positivity… and we all have something to be grateful for.

Personal Reflection

I then begin writing about where I’m at with the current goals that I’m working on, or touch on some of the things I mentioned in my previous entry (if applicable). For example, if I had planned on posting an article to my blog and also taking my wife and daughter to the park today, I’ll write whether or not I ended up following through and how it went (or why I didn’t end up doing it). If I see somewhere I need to improve as far as my goals go, I’ll recognize that as well.

This section of the journal entry is for making a “status check” of yourself to see where you’re at, evaluate your strengths, and assess your weaknesses. I recommend you also use this section to write down how you feel about certain things, and express your emotions.

Goal Focus

This is where you can make plans to fix the areas you’re weaker at, set goals for the next day, etc. The previous section was used for evaluating and assessing, and this section is for planning and thinking about the “next” step.

For example, let’s say my goal is to lose 25lbs and I took a nice walk the previous day to work towards my goal. In the “Personal Reflection” section, I can recognize the fact that I took some time to work on my fitness, but also take note that I should have probably ate less snacks during the day. Then, in the “Goal Focus” section, I could state that because the walk wasn’t very challenging, that I plan to go further the next day and cut back on my daily snacking.

What the above journaling template will do for you is:

  • Get you started on the right track, with a mindset of gratitude.
  • Allow you to assess your feelings, your strengths, and areas you could improve (whether it be goals or general personal growth areas).
  • Ensure you are taking at least baby steps towards your goals each day.
  • Allow you to have a clear “action plan” as to what you’re planning on doing next (whether it be later on that day, the next day, etc).

As I mentioned earlier, there is no “right” way to write in your journal, but if you’re unsure how to get started, following the above template will definitely give you an effective head start!

Jonathan Beebe is the author and creator of Develop Minds, a personal development blog dedicated to providing free content aimed at helping you improve you life by increasing your consciousness, intelligence, and teaching you to fully develop your mind in a positive way.

Photo by dailylifeofmojo


  1. Great tips. I’ve put off writing journals for years now because I keep wondering what I’d actually write. Thinking it’s time I head down to OfficeWorks and get myself a notebook though. 🙂

  2. Hi Jonathan.

    I went ahead and wrote down “grateful, reflect, goal focus” on the paper I write things down on so that later I will do a quick written journal following that route that you showed here. I’m pretty sure I normally leave out saying what I am grateful for, and reflecting on past material. I think this template has some effective parts to it, and your description is appreciated.

  3. Jonathan:

    As someone who has kept a journal for 15+ years, I can honestly tell you that this is a fantastic post!

    Thank you so much for the helpful tips!

    Paul Castain
    Vice President Sales Development
    Consolidated Graphics

  4. Great post. I’ve kept a journal for years. For gratitude, I like to write in what I am grateful for in the past, present and future. So, I’ll write in gratitude for things that have already happened. Then I will think about and write about what I am grateful for now. Then I visualize the future and give gratitude for what is coming my way.

  5. I’ve been writing a journal (or diary as I call it being a Brit!) since I was five. It’s so great to read back on what you’ve been doing over the years and see how your mind set has changed and which patterns have been repeated through your life.

    I recommend writing a journal for fun but it also has a deeply therapeutic side to it and can be used successfully for goal setting, setting new habits and as self-motivation.

  6. thanks for your sharing

  7. I keep a journal and getting started with the hardest part. Once I determined to write everything to another party – things seemed to flow. I can definitely say that my ability to express myself through words has improved significantly.

  8. I agree that journal writing is one of the most useful personal growth/development tools available. It keeps you in touch with yourself–what’s important, what your goals are, who you are, and who you want to become.

    Keeping a journal is quite simple–yet also surprisingly tricky! It’s really helpful to learn from journal experts–people who have done or read the research and done original thinking/work in the field. The International Association for Journal Writing is an organization dedicated to supporting and teaching the basics and the nuances of journal writing. Thirty top-notch journal experts collectively offer their wisdom to you at one site: Come visit!

  9. […] How to Write in a Journal Effectively […]

  10. Great post! I think using your journal to chronicle the difficult and trying times is beneficial as well. I was looking through a journal from 2003 yesterday which was a trying year for me. I wrote down my frustrations and confusions frequently. Now when I look back I feel so much gratitude and inspiration because I have proof of my struggle and victory.

    If I get discouraged again I can look back on those times and say, “see, I made it through that so I can make it through this.”

  11. […] Latumahina presents How to Write in a Journal Effectively posted at Life […]

  12. […] Latumahina presents How to Write in a Journal Effectively posted at Life […]

  13. […] Latumahina presents How to Write in a Journal Effectively posted at Life […]

  14. Great post. Thank you. I suspect that only a very small minority actually journal and it’s one of the most powerful things that I do in (for) my life. Gratitude truly is the place to begin each day. It’s what connects us to our Creative Intelligence. Keep up the great work!

    Jim Campbell

  15. i have a journal i love it!

  16. Hi, I have just begun journal writing and I really like your post. its important to be grateful, to wake up being thankful. Grateful for what wonderful things are about to happen that day/next day. I always say, Thank you for the wonderfully peaceful day I had today and will have tomorrow. I like to believe it brings it into fruitation. 🙂

  17. I write a letter to my kids each day.

    S. Thomas Summers
    Author of Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War

  18. I have an English exam tomorrow and our task is going to be about writing a Journal. This post was very beneficial. I actually learned a lot of valuable information from here. Thank you 🙂 it is a great post, really. Now i know exactly what to do tomorrow in the exam 🙂

  19. Nice little article. Thanks. I cringed a little at the grammar of the one sentence though: “I should have ate …”. Needs to be: I should have eaten.

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