Making it more useful
Read the following to expand your viewpoint of journaling

Everything you do in life is for a purpose and to get a desired result in life.  Journaling is one of the means to achieve the ends in your life.

Reflection is one of the keys to making life work better.  If one never reflected, even for a moment, on what one was doing, there would be no progress - and hopefully you might make new decisions about how to do things. [All successful people in life spend sufficient time in reflecting to come up with more useful ways of doing things in life.  All...]

However, I think you can add much, much more value with a systematic structure and prompts that create more thinking and more completion.

Also, I think it would be a good idea to have a list of questions one can access that would encourage deeper and/or varied journaling so you are getting more out of it.


Read to expand your view:

Gibbs A Williams, On Keeping A Personal Journal - Journaling Has Many Uses


One way of viewing journaling is that you are keeping in motion an ongoing honest dialogue with yourself. The purpose of this dialogue is to keep you on point, centered, illuminating that which is most present, most vivid, and most real. The following is a list of uses to which a personal journal may be put. While this list is comprehensive, it does not exhaust all possibilities. You might wish to add your own ideas.   See The Journals for ideas on types of journaling, particularly the analytical, progressive journal.


Sometimes one can use the journal to get the basics down really quickly, but then go to a form to problem solve, using the Problem Solving forms on this site and/or the Psychological Problem Solving forms.


Victories, achievements, acknowledgements, thank yous, contributions made today.

From Gibbs A. Williams on journaling:

Record "Current Preoccupations (What Is It I Want to Change?)": If you wish to know what is really on your mind, there is no better exercise than to let yourself just do "automatic" writing. If you just record what is on the top of your head - no digging is necessary - you will inevitably reveal that which is of utmost importance.

This is so because human beings seem to operate by focusing on one major theme and sub-themes that dominate their conscious and unconscious minds. Therefore, if you: (1) let yourself record whatever is on your mind, associating to it as freely as possible, trying not to censor; and (2) put the material away for a day or two, then reread it, a clear and dominant theme will jump out at you. This theme may become the central theme of your entire therapy!

Morning Pages:  Julia Cameron's version of this, called The Morning Pages, is to just write as fast as you can any thoughts that come up, such as "this is boring", "I don't want to do this", etc. Write at least 3 pages.  Something begins to happen on the third page or before....

Set Goals (What Is It I Want to Change To?): Changing in psychotherapy means going from an undesirable state to one that is more desirable. Thus, psychotherapy is goal-directed. Goals may be clear, vague, or blank. One goal may be to generate goals.

Document Personal History (How Did I Get To Be This Way?): Changing in therapy means that you will engage in an ongoing process that begins with identifying the problem of the day, exploring it, and working it through. Common to all three steps is forging cause-and-effect chains of meaningful connections. In this light, knowledge of the past is often essential to understanding seemingly unsolvable dilemmas of the present.

Tracing a particular problem...

Problems do not occur in a vacuum. Rather, they have a point of origin and a history of developing over time. Thus, one use of journaling is to take a present problem and trace its origins and development over time. For example, you might want to identify when it was that you came to hate your brother, or when you couldn't bear raising your hand in class even though you always knew the answer to the teacher's questions.

Once you identify the origins of a particular problem, you might note what the conditions were surrounding the issue in question. Did you know what you were feeling at the time? Did you discuss it with anyone? Were their responses helpful or perhaps hurtful? Looking back on it, are you aware of what you concluded?

Ask yourself challenging "organizing" questions

Organize Chaos: Journaling is an excellent accompaniment to therapy sessions. A journal allows you to have an unbroken dialogue with yourself, to ask yourself challenging organizing questions such as: Who am I? What do I really want? What interferes with attaining and sustaining what I want? Under what conditions do I get stuck? What do I do to try to get myself unstuck? All of these questions help you to learn about yourself in detail.

Getting to the truth of the matter

You may also record feelings, thoughts, and memories that naturally flow from what was said and not said during therapy or self exploration or even coaching sessions. Giving names to your experiences and writing them down clarifies, organizes, and makes them feel more real. Honest talk over time inevitably reveals the truth of the matter in question, potentially resulting in greater personal freedom and effectiveness.

Release tensions

Release Tensions Constructively: It is not unusual to feel overwhelmed at points during the process of self-exploration. At such times, there is an urgent desire to empty out the "negative" feelings. Emptying out or "venting" might take the form of screaming, or crying for hours, or sitting and staring, or restlessly pacing. Journaling is a constructive method of venting that not only allows for release, but often results in insight.

When alone

Learn To Be Alone and Enjoy It: People often complain about being overwhelmingly lonely, fearing being alone particularly late at night. Here journaling is particularly helpful. The habit of expressing one's feelings in honest words becomes habitual. The journal is like a friend who is always there - always willing to listen to whatever you want to talk about in any way you want to talk about it. The journal accepts you unconditionally - no judgments - just consistent encouragement: tell me more, tell me more, tell me more. In this light, it is possible to learn to understand and accept yourself with ever-expanding breadth and depth.

Get Unstuck: Significant change is possible in therapy, but it is often met with resistance. Sooner or later, everyone gets bogged down. Journaling is particularly helpful as an aide to getting unstuck. Because problems are embedded in various contexts, dated journal entries enable you to pinpoint when, where, with whom, and what you were experiencing when you got "off track." Once you have that information, you can explore what triggered the derailing or "stuckness." Identifying triggers and contexts can offer opportunities to generate creative ideas for getting unstuck.

Assess Progress Over Time: The desire to change is the primary reason people seek out and stay in therapy. Some changes are obvious, while others are not. Reading your journal, a record of the continuous flow of your vital personal experience, is an objective evaluator of significant change. It can help to read how you were, particularly at the beginning of your therapy, as compared to how you are today. When changes occur, the journal brings to life the process of making meaningful connections, like pieces of a six-dimensional puzzle fitting together into a clear and coherent whole.

Are you intrigued by these possibilities? Then perhaps you may want to give journaling a try!

Copyright © 2000-2001 Gibbs A. Williams


Gibbs A. Williams:

Journaling Tools

Watch for regular additions to this list. Access this complete list of Journaling Tools, PLUS hundreds of other Personal Growth Resources.

Re-Treat Yourself Processes

Re-Treat Yourself to a periodic review and use appropriate Journaling Tools, Ideas and Topics

Any time micro Re-Treat Yourself Process – Reap the benefits of awareness pauses.
Daily mini Re-Treat Yourself Process – Make the most starting and reviewing every day.
Weekly Re-Treat Yourself Process – Focus on goals, balance and peace of mind.
Monthly Re-Treat Yourself Process – Focus on rejuvenation and staying on purpose.
Quarterly/Yearly Re-Treat Yourself Process – Precious solitude to relax and reconnect with your big picture.

Journaling Tools in order from left brain, logical tools to right brain, intuitive tools.

Tools for managing and tracking your journaling process:

Hot List - Keep handy your list of most important things to journal about.
Dream Calendar - Put your ideal day, week and year on one page.
Daily Tracker - Measure what is important to you. Show you are progressing.
Stepping Stones – Life History Log -  Create a meaningful life history log.
The Review/Summary - Sift the wheat from the chaff.
The Pause - Step back and allow integration to work for you.

Tools that focus intention and create awareness:

Sentence Stubs - Complete the sentence....
Regular Check-ups - Regular Check-ups help us stay aware of all aspects of our lives that matter to us.
List Making - Watch how your mind works. Expand your creativity.
Radar Trap - Catch yourself in the act. Enhance your awareness.
Smart Questions - Allow questions to draw out your own inner wisdom.
Unsent Release Letter - A very healing way to let go of the past.
Feeling Finder - Ad more dimension to your feeling nature.
Captured Moments - Re-experience the depths of peak events.
Time Capsule - Capture the past, present and future.
Character Sketch - Create a deeper experience of someone.
One Word Essence Journaling - No time to journal? Write just one word.
Headlining - Use creative 7 word headlines to capture the day.
Creed - Make a Declaration - Be clear about what you want, who you are, where you are going?
Perspectives - See things differently and make new inner connections.

Tools for making inner connections:

Mind Mapping - Watch your brain work graphically.
Lateral Thinking - The fastest way to develop creativity.
Allow Alliteration - Instigate infinite important informative ideas.
Rhyme Time - Find and unwind your kind mind.
Alpha Poems - 26 quick creativity stimulators.
Stream of Awareness - What am I experiencing, feeling, and thinking?
Dyad - Another powerful way to express your depths.
Intuitive Resonating - Give a voice to your unconscious.
Metaphors - There are many creative ways to say the same thing.
Modelling - Often the indirect route is the best route.
5 Why’s Guys - How to go deeper to find the truth.
Duality Tension - Let your mind stretch and integrate two extremes.
Artwork - Allow your inner artist to share its wisdom.
Top down, bottom up connections – Ground the abstract and find purpose and meaning in the details.
Where am I in the movement of ...? - Gain new perspectives on changes in your life.
Life Pyramid - Connect the higher mind and concepts with the lower mind.

Tools for developing the imagination and consciousness:

Gratitude Journal - An affirmation of ownership, responsibility, and appreciation.
Dialogue - Converse with whoever and whatever you want.
Life Question - What question can you ask yourself that will inspire, empower and energize you?
Prose and Poetry - Let the beauty and rhythm of words share their feelings.
Dream Journal - Keep a bedside dream journal so you can capture your dreams on paper as quickly as possible.
Meditation Journal - Meditation opens us to more connection, insights and harmony.
Stream of Consciousness - Awaken your awareness.

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Types of Journals  

  Life Improvement Journal 

Lifebooks System 


Reflection - Invaluable, Crucial, Central To Thriving

Put lists of questions and any items below to use onto a sheet of paper to put in the front of your journal so that you have "propmpters on what to write about.
Uses, formats

Victories, what went well
Compliments, thank yous
Goals, ideal life
3-5 things I'm grateful for

Examples of behaviors, good moves you saw during the day, incorporate in your life (Life Improvement Journal)

How you'd do something differently that occurred.

Problems - Write out, analyze.  Write out how to solve or do better. Problem Solving Forms.  See body of this piece also for what to do.
Just record thoughts.

Write "sentences" in head and beliefs - process them using ABCD - Activating event, belief,   consequences, disputing (abbreviated)

See body of this piece for others.

Results, Benefits

Clear up your thinking.
Re-experience the day, victories, nice times
Solve problems
Look at and disappear fears
Discover what you really want...
And on and the discussion

Leave no open loops!

Set up followup tasks, leaving no item open.

    Solve every single problem
    Correct every single bad belief
    List/tickle every single want/goals


Just writing down what is going is useful in that it is a way of looking at the day and being conscious of what you are doing.  That is called "mindfulness", which is a key skill, where one can identify what is going on but see it objectively, as an impartial witness would do - and that impartial witness when you are not in the situation anymore is the higher brain, so you can also reflect on what occurred.