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Let’s talk journals! I love a brand new journal almost as much as a brand new year. All those blank pages, just waiting to be filled…squeeeee! It’s so exciting. If it’s time to replace your current journal or you’re just looking for something a little different, here are 8 guided journals that go beyond “Dear Diary”.
Why keep a journal?
New to journaling? It’s one of the easiest habits to start! There are no rules when it comes to journaling, so you can choose any style you want…you get to make it completely yours. You can journal daily, weekly, or just every now and then when thoughts are swirling a bit too much.
Journaling also has a TON of benefits like reducing anxiety, increasing self-awareness, more focus on gratitude, and even improving personal communication. You can learn more about getting started and the benefits of journaling here.
Why guided journals?
If you already keep a journal regularly, good for you! But if you’re just thinking of starting, guided journals are a great way to go. They can give you a little more direction than a basic blank notebook, perhaps even a specific topic to keep you focused and prevent that journal-writers-block that tends to creep in.
Guided journals are perfect for beginners and also for those who just like a little more structure. Since I fall into that structure-loving category, guided journals are my go-to.
8 guided journals that go beyond “Dear Diary”
If you’re like me and you tend to prefer a journal that gives a little (or a lot) of guidance, this list is for you!
The Calm & Mindful Notebook
The basics: 12 weeks, hardcover, 2 bookmarks
Who makes it: This one is by The Little Calm & Happy Co (what a great name!) And their description says “This notebook is designed to help you embark on a more mindful journey.”
The details: Each week of this journal has a theme, topics like self-care, gratitude, or sleep. Each week starts with an intro page that dives into that week’s theme, but the daily pages are all the same.
Each daily page includes a space for your top five things to achieve, a self-care intention for the day, gratitude reflections, a hydration tracker, a screen time tracker, a mood tracker, a notes section, and a “summarize the day” section.
The journal ends with a recap and, of course, a notes section.
My review: This is a pretty solid little guided journal. I really like the weekly themes, but I wish there were a little more emphasis on the theme in the daily pages. Without that, I feel like the weekly theme is likely to be forgotten by the end of the week.
If you’d like to start tracking things like hydration, mood, and screen time, the trackers are nice and simple. Although, if you do already track or aren’t really interested, it’s a bit of wasted space.
I feel like this is a great journal for a beginner or someone trying to create a daily journaling habit, but isn’t quite sure where to start.
The Best Journal Ever
The basics: 180 days, hardcover, 2 bookmarks, 3 sheets of stickers
Who makes it: This one is by Incredible Journals, and they describe it as an “all-in-one gratitude journal, habit tracker, and inspirational daily journal”
The details: This 180-day journal is divided into four sections: A self-assessment, a 30-day reflection, a habit tracker, and the daily journal section
The self-assessment section has two assessments, with life categories to fill in and rate yourself on. (The instructions weren’t completely clear to me, but it looks like it may be intended for 1 assessment at the beginning and one assessment when you complete 180 days.)
The 30-day reflection section is just that – a space to reflect each month on the previous month’s highlights, what you’ve learned, how you can improve, and jot down some final thoughts. The daily pages have a reminder on check-in days – which is a very nice touch, especially if you dive into this journal in the middle of the month.
The habit tracker is a pretty basic chart layout, one page per month, with spaces to fill in seven habits.
The daily pages are super simple – Date, sleep tracker, a quote, three lines for gratitude, a fill-in-the-blank daily affirmation, and a blank writing area.
My review: I LOVED the simplicity of the daily pages. Just enough guidance to keep you on track, but also space to actually record your thoughts. It would be very easy to get into a daily groove with this one.
I rarely use habit trackers in journals, since I prefer to use an app for that sort of thing. But I suspect that flipping to another page to check habits off would annoy me. On the other hand, since I don’t use them, it’s nice that habit tracking isn’t taking away from the available space on each day.
The 3 sheets of included stickers are a nice touch, but personally, I usually forget to use them.
Bottom line? This is a nice, basic journal for anyone who wants to start their day with gratitude and record their thoughts. Is it the “best journal ever”? I don’t know if I would go that far, but it’s definitely not the worst.
The Gratitude Journal
The basics: 52 weeks, hardcover, one bookmark
Who makes it: Paper Peony Press – they didn’t include a description
The details: This is a super basic little journal, fully focused on gratitude. It starts with a one-page introduction. Then, each page comprises a full week, with a small section to write the date and 3 things you’re grateful for. There is also a small “how can I pay it forward” section for each week.
My review: This little journal is SUPER basic. But it’s also super-focused – gratitude only – and I kind of love that about it. It likely won’t take you more than 5 minutes per day. There are no frills here, but there are also no distractions.
This journal is perfect for anyone who is looking to put more focus on gratitude and the good things in life. Because of the simplicity, it would also make a lovely gift!
The basics: 13 weeks, hardcover, 3 bookmarks – also comes with a 13-week roadmap, a guidebook to get you started, and an optional stick-on pen loop
Who makes it: Best Self – their description says this “13-week goals planner guides you to set, plan, and track progress toward your biggest goals.”
The details: This journal begins with a 13-week bucket list to fill in, a benchmark area to rate your current status on several life categories – such as health, relationships, and personal growth. There are also pages to set up three 13-week goals. Next up, three months’ worth of habit tracker pages. Each page has a chart for one month, with 18(!) lines for habits.
The habit tracker is followed by weekly planning and weekly review pages for all 13 weeks.
Finally, we get to the daily pages. Each day has a line for the date, four lines for gratitude, three lines to list today’s goals, three lines for today’s targets (broken down into 30-minute time blocks), a small section to list “what will make today great”, a planner section listing each hour from 6am to 9pm, a full page for notes, a mood tracker, and a rating area to “score” your day. The journal ends with a reflection area, where you can list the outcomes of your goals over the past 13 weeks and, of course, several pages for notes.
My review: This journal = instant anxiety for me. There is just SO much going on, so much flipping back and forth between sections, and so much to keep track of. While it IS definitely a journal, it also falls very much into the planner category. It feels very time-consuming and involved.
One aspect that I did love was the unique perforations in the bottom corner of each page. If you like to dog-ear pages as reminders, this is a neat little feature.
This journal? It’s not for me. Not at all. That said, I could see it being very useful for someone who has fallen into a rut or needs a productivity jump-start in their lives.
The 6-Minute Diary
The basics: Hardcover, 2 bookmarks (I couldn’t find an exact answer on how long it is, but I would estimate 5-6 months)
Who makes it: This one is by URBestSelf and Dominik Spenst – their description is “A book that will change your life”
The details: This journal starts off with an intro section, a quick overview & example page. The intro is not short, covering the first 66 pages – so get ready to do a little reading before you dive in. Even though it’s a little long, the intro covers fundamentals, setting up daily routines, and a little bit of homework. It’s less of a “how to use this journal” section and more of a mindset / intentions guide.
Next, we get into the diary section. The diary section starts off with a Monthly Check where you can rate several aspects of your life on a scale of 1-10 and a super simple habit tracker for 3 habits. The Monthly Check and Habit Tracker repeat every five weeks, in the diary section, so there is no need to flip back and forth. (Yay!)
Each week starts with 5 weekly questions to answer – different questions each week – and a weekly notes section.
Each day has a morning section & evening section. The morning section includes three lines for gratitude, five lines for how to make today great, two lines to fill in a positive affirmation, a quote (or a weekly challenge task on the first day of each week). The evening section includes two lines for “my good deed today”, two lines for how to improve, and three lines for great things experienced today.
The journal ends with a final Monthly Check and, of course, a notes area.
My review: Even though this one is called the 6-Minute Diary, it is much less “Dear Diary, today I….” and much more focused on gratitude and mindset. It really is a nice way to set up your intentions and start the day on a positive note. Aside from the (looong) intro section, I do think that it should only take six minutes a day, with a little extra time needed at the start of each week and month.
I LOVED that the monthly, weekly, and habit tracker sections run concurrent with the days, instead of being grouped together in a different part of the journal. One fuzzy thing though, is that the monthly sections repeat every five weeks and are always next to a weekly section. So I guess you skip ahead on the last day of the month, even though there are still blank days? I’m not sure exactly how that’s supposed to work, but it’s not enough of an issue to bother me. The daily pages are simple and to the point and there isn’t a lot of extra fluff.
Again, I don’t love the morning & evening aspect, but it’s very simple to just fill out the evening part the following morning.
This journal would be great for anyone, beginner or long-time journal keeper, to add a little positivity to the start of their day. It’s another one that would make a nice gift.
One Line A Day – A Five-Year Memory Book
The basics: 5 years, hardcover, dated (but only with the day, you fill in the year, so you can start at any time)
Who makes it: Chronicle Books – Described as “a condensed, comparative record for five years, for recording events most worthy of remembrance”
The details: This journal is super simple. And it is exactly what it sounds like. Each page has a date at the top of the page. *Note – this is the only journal in the list that’s dated, but you can start at it on any day of the year*
Each page has five little bitty sections with a spot to fill in the year and 5 little lines for your daily sentence. The lines for each day are really only long enough for a single sentence.
The way this one works is that you go through a full year filling in the first set of five lines for each day. Then you start the whole book over the next year filling in the second set of five lines for each day.
My review: This one is the long-term relationship of journals, but I am absolutely in love with it. Not only because it’s incredibly simple and will only take 1-3 minutes per day, but because it’s a running record of what happened on that same day in previous years. It’s like when Facebook or Google Photos show you a photo you posted on this day 7 years ago.
The book itself is teeny tiny, maybe 6”x3”, so it’s a great size to throw in your bag if you’re traveling.
It’s not focused on any one topic, so you get to choose. You can make it a five-year record of what happened in your life, what happened in the world, your mood, something you’re grateful for, or anything else you want that will fit into a single sentence.
This one is my top pick for anyone who isn’t scared of the five-year timeframe. (And I am incredibly excited to start filling it in on January 1st, 2021!)
***UPDATE*** I’m now a little more than halfway through year number two with this journal and I LOVE seeing what happened on this day last year! I can’t wait to see how the next few years progress and I will absolutely buy it again when I hit the end of 5 years.
*Note – These last two fall a little more into the planner category, although they’re not specifically day planners*
The Self Care Planner
The basics: 6 months, spiral bound
Who makes it: Simple Self – Description “Achieve more and live better through radical self-care”
The details: This journal starts with a “How to use your planner section” and setting up a self-care plan (including things like a self-care assessment, vision of balance, and ideal routine). Next is a year at a glance page with a few lines for 12 months, even though it’s a six-month journal.
Then, we get into the meat of the journal. There are pages to set up monthly intentions for wellbeing, work, relationships, and so on. There’s a monthly calendar with personal and work goals, and a monthly review. These are all grouped together.
Each week starts with a page to set up to-do lists (with priority levels!), a sleep tracker, a mood tracker, a habit tracker with lines for seven habits, and a reward section.
Each daily page has sections for gratitude, a top goal for the day, a planner from 6am to evening, a to-do list, a self-care section, a water tracker, an exercise area, and three lines to list meals. Also, a weather tracker – which I suppose could also be used for mood tracking.
The journal ends with another assessment and two pages to track your health, listing date & time, symptom, and factors – this part could be incredibly helpful if you have ongoing health issues or recurring symptoms that you’re working to figure out.
My review: While it’s called The Self Care Planner, it really does seem to be more of a daily journal, with some emphasis on self-care at the beginning. There IS a self-care section on each day, to list a self-care activity or intention for the day, but it really doesn’t seem to be the main focus. That said, any daily reminder helps!
It’s not the most “journally” journal, sliding a little more into the daily planner category, but I like the way it’s set up.
I also love that it’s spiral bound. Bookmarks are great, but there is something to be said for being able to fold the whole book in half.
This journal is good for anyone who isn’t necessarily looking to keep track of what happens every day, but wants to set focused intentions for wellness each day.
The Wellness Planner
The basics: 90 days, hardcover, 2 bookmarks, attached pen loop, one sheet of stickers
Who makes it: This one is by Life and Apples – They describe it as “A daily planner & journal for staying healthy, motivated, and inspired”
The details: This journal starts with guidelines and a how-to use section, followed by a “promise to myself” page that you fill in and sign as a commitment to your goals.
There is a goals section for five goals with action steps and a monthly overview. The monthly overview is very simple, basically just a calendar with a few areas to add goals, affirmations, must-dos, and successes. There is also a page for future plans for the next six months, even though it’s a 90-day planner.
Each daily page has three lines for gratitude, three lines for positive thoughts, seven lines to record or plan fitness activities, seven lines for notes or to-dos, a unique section to track the “universal wellness elements”: sunlight & air, water, nutrients, joy & fun, and sleep. There is a meal planner for the day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks – and a 1-5 scale to rate how you did. Each week has a weekly review section to track successes, insights, areas you could improve, a habit tracker for three habits, and a secondary tracker that could be used for weight, additional habits, workouts, or anything else you may want to track.
The journal ends with a review and, of course, a notes section.
My review: Alright, this one isn’t for everyone, since the topic is so specific. The main focus is definitely health and wellness. But if you happen to be working on making healthier choices, this is a great choice! It’s very simple, easy to use, and will keep you focused on those goals.