Effective Journaling

Date:March 22, 2020
Time:2 min read

The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it. - James M. Barrie

To kick off this series, I'll expand a bit more on each tip mentioned in my previously published article 3 Tips for Developing a Blogging Habit. The first tip - keep a daily journal.


For as long as I can remember, I kept a journal. I documented things that stood out in my life. Often times, these were things that evoked emotion in some way - happiness, sadness, confusion, curiosity, etc. I might have lacked self-confidence as a kid, so for me, it was a way for me to express my thoughts without judgment. It was a safe space.

Every now and then, I review my journals to reflect on life's journey. It's amazing sometimes how much I've learned about myself from that process. It's amazing to discover the moments in life that may have changed everything. Memory is imperfect, and it's hard to accurately remember things after years past. It's also possible for your mind to play tricks on you - making you think things happened differently than how they actually occurred. A journal can keep you honest.

An effective entry will include 3 elements:

  • reflection
  • aspiration
  • documentation


Reflective entries require honesty and, to some extent, vulnerability. It's not an easy ask as most people don't like to admit they were imperfect, but doing so enables growth and improvement. Reflective thought comes best when relaxed. Find a time that allows you to reflect as you write. Don't force the writing.


Aspiration is important to guide continuous growth. Once one goal is achieved, what is the next goal? Are your actions aligned with your goals and aspirations? If not, what changes can you make to re-align your journey?


As developers, I'm sure we all appreciate good documentation. Details are important. That doesn't mean you need to write a novel. But details can provide insights at a later date that might have been meaningless in the past. Include enough details to explain what happened so you don't need to rely on memory to remind you.

As you begin journaling, take some time to examine your entries and see if they contain these elements. If they don't, try to keep it in mind the next time you write.


I personally prefer handwriting my journals, but if you prefer an app, see these below:

Happy journaling!


Daylio, 22 March 2020. https://daylio.webflow.io/. Journal without writing

Tinythoughts, 22 March 2020. https://tinythoughts.me/. A sentence a day journal

Memo, 22 March 2020. https://www.usememo.com. Take Smarter Notes with GitHub Gists