How to to create a meaningful journal

When I observe my clients and friends who are intentionally moving toward growth and freedom, and more importantly, the ones who are gaining ground toward the change they seek, I can't help but notice that every one of them takes time to write on a regular basis.

I'm always slow to label something as an instant cure-all, or as a must for growth because few things work for everyone, but the more I ponder the act of keeping a journal and the more I work with my clients, the more convinced I become in the power of regularly spending an hour or two in solitude to contemplate life and to write. The following post is an explanation as to why I believe that.

Now, if you already have a great routine with your writing, this post won't be for you and I would encourage you to continue doing what is working.  But for those of you who are looking to get more out of your alone time, who feel that you have more to say and write than what comes out, who know there is more to capture in your leather-bound journal than what's filling it, here are some thoughts on how to make writing in a journal a weekly or daily exercise that you won’t be able to live without.


I journal on my phone with the Evernote app and have been using it for five years now because it's quick, easy to organize, measurable, and accessible at all times.  I also have many friends who write in physical journals too, including my wife who swears by it.  She has a box of journals that she's written in since high school.  I have my journals (in Evernote) from over five years ago.

You can’t put a price tag on having old writings and journals to return to that are full of everything you've learned and overcome. Personally, I think it’s one of the best investments you can make with your time.

With all that being said, there isn't a right or wrong way to write because what you journal in is significantly less important than how often you journal. 


Writing in a journal goes hand in hand with contemplation and reflection.  It's not a mundane "dear diary, today I..." exercise where we list out all the surface level things in our day or week- it's a practice that involves solitude, where we take the time to ponder life and ask ourselves deep questions with curiosity and compassion, and then we write about what we find.

If you ever struggle with figuring out what to write or think about when you're in front of a blank page and alone, here are some questions you can ask:

How am I doing emotionally?  What am I feeling?  What do want to write about?

Do I need to process my thoughts? Express my feelings in a poem?  Write out a list to help me make or assess a major life decision?

Or maybe I want to take the time to reflect and write about what is working in life at the moment and going well?  Or think about what isn't going well and is in need of adjusting?  

Or to reflect and write down what I'm aiming my life towards? What are my goals with God, my friends, health, career, etc.?

When in doubt, when life teaches and opens your eyes to something new, write it down.  When you experience beauty, no matter how small, worth remembering, write it down.  When you have thoughts that need to get out, or emotions that need to be released, or thoughts that need to be expressed, write them down.  

There really aren't any rules other than when you're deeply moved within, write.


I wrote a couple weeks ago about meaning on this blog, and about how meaning is something that I believe you have to learn how to see and aim your life at.  In my opinion, spending time alone and writing in a journal is one of the best ways to sustain and steward the inner sense of meaning because I believe that the sense of meaning actually forms within us when we reflect and answer questions like the ones listed in the previous section. It also compounds as we orient and move our actions toward the answers we find.


Maybe you're inspired and in the mood to write a poem.  Or you're inspired to paint and then write about what you're expressing and feeling.  Or to craft a song.  Regardless of whether or not you consider yourself to be creative, try to express your emotions, thoughts, and experiences in an artistic way every once in a while.  I can't stress this one enough.  There's something about creating that forces us to go deeper, to take a risk, and to look at what scares and hurts us that we would otherwise avoid.

I don't know anyone who became emotionally whole who didn't express themselves creatively in some manner.

And not only does creating awaken us, but it also helps rewire and redevelop our brains too.


Schedule it.

Every week.

Then guard this time slot and make it yours.  

And do it again for next week.  And then the week after. 

If someone asks you to hang out in that time slot, it's ok to say no.

You’ll know you’re writing in a meaningful way when you don't want a weekend to go by without it.


If you need inspiration for where to start in your journal, start with writing your annual review for 2018, which I wrote about a couple weeks ago.  I also turned my journal in 2016 into an ebook that you can read here.

All I can say is that there isn't a wrong way to do this as long as you're enjoying it, but again, you'll know you're writing correctly when you no longer want a week to go by without it.