Journal alternatives for those who hate the idea of daily writing

“I haven’t written for a few days, because I wanted first of all to think about my diary. It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I—nor for that matter anyone else—will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Still, what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart”  

- Anne Frank

I am so thankful that Anne Frank didn't abandon her journal! I love journaling. Writing in a diary has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Even when my mother found my journal when I was a teen and read it out loud to me I was not deterred. I have kept a journal through most of my adult life. What might surprise you, is that although I consider myself a dedicated diarist, I don’t journal every day. In fact, weeks can go by and I haven’t written a word. It’s okay. I refrain from all or nothing commitments. You don’t have to journal daily to benefit from the process. You don’t even need to write - although I recommend it! 

1. Journal to process or record specific events. If writing a personal journal isn't appealing try keeping a topical journal. It's a great way to take the pressure of making a commitment to keeping a diary. Here are some options:

Travel Journal: I always keep a journal when I travel. I tend to be hyper-organized so I start it before I go and put any contacts/notes in it that I want to remember. You can easily do this on a note app on your phone for more convenience.  

Medical Journal: I also write notes after important appointments with doctors or therapists. I have an app I used on my phone. It makes it really easy to look back and have accurate information at future appointments.

Conflict Journal: I have journaled after conversations that leave me feeling unsettled. You could also try writing before the conversation to get yourself sorted out first

Birthday Journal: You might consider making an entry once a year on your birthday or on a special occasion.

Children's Journal: You may want to keep a journal for your kids and make notes of specific events in their lives or cute things they said. Try writing it as a letter. Have a dedicated notebook and you can give it to them as a gift when they are adults.

Gardening Journal: You may want to keep a gardening journal where you write about what you planted and how the season went - a great tool for selecting plants next year!  

Dream Journal: I had a weird dream this week. I wish I wrote it down so I could process it. Dreams can have messages from your subconscious mind. Try writing down your dreams.

The point is you don't have to keep a daily journal.  A journal can be a record of ANYTHING important to you.  

2. Use a monthly paper calendar as a journal. You know, the old school ones with one inch square grids. Put it up it on a wall and make notes on it. One of the problems with electronic calendars is that in a few years you may not be able to go back and see what you were doing. I guarantee you that as time goes on you will not remember everything you did in the past. Our memories are not perfect. Can you remember what you were doing last May? If it was a significant event you may have a good chance but if it was just a routine month you might not remember. If you have a calendar where you jotted down some notes about the day it can be really helpful. You have an archive of your daily life that you can look back on in the future. You can make note of weather, purchases, special events, health concerns…just about anything that is important to you can be noted on a monthly calendar. You might not have thought of a wall calendar as a journal. 

 3. Create a visual or verbal journal. If writing isn’t your thing but you would like to create a record of something important in your life try a different medium.

Photography: There are apps and websites that encourage photo journalling. I have a friend who has done a lot of interesting work documenting family heirlooms. You know those lace tablecloths or china sets that you have inherited. What’s important about those pieces is not the item but the story that goes with them. She calls them 'Stuff with Stories" journals.  Reach out to Beth here if you are interested in knowing more about how she creates journals to document some of those family treasures.

Voice Record: I’ve experimented a little with recording a journal. I’ve recorded stories and/or ideas and saved them. I’ve listened back later. I’m not quite sure how to archive them for the future but when I figure it out I will let you know.

Collections Journal: I sometimes stick tickets to events I have been to in my journal as a way to remember the concert or movie. You can save labels from wine bottles, boarding passes or movie or concert tickets. A notebook and a glue stick will do the trick. 

Quilt Journal: In The Invention of Wings, author Sue Monk Kidd, tells the story of a quilt that an illiterate slave made for her daughter to record their story. It was very powerful story and my introduction to quilts as a way of creating a journal. You can do an online search for Story Quilts or try Pinterest for examples but be prepared to spend a lot of time looking at these works of art!

There are so many reasons why keeping a journal is a worthwhile practice. I loved pulling out the journal I kept when my kids were young and sharing parts of it with my daughter when she had kids. It surprised me what I thought was so important like getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I was also surprised about what I didn’t record. And reading through the journals I discovered there was a lot of details I didn’t remember. Sleep deprivation will do that! 

Thanks for reading - I would love to hear from you. Strike up a conversation on social media or email me!