How to Keep a Journal


(an excerpt from the eBook Minutes: Making Time to Get It All Done)

How to Keep a Journal

by Charlotte Siems

Speaking of writing and lists, a journal is another tool I use to manage my life.  A home that is out of control is a symptom of a life that is out of control.

For many years I’ve kept a spiritual journal, but in the last few years that practice has expanded to include far more.

It’s important to buy a journal that you like.  Unless you’re already familiar with a particular model, this is an item best bought in person rather than online.  You need to feel and see it to decide if it’s something you want to write in every day.

A few months ago I found a journal that I really liked, and I bought all three that they had in stock.  This is a good idea for any hard-to-find item.

I’m actually fairly picky about journals. I prefer clean, simple pages, a nice feel to the paper, no squiggles or designs or sayings on the pages, gold edges and a pretty cover.  My current journal has the look of red roses embossed on leather and I will be sad when it’s time to replace it!

Next, choose a writing utensil that appeals to you.  I like a certain type of ballpoint pen that writes smoothly.  I buy a 3-pack and make sure they stay in my desk instead of the community pen drawer.

Here are some tips on how to keep a journal:

Spiritual journal

I usually read a chapter from the Bible each morning, taking note of any passages that really speak to me.  I copy a few verses in my journal, then sometimes personalize them or write about what it means to me.  Then I move into writing about my concerns, requests or questions.

Occasionally I am really struck by a passage and want to dig deeper.  I underline the main words of the passage and then look up their definitions in a Webster’s 1828 Dictionary (now an app on my iPad). This brings a fuller understanding and often, new insight to the verses.  We often miss the meaning when we skim over words we think we understand.

Middle-of-the-day journaling

Whenever I feel my stress level rising during the day, I take a few minutes to sit down with my journal to process and get it on paper so I can stay in the moment and get specific about what is stressing me.  It’s amazing how much it helps to capture the vague, stressful thoughts.  When it’s written down you can see what you’re actually dealing with and make a plan.

Note-taking in a journal

Whenever I listen to an audio or online class, read a book or listen to a speaker, I take notes in my journal.  I used to have separate 3-ring notebooks for separate areas of my life, but now I use one hardcover journal.  Every few days I look back through my journal to process and remind myself of new learning.

Important information in a journal

This could be ingredients for a new recipe, a website recommended by someone, a to-do list or a book to buy.  If it’s information I want to refer to later, I make a note of where to find it on the inside back cover of the journal, with either the date I wrote it or a page number if I numbered the pages of the journal.

Even though I have kept a journal for many years, expanding it beyond my spiritual practice has actually changed my life.  As I use my journal to pour out my thoughts on paper and get a true picture of what’s going on, my stress levels have lowered dramatically.

When journaling, stay in the moment and don’t get carried away in sweeping generalizations, like “I ALWAYS” and “I NEVER.”  Bring your thoughts back around to truth and faith, and write statements reflecting that.

The act of writing makes a connection with your brain in taking your thoughts captive and renewing your mind.  Writing is a great tool to process your thought life, see what’s there, and modify it to positive, life-giving thoughts. When you learn how to keep a journal, it can lower your stress levels and help you stay more organized.


More tips to reduce stress and get your stuff done

Time and Life Management for Busy Women



  1. Hi Charlotte,
    Great post. Just clarifying – you do all of these types of journaling in the same journal – is that correct? And where do you keep your journal?

  2. Charlotte says:

    Yes, I do it all in one journal. I keep it on a shelf next to my desk, but often it is sitting beside my chair or next to my bed because I carry it around. I also have previous journals on the shelf so I can go back and review or find information. I used to keep notes from classes in 3-ring binders but I like having everything in one place because we live one life, not sections of life. Often what I’m journaling about is related to something I read or listened to, so it’s nice to have it right there for reference. There have been a couple of times when my journal was misplaced and I almost panicked because it has became such a great tool for dealing with stress!

  3. Thanks – I have a journal by my bed that I do spiritual, reflection, planning, successes, but I only use it in the evening. This week I’ve begun a kitchen journal for the variety of projects I have going on all the time in the kitchen, but I’ve been pondering whether I should combine the 2 and keep the journal downstairs in the kitchen.

    Thank you again.

  4. Thanks so much for this post. It has inspired me to restart journaling. I wish I had unlimited $ resources. I would buy all your e-books, teleclasses, etc. I know I could glean a lot. You are a blessing.

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