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A new journal is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. These versatile tools are must-have items for anyone trying to organize their life.
Journals have a myriad of benefits. They help us increase productivity, set goals, clarify our thoughts, and even improve our mental health.
Choosing the right journal can be a challenge. We’ll help you decide by breaking down the differences between journals and planners and highlighting the best options for your needs.
Discover the best journals of 2024!
Table of Contents
Planners, Diaries, and Journals: What Do I Need?
The overabundance of writing tools may make purchasing a new journal overwhelming. Should you get a traditional journal or a planner? What’s the difference between a diary and a journal? Is there a way to combine them all into one?
Diaries vs. Journals
Journals and diaries are like rectangles and squares. While all diaries are journals, not all journals are diaries.
A diary is a specific type of journal dedicated to free-form writing, allowing you to record your thoughts, write your feelings, brain dump, and explore your emotions. They’re personal spaces to organize your thoughts and set daily intentions.
What is the Difference Between a Journal and a Planner?
Although sometimes used interchangeably, planners and journals have crucial differences.
A simple planner is a calendar with extra room to write important notes. You’ll typically find a planner in notebook form, with a space for the monthly calendar and room to record notes and vital dates.
More complex planners are specialized journals. Rather than just being a place to list your thoughts and ideas, it’s focused on helping you manage dates, times, and appointments. The planner usually includes a calendar allowing you to quickly see important dates for the month at a glance, along with unique pages to write important tasks or events for each day.
Although you can use any regular journal for the same thing, a planner makes it simple by providing the calendar templates you need to keep track of essential dates. If you wanted to use a plain journal for the same purpose, you’d have to create your own system for remembering approaching deadlines.
The Best Journals of 2024
The best journals are the ones that do what you need them to do. They call out to you and solve your problem.
The best journal is the one you can’t wait to write in, and the one that will work for your specific needs.
Only you can decide what that is, taking your mood and journaling goals into account.
Decide Which Type of Journal You Need
Journals come in a variety of styles, so picking the type of journal that meets your needs is crucial.
Some swear by Moleskine Journals, a sturdy brand offering well-built blank journals, while others want something that will guide them on a specific journey, like a gratitude or grief journal.
Niche journals come pre-loaded with inspiration, prompts, and images to assist you along your journey, while plain-lined journals burst with possibility.
The Best Journals of 2024
The best journals run the gambit of specialized niche journals, plain line journals, bullet journals, and cheap notebooks.
Explore the options and decide what will meet your needs.
Promptly Journals offers a wide range of niche journals to meet every occasion. The company focuses on specialized journals dedicated to a wide range of unique life events.
Promptly Journals allows you to capture beautiful memories with love story journals and travel journals. It provides tools to help you deal with complex emotions through infertility journals and remembrance journals. Promptly Journals even offers emotion journals for children to learn to understand and appropriately handle their emotions.
Promptly Journals should be your first stop if you need a niche journal offering motivation, inspiration, and guidance on a specific life event.
Soothi is the best place to get an authentic leather journal. They offer various styles, including travel journals, lined journals, and blank journals, all bound in high-quality leather.
If you want a journal with a rustic journaling feel, Soothi should be your first stop.
Soothi also allows clients to customize their journals. The company lets you order a gorgeous, leather-bound journal with a custom engraving. Personalize your journal by adding your favorite quote or engraving your initials on the cover.
The custom engraving makes Soothi a fantastic option for gift-giving on any special occasion.
Bullet journals offer pages with tiny laser dots rather than lines or blank spaces. The dots serve as grid lines, allowing you to draw charts, calendars, and other block shapes for your journaling needs.
Bullet journals offer more versatility than any other journal. Some use their journals as weekly planners, creating spreads that allow them to monitor essential tasks and goals. Others use them to track something particular, like meal plans or school assignments. There are tons of options for how to use your bullet journal.
As the insides of all bullet journals are the same, the best one is the one that speaks to you. The only differences are the cover, size, and amount of pages. Head to your local office supply store or bookstore to browse the offerings and pick the one you love.
Another great thing about bullet journals is that they are easy to find. You can pick up a plain bullet journal at an office supply store like Staples or a bookstore like Barnes and Noble.
Bullet journals bridge the gap between planners and journals but can be much more if you want them to be.
People use journals for far more than writing. Many people use journals to sketch, draw, and map their artworks. You can get a decent art journal in many places, but Moleskine is the best in the business. Moleskine journals can handle many forms of media, and the professional finish gives you an easily portable portfolio.
Moleskine journals contain multi-media paper built into a sturdy base with pockets and a bookmark ribbon. The pages are thick enough to be covered with gesso and used for oil and acrylic painting but thin enough for basic drawing and sketching.
The extra thickness allows the pages to take watercolor and gouache without tearing. Most Moleskine pages have a slight parchment tan, giving you a medium value for form studies.
All these features make Moleskine an ideal journal for art.
Consider a scrapbook a specialized memory journal. You can purchase a journal designed for scrapbooking with a plastic sheet covering the thicker scrapbook paper, but you can also use a traditional journal for all your scrapbooking needs.
The best journals for scrapbooking have blank pages, allowing you to create unique pages without worrying about the pesky lines. It should also have thick pages, allowing you to paste photos or ephemera without worrying about tearing the pages.
Scrapbooking is all the rage now, so there are many resources to help you turn your journal into a legitimate scrapbook. Start at your local craft store, which is bound to have aisles dedicated to journals, stickers, glue, tape, technical paper, and everything else you need to start your scrapbook.
Writers on a budget don’t need all the bells and whistles in their journals. Office supply stores offer a variety of blank journals for every budget. Some have unique cover designs or inspirational slogans, while others feature a plain, hard cover for those desiring a minimalist approach.
Unfortunately, traditional hard-covered journals can cost upwards of $20, which is a lot of money if you simply need a place to store your notes. The high price tag is worthwhile to preserve precious memories or work through an emotional upheaval, but it’s unnecessary for many topics we journal about.
I keep numerous journals for a variety of topics. I have a journal dedicated to my blogging journey, one for learning physics and another where I record my random thoughts throughout the day. I use a cheap $1 notebook from a big box store for all these “journals.”
The cheap options provide space to jot down ideas but don’t bring me joy. They’re utilitarian, focused on function over form, but they do the job for a low price.
Notebooks are budget-friendly substitutes for hard-covered journals.
What is the Best Size for a Journal?
The best journal size depends on your journaling needs. A travel journal should be a pocket notebook. The small size makes it lightweight and easy to carry while still offering the ability to jot down travel memories and essential notes.
A scrapbook journal should be much larger. You don’t need to carry it wherever you go; it’s something you can take out and create at home.
A sketchbook or writing journal should be big enough to fit your needs. You might want to take it with you, and if that’s the case, it should be small enough that it’s easy to carry but large enough to draw when inspiration strikes.
Where are the best places to buy journals?
You can get a great journal at any bookstore or office supply store. Some of the specialized journals discussed are only available in their online store.
Using an App for Journaling
With technological advances and online options, some folks may want to avoid the hassle of a pen-and-paper journal. There’s an app for that.
Diarium offers robust functionality for digital journaling. The app allows you to dictate journal entries to your timeline, providing an easy way to record your thoughts and feelings.
Though the basic functionality is free, the pro version offers much more. For a one-time fee of $9.99, users can upload their digital journals to the cloud and integrate them with their favorite apps, meaning calendars, social media, and photos can all be accessed from a single app.
Consider Livescribe if you want the best of both the digital and paper worlds. The company created technologically advanced smart pens and paper that transfer handwritten notes to your computer so you can store and organize them digitally. This technology allows you to write your thoughts traditionally but keep them and edit them digitally.
The Best Planning Journals
Planners are similar to journals but specialized with dates and times to keep you on track.
Traditional planners only offer a calendar and space to record essential tasks, but modern planners provide much more. Some skirt the line between planner and journal, offering space to record your thoughts and feelings along with your to-do lists.
I conducted a deep dive review of planners for a different post, and the Inkwell Press Weekly & Monthly Planning Calendar made the top of my list. It has ample planning space in the monthly spread and enough room in the weekly spreads to record essential task lists and jot down extra notes. It also has space at the end of each month, allowing you to free write.
Silk & Sonder has reimagined planning and journaling. They offer a subscription planner package that helps you stay organized all year. The service ships members a new planner at the beginning of each month for $19.95, but you can save money if you subscribe quarterly or annually.
Silk & Sonder’s planners have everything you need to organize your month. They include daily, weekly, and monthly calendar spreads, various trackers, and even themed journaling prompts. Each month’s journal comes with quotes, recipes, and other goodies.
A significant advantage to opting for the subscription service is that it will keep you motivated on your journaling journey. Getting a new journal filled with goodies delivered each month without even thinking about it is a big win for those who aren’t as organized.
What Else Do I Need for Planning and Journaling?
The only other thing you need for planning and journaling is a pen. I prefer to use colorful pens because they help me keep track of different thoughts.
A wide variety of accessories are available to help you create a personalized journal that meets your needs. I use Post-it notes, stickers, highlighters, and divider tabs to keep track of the most essential things in my journal.
If you’re looking for stellar journal accessories, check out Cherry on Top. They have various stickers, inserts, and pens that will help you give your journal notebook some personal flair.
Cherry on Top also has a wide selection of scrapbooking and journaling art supplies.
You won’t truly discover the best journal for you until you start. So grab one and get to journaling!